Planning a website – The necessary steps

Planning a website goes a long way to help your success on the internet. Here's some pieces of advice on internet site planning.

by Paolo Euvrard

Planning a website – The necessary steps

 

Writing everything down helps to clear your mind on the subject, and a detailed well-explained project will limit the misunderstanding with the company who will work for you.

 

Necessary steps to plan your site

Define clear goals for your website

You need to explain what you want your visitors to do when they visit your site. If you are a restaurant, it might be booking a table, knowing your precise location, and consult the menu. If you sell shoes, maybe showing them the different addresses for your shops or selling your products online.

For this part, it’s essential to assess which niche market you are targeting. If you treat a local clientele, it will be easier to reach your audience, and fight the competition. If you have a broad or worldwide target, different steps are required to build your website.

Always keep in mind that what is obvious for you, isn’t for the developer who will take care of your website, thus will not be for your future clients.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein

The attention span for a visitor to your website is 4 to 8 seconds. If in that time, you are not capable of stating clearly what your site is about, or what you intend for them, you are out of the game. Keep in mind that you explain the message to the designer/developer, that will translate it on your website, and finally, deliver it to your visitors: If it’s not clear to start with, you are in for some troubles.

Prepare a sitemap of your site

You can have a simple website with the necessary pages: Homepage, About Us, Products, Gallery, Contact. Then it’s a no-brainer.

BUT if you are looking at a more complex website structure, it’s ok to draw it down, as an organigram (organizational chart, or site map, or whatever you want to call it). That will help you ascertain the exact number of pages you will need for your project.

Here is a list of subpages that you can find on most company websites:

  • About us – business profile, history, quality policy and sometimes a presentation of managers.
  • Offer – description and list of products or services.
  • Clients (or, possibly, References or Realizations) – portfolio of customers and examples of implementations (case studies).
  • Career – information about company recruitment policy and current job offers.
  • News – current information about business activities, which is sometimes in the form of a blog.
  • Media – ‘press pack’ including materials for the media and sometimes separate press communications, if not the same as in News.
  • Contact us – contact details, sometimes with a map showing the way to your office and often with a contact form.
  • Legal notice – company registration data and sometimes also website use terms.
  • Privacy policy – information about what user data are gathered and about cookie files used.

Once everything is laid down, it will be easier to go to the next steps.

Organizing your website content

That’s where the difficulty lies while you are planning a website. You will need to prepare the content that you want to have on it. There are few different kinds of content, but basically, it goes down to images and text.

The difficulty is not to say: “Hey, I want an about page”. That’s ok, we understood that already. The question is “What will be the content?”. The developer who doesn’t know your company will not be able to come with a generic description of it, you are in the best position to explain it in simple words for him, and your visitors.

You should for a subpage, for example, make clear to your audience the following:

1. ‘Is this what I’m looking for?’

A short and clear definition of a product or service which will keep users on your website by making them pay attention somewhat longer and read more.

2. ‘What’s in it for me?’

A description of offer features/functionalities which must be written from buyers’ perspective and include the benefits they may gain.

3. ‘Why should I choose exactly this product and this provider?’

If you explain how you are better than your competition, you may make your potential buyer give up reading other offers.

4. ‘What next?’

Or in other words: ‘What (easy) thing should I do to learn more or make the purchase?’.

No need to add too much blah-blah-blah, you want to go straight to the point. State what you offer, and make sure the message gets through.

Do you spend time reading the fine lines of the website you are visiting? Me neither. Your content should be concise and clear.

When planning a website you should pay extra attention to your images.

Getting images from Google and/or taking pictures with your smartphone will not cut it. If you want a good looking website, you will need great pictures. You need to employ a professional photographer to do it – to take your products pictures for example, or your office’s or staff.

You can as well get free or paid, royalty free pictures on the numerous images banks on the internet. Whatever you choose, the quality must be your motto.

People don’t read websites – they scan them. Graphics draw and keep attention better than a text and a text is noticed more often if it describes graphics.

In the case of ‘physical’ products, there’s no problem – a description will be best illustrated with pack shots, i.e. real pictures of objects. Still, they must be really good and touched up.

In other cases – with more ‘virtual’ products or services – you may show screenshots or operation schemes. But sometimes there are no graphics which are directly connected with the company offer. Don’t give up then – a text without any illustrations will be perceived as much less attractive.

Images of people work best – nothing (and really nothing!) attracts people’s eyes better than faces.

Planning a website functionalities

That’s part need special attention too. Even if you are not technical, you should make a list of every functionality you want for your internet site.

For example, a sign-up form to collect email addresses, some button to share on social media, electronic calculator for your product shipping, etc.

That’s important because, for complex websites, the graphic design, and the content are only the tip of the iceberg. What makes an internet site unique is what it can do for your customers and you. You may want a CRM to manage your clients, some user to be able to post on your blog, maintaining your forum with ease and apply some restrictions, etc.

Whatever it is, put it down on paper and explain what are your objectives with your developer, he will clarify the limitations and explain how it will impact the cost.

There’s nothing simple in programming functionalities, and if some are already in the system, some need to be build up from scratch. The developer might as well need to tweak existing functions – which most of the time is the worst, as you have to learn first how it works to start to modifying it.

Budgeting your website

Once your project is clear, you will still need to fix a budget.

The higher the price, the better the quality will be, in term of design, content creation, SEO, and everything in between. Do not expect to have a killer website for a couple of pennies: that will not happen. A website is an investment in your future or the future of your company.

Ask yourself the question: how much is it worth to me? and read “Why you should not buy a cheap website

If you plan on making 3 to 5000 a month with your website revenue, don’t try to get it for 500 USD, you’ll be sorry. BE REALISTIC. And beware of cheap company with big promises, there’s nothing like a free meal…

So, again:

  • Define clearly your website goals and what you intend your customers to be and to do.
  • Draw an organigram of your website for a better clarity
  • Prepare for each of the pages you planned both texts and images
  • Make a list of the functions you need when planning a website

When your website planning is done, contact Paolo Web Design, and we will take it from there.

You can also read that another article on planning a website

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