Website planning is a complex yet essential task. Not done properly, it can make enhancements and expansion more complicated. To properly plan the full development of a website you must know exactly where you are and where you want to go, keeping expansion in mind.
It is impossible to provide a detailed one-size-fits-all plan for a website. Every business and market niche have their own needs. Here are the questions that would help you plan your website efficiently:
- What is your website about?
- Who is your audience?
- Who is your biggest competition?
- What areas of the market is your competition targeting?
- Have you made any efforts towards social media marketing (SMM)?
- What is your domain name?
- How will you advertise or market your website?
What is your website about?
When planning your website, it's important not only to understand your audience but also to understand the problems they need to get resolved, a.k.a. their pain points Your visitors want to know what are you going to do for them. If you can legitimately alleviate their pain point - and have the social proof to back it up - then you have the room to grow.
Who is your audience?
Who are you trying to reach? Are they young or old? Male or female? College or professional? How would you talk to them? What are their pain points? Study your target audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Identify common characteristics of your target audience and make sure your website structure and your content are relevant to them.
Tip: break down your audience into buyer personas. Collect real data about your existing customers and create several types of ideal customers. You can even give them names, for example, The Builder Bob, The Painter Tom, or The Gardener Judy. When creating your characters, consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, any motivations they may be having, and goals they are trying to achieve with your product or service. The more detailed you are, the better!
Who is your biggest competitor? Which areas of the market are they targeting?
By identifying your biggest competition you are more likely to identify areas of the market where they are not excelling or underperforming. Then you can plan your website around those areas to increase your chances of success. Sometimes it's better to go after the little fish before trying to catch the big ones!
What is your message?
Content creation calendar will be the most difficult, time-consuming element of your planning. Start by identifying the content you already have (brochures, logos, photos, articles, etc). Next, identify the content you still need to produce, such a great About Us page. Complete all of your content research before you begin configuring your page structure. Make sure that every page of your website supports the overall message and contains a call to action (CTA) that reinforces this message further.
How will you configure your website?
Begin your website planning by drawing a diagram that shows how your pages will be organized. Identify the priority pages such as Features, About Us, Testimonials, or Products.
Remember to focus on and configure only one web page at a time. If your website will be more than five pages, you should consider publishing those five pages first. Once those pages have been published, you can continue to build your website and add additional pages. Next, using the content you have already produced, organize your pages so they are linked together in a logical manner.
When do you want to publish your site, and how often do you plan to update it?
Identify a reasonable time frame to complete your project and publish your website. Establish a schedule to come back and review your content frequently, be it weekly, monthly, quarterly. Some pages may require frequent updates and some, such as your About Us or mission statement, can be updated as needed or even yearly. Schedule regular maintenance checks to verify the functionality of your site, as well as assess the relevancy of your message. Is it still effective, or has it become outdated?
What will your domain name be?
Choosing a domain name that fits your product is vitally important. If you have already registered a business license, you will obviously want a domain name identical to your business name. The important thing to remember is that search engines love consistency. Once you publish to your domain, you should stick to it for years to come.
How will you advertise or promote your website?
When you publish your website, you either have money to advertise your new site or you don't. While search engine marketing is a great way to increase visibility, there are plenty of other ways to market your website such as local press listings, adding your URL on printed marketing materials, You should be open to pursuing every option available to increase exposure!
Keep in mind that your website will never truly be finished! Your website, like you, the Internet or even the world itself, will be continuously evolving. And as your business grows, or the new technology gets developed, you will find yourself returning to your website to refine your online presence.