Quick guide: Planning a website

There is a fair amount of planning a website needs before you or your web designer starts putting things together. Of course you could just jump right in, but you might head off in the wrong direction and end up with something that looks nice but doesn’t work. Answer the following questions to help plan your website effectively.

1. What are you selling?

Be specific and list your main products or categories of products. This question applies even if you are not selling directly from the site, you may find it helpful to rephrase the question as ‘What services do you provide?’

2. What is the number one thing you want your website to achieve?

This should be a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). e.g Be consistently selling 50 of Product X online each month by November.

3. What are secondary goals for your website?

Examples of secondary goals could be to increase your mailing list, get more followers on Twitter or attract Facebook likes. Write your secondary goals in the form of SMART goals too.

4. Who are you selling to?

If you don’t know your audience you can’t target them effectively. Work up a set of customer personas to explain who these people are. How old are they? What is their background? What do they care about and what do they spend money on? Where does your audience exist online? Make a list of social networks (including specific pages and groups), along with forums and websites where they hang out.

5. How does your audience talk?

Is there common terminology which they use in relation to your industry or type of products? Make a list of keywords and phrases (this will be useful in SEO later on).

6. What stops people from buying your product?

This could be cost, other companies in your industry, lack of awareness or even apathy.

7. Does your target audience suffer from any pain, problem or fear that your product can help with?

This is about understanding the reason someone might buy your product. You may think of your product in terms of what features it provides but your customers will often buy based on what problem it solves.

8. What are the benefits of hiring you or buying your products and services?

Once you know the problems your customers face you can explain the benefits they will receive by buying your product or service.

9. How should your brand be positioned in relation to your audience?

Are you an authority or a friend? Do you provide something necessary but mundane or a desirable luxury item? Develop another persona, this time for your business. This should explain the personality of your business and include information on appropriate use of language and tone of voice.

10. Write the design brief for the website.

This should be split into the following sections:

  • overview of your business, products and services;
  • the goals of the site;
  • details of your target audience;
  • tone of voice (including information on specific terminology and SEO keywords which should be used);
  • visual design (don’t be too prescriptive but include relevant information such as existing brand guidelines and requirements like ‘must display well on smart phones’).

Once you have answered the questions above and written your website design brief you know much more about planning a website and will likely be streets ahead of your competition. It’s true that this kind of planning takes time but the benefits of putting in the effort here should not be underestimated if you want your website to work as well as it should. Good luck!