This blog post is Part 1 of a 3-part series of articles designed to help you understand how to plan your website or blog.
Are you thinking about getting a website for your offline business?
If so, one of the many choices you need to make is whether or not to build this site yourself, or get someone to help build the site for you.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you select will depend on many things such as:
- How quickly you need your site to be up and running
- Your technical skills
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- Budget size
- How much time you have available
- Your priorities
- and so on …
If you have a limited budget, and you want to save money, you could decide to create the website yourself. If you do it yourself or get someone else to build, it goes without saying that you will need to spend time figuring out how to put your site together.
A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you choose to make the website yourself or get an outsourcer to build it for you, the first crucial step is to get some good website planning done. In this blog post, we explain why better website planning helps your business and what to do before you build a website for your small business.
Website planning is considered by many business experts as being the most important aspect of the entire process of getting a website built. Investing time to plan carefully your website up front helps to avoid costly mistakes later and can help you create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive blueprint for non-technical users targeted at helping you better understand and grasp the website planning stage. Also, show you “what to do” and “what not to do” when planning a website or blog. Give you tips on how to tell your web designer to make sure that you get a website that will sync with your budget and suit your needs.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain for your website, it is absolutely vital that you first research your market.
Developing a successful business presence online requires more than just having a professional website and business blog built. It requires among other things, a commitment to developing and successfully implement an ongoing website marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Simplified
So, you have decided that you want a website for you business?
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Take a look at the chart below, and let’s work step-by-step through the information on this page together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the process chart.
To make this process easy to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Process Flowchart shown in the above diagram.
Brad’s Process Chart
[Right Click and “Save As”]
Download and print out the flowchart. Grab a some paper and a pen, so you can mark down your ideas and thoughts as you go through the process. Also, make sure you are distraction free for the next 10-20 minutes.
Step 1 – Website Goals
No matter what kind of site you choose to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your site and make these objectives as specific as you can.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of website do I want to build? Is it a business website, an e-commerce site, a marketing blog, or some other type of site?
- What specific objectives would you like the site to help you do?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you will need an online web store. Depending on your needs, this could even require the addition of a membership site area exclusively for your registered users.
- Build a contact list of customers – you might need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page), or an information page and a lead capture form where all visitors get directed to,
- Have a corporate website that will help build credibility and trust for your organization or brand, post news, announcements and updates to staff, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might want to look at getting a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to provide tips or training information to existing customers, or help grow your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or something else …
Record the goals you want your site to help you achieve on your Website Planning Worksheet. Or you can do it on a blank sheet of paper or wherever you are recording this process.
Once you have written your list, go through the list and select the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write this goal in your planning chart (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1.”
Now, return to your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and record these in your planning chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3.”
You’ve probably heard the old business saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
What if you already can’t manage?
Building a website will add a lot of additional things you will need to manage.
Your website planning process is a subset of your business marketing planning processes. It’s vital that you continue to refer to your marketing plan to make sure that you have the money, time and technical abilities to implement the strategies to help you achieve your goals.
With this in mind, do the following:
After choosing at least 2-3 goals and recorded these down in your planning sheet. Return to your first goal “Goal 1” and ask this question to yourself: “how will I measure this goal?”
What milestone will you use to measure your web site’s performance? How will you know if your website is helping you achieve your business objectives?
For example, your website’s objective could be to help you get a certain number of sales leads to Submit their email and contact number each week via your site’s contact form. Or getting “XX” amount of new members per day, etc.
Also, think about the time and costs associated with managing the process of monitoring your goals. If you need to adjust your marketing plan, to fit your findings.
Note: It’s important to keep your goals flexible at this stage, so you can re-evaluate these as you collect more information from website users.
Step 2 – Your Website Name
Once you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your site.
This is a major step of the website planning process, so take your time and think thoroughly about what you are going to name your website.
Brainstorm your ideas or mastermind with a group. Contact a few past customers and get their feedback. Or potential customers if you haven’t launched your business yet.
Think beyond just the name of your start-up, especially if the name does not immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember that most online users have never heard of you before.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Who would be looking for the very product or service you are offering? What would they type into a Google or their phone to find you? Once you figure this out, try to come up with a name that would connect to your users.
Note: You can be creative and smart with the name, but try to avoid being “too clever”. The same can be said about a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have fun or quirky site name, but avoid names that may sound offensive (Stay away from trademarked or registered brand names and phrases – you’re just asking for trouble!)
If you go online, you can quickly find out what other companies in your industry or niche are naming their sites. Study your competition, especially those who are at the top of the search results where you would like to be.
For example, if you are planning to create a blog related to cooking, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some catchy site names. Here is an example “Smitten Kitchen, Cooking With Amy, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “Worth The Whisk” and more.
So, this is the step where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of potential names and then narrow the list down.
After you have reduced your list down to the most likely candidates, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your website.
Make your description concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what the site is all about. For example, one of the cooking sites we came across while doing research, the site meta description was “Fresh, Fast and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Don’t Forget to Include keywords in your website’s name and description.
The next objective is to look at your domain name structure. If you plan to add a blog to your existing website and feel that your blog should have its own domain name, then by all means register a new domain name for your website.
There are many different strategies you can use to register domains names for your website. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. NewYorkPlumber.com). You can also get an expired domain name (the previous owner has decided not to renew. So now it can be registered once more.)
Tip: Subscribe to this site for more awesome strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop a successful online marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Website’s Technology
After picking a name and description for your website, the next step is to develop a clear plan for how to manage the technology that will host, support and help you power your online marketing website.
We highly encourage you to get your site built with WordPress.
WordPress is not only a robust platform to build a website with, but it is also easy-to-manage and great for non-technical users.
WordPress is also the world’s most popular web content management system, and, as you can see from the screen capture below, WordPress powers over 45% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
A WordPress-based website provides an ideal online application platform for publishing your content and communicating with users and potential customers.
A website or blog created with the WordPress CMS platform lets you better engage with online users. And it makes posting content, unique offers, promotions, news and updates about your services, company or industry very easy. Even if you have limited technical web skills. No coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing things like software updates and backups can be easily automated.
Many large companies, medium to small businesses, educational institutions, organizations and well-known brands, no longer use their websites using static website technologies. More and more websites around the world are now being built with technologies like WordPress. It provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality of a regular website.
If you want to have a great management of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web development” languages such as PHP and HTML. Then we recommend that you consider building your website or blog using WordPress.
Hosting And Management
As well as using to build your website or blog using the WordPress CMS platform, you should also think about how you are going to host your site. And if to let someone else manage your website or manage your own website hosting.
We use and recommend WordPress for most website applications. We provide a lot more information about the benefits of using WordPress and expert advice on areas like how to register domain names, Webhosting and web site management in other blog posts on this site.
If you need help choosing your technology platform, please contact me for assistance.
Step 4 – Define Your Website Audience
Once you have the basics of your site worked out, then it’s time to define who will be your target audience.
Essential information about your target audience should include the following:
- Their needs and wants
- Any problems they face, or will have in the future
- How they like to consume digital information
- How they generally tend to view themselves
- What they expect from you or your site
It’s vitally important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your ideal users as possible. Try to visualize the actual person that you will be connecting directly with when presenting your sales message to.
To get through this process, start by asking lots of questions, like the following:
- Who will your content be addressing?
- What kind of content will users be searching for on your web site?
- What issues are people experiencing?
- What kind of solutions are they searching online for these issues?
- Are your site users technology-savvy? How will your site users consume digital information? Will they prefer images and text over a video? Do they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, timetables, schedules)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations continually to keep your target users engaged?
- Where are they located? Will geography and factors like education, relationship status affect the success of your site? If that’s the case, then what segments of the population will your site be targeting and how target these demographics online?
- How do they see themselves? Who do your visitors interact online with? What music and videos are they downloading? What else do they buy, or services they use online?
- What will your target market expect from your site? What information are you willing to provide for free or for a fee? What type of information are you unwilling to provide to them for free?
Being able to define your site’s key target audience is a significant step in the website planning process. It will help you communicate better with your web developer and anyone else who is assisting in developing your website and help to ensure that you get the exact type of website that you need.
If you don’t have access to market information about your target audience, then start with your “best estimation” based on your experience and whatever research you can manage to get done.
Also, try not to narrow things too much. You could end up wasting too much time and money pursuing a sub-market that is just too small to be profitable.
Unless you plan to build a “big portal website” and have the resources to make it happen, I would avoid trying to make your website “everything to everyone”. Or you’ll just end up making extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your site with content. As you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.
This is the end of Part 1
To keep reading this article, click here:
PART 2 Coming Soon!
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