How to plan your website
20 or so years ago, when the Internet first exploded onto an unsuspecting public, most businesses put some sort of website online for people to look at. It was a was a time when just having a website was enough to make your business cool. They had dancing babies and splash screens, and maybe even some music played that you could never quite figure out how to turn off.
It may surprise you to learn that some businesses still approach their website that way. Not with dancing babies and irritating music loops (thank goodness), but they have a website just to have one.
These sites are lacking goals.
Your web presence needs to be planned out long before concepts and mock-ups are discussed. It’s also important to understand that your website is much more than just your website now. In the modern age of digital lives, your online presence is tied to your customers in seemingly infinite ways. What’s the point of your site? Are customers using other channels like social media to communicate with you more often than on your site? What’s the best method to deliver your information and achieve your goals? These are the questions you need to be asking long before you start picking colours and fonts.
Consider that some customers might not even visit your website today, and will instead find what they’re looking for on Facebook, Google Local or just tweet your business directly. So how do you determine what makes the cut for your website and how to most effectively disseminate information?
Start with an inventory. Figure out what’s currently out there. Go beyond your own website. Once you’ve done this, ask yourself if it makes sense. Is there any possible confusion being created? Are customers getting lost along the way? Don’t be afraid to get rid of old content. If it’s sending the wrong message, it’s not helpful.
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to create a plan. Set some clear goals for what you want to achieve online. Book reservations, get people to contact you, advertise and inform, etc. These goals will help you layout your plan in the most effective way possible.
With goals in place, it’s finally time to start thinking about your website. How are you getting people there? Once they’re there, what do you want them to do? You need to funnel people towards the goals you set. Also, think about how you are keeping them there to increase the chances of achieving your goals.
Beyond your website, how are you communicating with your customers when they aren’t on your website? What are you communicating to them, and how often? Why are you choosing to communicate on one platform vs another? Are these communications of value to your audience? And how does this communication relate back to your overall goals? Answering these questions will help plan your social media, blog posts and newsletters.
Lastly what comes up when someone searches for you on Google? Are people finding the right pages and information? Does your ranking need to be higher? Does the description need to change? Is the Google Local information up to date? This is often people’s first impression of your web presence. Make sure it’s accurate and communicates the right message.
There’s no sense in building web pages that no one will use, and there’s nothing more frustrating to customers then not being able to find the information they need. Decide on a scale for your site and communication plan that is useful to your audience, fits your business needs, and you can realistically maintain.
Creating goals — and a plan to achieve those goals — for all of your online activity allows you to make decisions quicker. It also allows you to track the success of what you do online and adjust accordingly. You should always be able to answer why you’re creating certain content, and it should always fit within a plan to funnel your audience towards your goals online.
You can’t rely on dancing babies on your homepage to keep people coming back anymore.