Everyone wants to be online in some way these days. Having a website is non-negotiable for your company or business, of that there is no doubt. But before you rush out and spend a bunch of cash on a new, or improved, online presence take a few minutes to think about why you want a website and what you hope to achieve. This article will explain the importance of planning in the website design process, and hopefully give you some idea of how to define your website goals before you start development. Taking the time to get this part right can save you money in the long run.
I have already briefly touched on content items that your developer will need from you in the design / development phase, so today we are really interested more in the planning phase, in the why, who and what.
1. The WHY
The first area you need to focus – what are your main reasons for building this website? According to an article on setting SMART goals by J6 it’s not enough to want to build a “great” website that gives customers a “good experience”. You need to set concrete goals, taking into account both your business needs and the requirements of your target audience or customer.
So how to do that? Try setting some website goals that incorporate the following:
- Specific > state exactly what it is you want to accomplish
- Measurable > use a number or other metric that can be quantified (so you know when you meet it) i.e. a 20% increase in customers VS getting more customers
- Actionable / Attainable > you must be able to achieve the goal easily, if the goal is too big then break it into smaller sections
- Relevant > must relate to your business and your industry. Remember different sections of the website will have different goals (the home page vs the store page)
- Time-bound > the goal must have a time-frame or time-limit, open-ended goals are never achieved
Examples of a SMART goal for your website would be:
- A 20% increase in sales in 6 months
- A 30% increase in memberships this year
- Reduce admin costs by 15% in 3 months
- Add 1,000 subscribers to the newsletter over the next year
- Increase brand awareness through Facebook by getting 1 positive review a week
Action Step: write down the top 5 business goals for your new or redesigned website.
2. The WHO
So now we know what we are doing, the next thing we need to think about is who are we doing it for. Getting really clear about your ideal customer is the next important aspect of planning your website.
The more specific you can be about your audience or niche, the more likely it is that your site will resonate for them. To this end we recommend putting together a sample persona for your ideal customer. Of course you may have more than one ideal client type, so repeat the exercise for each group. It is worth going so far as to naming your persona, this makes it easy to think of them at each stage in the process to make sure you are on track with what they would need.
According to the Elegant Themes blog on how to create this persona: “..(it) begins with asking questions that help you get a feel of customers’ expectations about your website. The questions can vary from being demographic related to what customers are looking for in terms of navigation. All things considered, make sure that you also explore the “why” and “how” instead of just the “what” of things.”
Some questions to start with when building this profile:
- How old are they?
- What gender are they?
- Where would you find them online? Where do they like to hang out?
- Which social networks should you focus on to engage with them?
- What are their interests?
- What is their biggest frustration as a website visitor?
- How will they interact with the business?
You may not be able to answer all these questions without doing some research. Once you have an idea of the demographic of your ideal customer send out some surveys, or conduct some interviews. You can use existing clients, or even friends or family that meet the criteria, to get relevant info. Once you know who you are doing this for you can then note down what they are likely to want from your website, or what need they might want to fulfill.
Some examples of a customer need:
- Easily find info on product x
- Get your contact details
- Request a quote
- Buy something from you
Once you have an idea of what people want from your site you will be able to use this info in the design phase to:
- make sure you solve their problems,
- provide clear info to answer their questions
- position yourself as a trusted expert in the industry through sharing of relevant knowledge
- offer an easy-to-use online store so they can spend less time hunting for the thing they want to purchase.
According to HubSpot: “the use of personas led to a 2-5 times increase in the effectiveness of websites and ease of use by the target audience”. Also be sure to have a look at the cool infographic on the buyer persona development process over on their site.
Action Step: Who is your buyer, and what are the top 5 reasons they will visit your website?
3. The WHAT
Now you know who you are building the site for, and what your website goals are. Well done. The last item to look at is the what. This is not only which sections or what content you are going to include on the website, but also what do you want people to do when they get to your site.
- Start with the main page headings you think you will need – home / about / contact / services. Sketch out the basic hierarchy or sitemap you have in mind at this stage.
- Make a list of the functionality you would like on the site. This is something that can be expanded on in the design phase, but it’s good to mention specific things you want, like a gallery section or VIP membership area, to your web developer early on in the process, even if you are only looking at this in phase 2.
- Write down the story you want to tell (about yourself and your business). Are you going to include info on the members of your team? If yes start to gather this info, photos and of course their permission to be featured.
- Create your unique value proposition and write down any unique selling points you want to highlight on the website. Why are you better than your competition?
- How will visitors find you? Make a note of the keywords and phrases you want to incorporate on the site and optimise for.
Funnels & Journeys
What do you want people to do on your website and what do you consider a conversion? This could be several things, like when someone:
- completes a contact form or calls you
- buys something after landing on your site from an online ad
- fills out your lead capture form and downloads your free ebook
- leaves a review of your restaurant
- shares your post on social media
Make sure the journey from landing page to conversion is logical and clear. Make sure visitors reach the info they need quickly and easily. This will improve conversions & also lower bounce rates (when people leave your site immediately when they don’t find what they need or expected straight away).
- Write down your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
- Draw up a basic site map for the new site. Make sure you know how many pages you want.
- Write down 10 keywords or phrases you want to incorporate.
- Decide on your conversion funnel or journey – what do you want people to do when they are on your site?
Whilst it is important to make sure you have clear goals for your website it is probably more important to design and develop it with the needs of your target audience top of mind. If your website offers your customers amazing benefits and solves their problems then it’s likely that the site will also achieve your business goals as well.
You might also find our 5 Essentials to Make Your Business’s Online Strategy Sizzle ebook useful, it covers some of the points above plus a bit more on your online strategy overall.
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