How to Plan Your Website Like a Pro
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.” — Steve Jobs
Whether you’re DIYing or working with a designer, the secret to building a kick ass website quickly and with the least amount of roadblocks, is in how well you plan it.
Choosing a website template or approaching a designer without understanding what you are trying to achieve is likely to lead to a really frustrating, long-winded and frankly, painful design experience.
Your website is simply a tool, and (unless you're my Dad), you're probably not popping into Bunnings for a sausage and a few tools unless you know what you're building, who needs to use it, why it's being built, and how you plan on using the end product. So, before you start dreaming up colour palettes and choosing imagery, you need to understand how you want your website to work and what it needs to do.
This article will help you to plan the pages, features and integrations you'll need on your website by exploring four essential questions.
1. Why do you need a website?
If you are simply building a website just to have a website it will just be another business expense. But, if you would like to see a return on your website investment (in leads and/or sales), it has to be created with a bigger marketing and sales funnel in mind.
Setting some clear goals for your website will help you to hone in on the specific features, pages or integrations needed to achieve them. Your goals will also help you to determine the value of a website to your business and therefore what you can afford to pay for it.
What goals do you have for your website?
- What are you trying to achieve by building a new website? Do you want more sales, to create a passive income channel, to streamline your work processes, increase enquiries or something else?
- How soon do you want to achieve your goals?
- How long do you plan on keeping your website for? Will you add to and update this website for the next 5 years, or is it a stop-gap that you plan on replacing in 1 year?
How can your website support these goals?
- What types of pages, features and elements will support your sales, marketing and business goals?
How much is a new website worth to you?
- If your website could help you to achieve your goals, how much would it be worth to you?
- What would the return on investment be? For example, if your website goal is to make 10 additional $1000 sales in one year, you might set your marketing budget at $5000 for a new website & advertising that achieves your goals, because you would recoup your investment in 6 months. But, if you're a new business and aren't sure how much you'll earn yet, dropping $5000 on a website might be a gamble you're not willing to take yet.
2. Who will use your website?
It’s really easy to get caught up in the features you like or what looks good to you when building a website. While it’s important to love your website and find it easy to use and update, if you are going to deliver any sort of value to your customers, then they should also be considered when you’re making decisions about how your website looks and works.
Who will be managing and updating your website?
- What are the capabilities, workload and knowledge of the person or people managing your website from your team?
- Are there features or integrations that would make it fast and easy for them to make updates?
Who will be visiting your website?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Where did they come from (search, social media, advertising etc.)?
- What challenges/desires/questions do you think they might have when they arrive on your website?
What can you do to address their needs?
What types of features, content or imagery will—
- Ensure your website attracts the right people?
- Reassure your customers that they’re in the right place?
- Build trust and credibility? (E.g. Social proof such as clients you’ve worked with, case studies, past work or testimonials)
- Address their questions and concerns before they buy? (E.g. description of process, costing, FAQs, live chat)
- Make it easy for them to take the next step in your sales process?
3. How will your website support your marketing & sales processes?
What types of actions do you want your customers to take on your website? For many businesses, the obvious answer is filling in an enquiry form or making a purchase. These are primary or macro conversion goals— they are your end goal, and usually either represent a sale or high probability of a sale.
In reality, many of your website visitors won't be ready to buy or enquire when they first land on your website. So, in addition to having macro conversion goals, it's important to take stock of other, smaller actions that might indicate a website visitor is interested in your product or service. These are secondary or micro conversions. These might include subscribing to an email list, visiting certain pages, watching a video, downloading a resource, reading or sharing an article, signing up for a free trial or adding a product to a wishlist.
Once you know which website visitors have shown interest in your offerings, you can find ways to stay top of mind and provide value to these people so that if and when they are ready to buy it's easy for them to take the next step in your sales process.
For example, this might be achieved by—
- Sending them valuable information or resources if you have their email address
- Retargeting them with offers or content via search engine marketing or social media advertising
- Prompting them to take an action via a pop up, banner or chat while they are still on your website
- Encouraging them to follow you on social channels so you can keep in touch
What would you like your website visitors to do on your website?
- What are your primary or macro conversion goals?
- What are your secondary or micro conversion goals?
- How can you stay top of mind for interested site visitors who have completed one or more micro conversion goals?
- What content, features or integrations do you need on your website to achieve your conversion goals?
4. How will your website support your workflow processes?
In addition to being a fantastic marketing tool, your website can and should be considered as a tool for streamlining your internal processes as well. What could you include on your website to help streamline your processes and enhance your customer experience?
For example, you might want to integrate your website with a company intranet, create a list of FAQs or build forms for reviews or briefs. These might save both your time and your customers' time.
What would make your life easier?
- Is there anything you would like to have or see on your website that would make your business processes more efficient or help you to save time?
- Is there anything you could integrate or implement that would alleviate pain points, provide better support to your customers or automate your processes?
Over to you
Our website has been a huge investment of time, but it is the #1 tool we use everyday to build brand awareness, make sales and connect us with new customers. This hasn't happened through sheer luck, our website only works because we sat down and thoughtfully planned our website with our processes, ideal customers and business goals in mind.
Now it's your turn—answering these questions will help you to build out a list of features and pages you'll need to kick some marketing and business goals and see an ROI on your website.
To make your planning process easier, we've made a free website planner for you. Think of this as your website order form or wishlist. It lists out tonnes of popular website pages, features and integrations that you can select and add to. Get your free website planner here.
Armed with this list, you'll be able to brief your web designer or select the right DIY solution that not only looks great, but works to support your business goals.
If you liked this article or know someone who could benefit from some website planning, please share it with them! And, if you have any tips or questions about planning a website please leave us a comment below, we'd love to hear from you.