Planning Your Website: Six Simple Steps

sketch of thumbnailsPaul Provost, President

Whether you plan on developing a new company website in-house or through a marketing agency, proper research, planning and goal-setting is imperative. Thorough website planning ensures that all parties are on the same page working towards the same goals. If you choose to contract the site to an agency, doing your own planning beforehand helps with the estimating process and will save both you and the agency time and money

Here are six simple steps to get your website off to the right start:

Step 1. Review Your Current Website's Performance Analytics
Gaining a sound understanding of how your current website visitors interact with your website will uncover opportunities for improvement. Use metrics gathered from a traffic monitoring service like Google Analytics to answer the following questions:

  1. Where do your website visitors come from (Google, Facebook, direct traffic, etc)?
  2. Where do they land when they get there (what page)?
  3. Where do they go from there?
  4. How long are visitors active on your site?
  5. How many pages do they visit? What pages?
  6. What technology (computer, browser, mobile, etc) are they using?

 

Step 2: Define Your Website's Strategic Marketing Goals
Effective websites are much more than eye candy; they need to support your marketing strategy, sales team and brand. The following questions will help you define your website's why:

  1. Do you have a defined brand with clear messaging?
  2. If you don't have a defined brand, do you need to work one out first?
  3. Are you looking to improve company awareness?
  4. Does your site need to generate leads?
  5. Do you want a site that supports your sales team?
  6. Does the site need to help convert prospects to leads/clients?
  7. Does your site need to support your regular customer communications (email marketing/blogging)?

 

Step 3: Determine Your Website's Navigation
Once you understand your site's strategic goals, you can begin outlining the types of pages you'll need. Start by making a list using the following questions:

  1. What do your customers and prospects want/need to know about you?
  2. How long do you want people to stay on your site (this helps determine the number of pages and types of content)?
  3. What content needs to be on the homepage? What is your ultimate first impression?  
  4. What is your end goal for web visitors (phone call, contact form, PDF download, quote form, etc)?

 

Step 4: Review Other Sites for Inspiration
Start by looking at your competitors' websites and analyze what they seem to be doing right and wrong. Next, look at other sites in a wide range of industries for inspiration. Review the sites with the following questions in mind:

  1. What sites fit with your design / aesthetic preferences? What about each site works for you and why?
  2. Was the site organized in a manner that was natural or forced? Was important information prominent?
  3. Did the quality of the website reflect the quality of their products or services?

 

Step 5: Assess Technology and Functionality Options
This is where you get down to the real techy parts of the planning process. The following questions should help you choose between Open Source vs. Proprietary and CMS vs. HTML systems:

  1. Will you need a blog, contact form, landing pages, poll system, Google map system, photo gallery or other special plugins?
  2. Do you need online store capabilities (eCommerce) or a secure client login area?
  3. How often do you plan to update your website (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, annually)?
  4. Is there someone on your team you that will be able to self-manage / update the site (and to what extent - simple content updates only or full web specialist)?
  5. Do your site visitors use mobile phones or tablets to visit your site?

 

Step 6: Clearly Explain Your Vision to a Marketing Agency
While you may be an expert in your field, managing the website process in-house may be over and above your internal capabilities. Producing a professional website that is on brand and engaging to prospects takes a number of different skills (writing, design, website development, marketing planning, project management, brand strategy among others).  If you choose to contract out your website, the steps above will ensure prospective companies (web company, marketing agencies, etc) are on the same page in terms of goals, scope and functionality. Here are some tips to streamline the process and ensure an accurate quoting process:

  1. Summarize the above planning stages in a document and send it to a few vetted, trusted companies with the capabilities to build your website
  2. Meet with each agency to determine the right fit and rate each agency
  3. Be honest with each agency about your budget, internal approval process and your desired timelines
  4. Outline the internal resources you have / intend to allocate to this project (none, project manager, writer, designer, etc).
  5. Weigh all options and choose the agency who is best suited to carry out your vision while also adding knowledge and expertise to the planning you've already done

 

Walking into a web company or marketing agency with a strategic vision for your site and a basic plan of attack will save you time and money, period. Of course, if you don't have the time or resources to perform this process in house, we can certainly help with all stages of your new website.

If you'd like help with your marketing planning, we'll be covering these topics and much more at our June 19th Marketing Planning seminar.

Call or e-mail Paul Provost now for a free consultation.

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