How To Plan a WebSite in 7 Steps
How To Plan a WebSite in 7 Steps? Really? Well, whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, blogger or small business owner, having a website is a must in today’s society. But walking blindly into the world of site creation can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with a detailed list of to-do items to plan a website before you build it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
Use this post as a template that outlines exactly how to get your new website ready to launch.
How to plan a website in 7 steps
How To Plan a WebSite in 7 Steps sounds like a quickie article on online business huh? Well, creating a reliable website plan will help you organize your efforts, collect the assets you need, and start off with an outline of your goals and a clear path for achieving them.
The website plan template will serve as an anchor you can refer to for any later decisions as well as a roadmap that can be used to set deadlines and targets.
As you plan a website, here are seven steps that will guide you through the process.
- Identify your website goals.
- Identify your target audience.
- Define your unique selling proposition.
- Secure a domain name (and hosting).
- Pick a website builder.
- Create and collect design elements.
- Create content for your core website pages.
Read on for a website plan template that will help you launch your site quickly, easily and strategically.
1. Identify your website goals
Before you start building a website, you need to know why you are building it.
- What is your primary objective?
- What do you want your website to accomplish for your business?
- Is it strictly informational, or are you selling products?
- Are you looking to increase engagement with customers via your site?
- Is your goal to leverage your website to bolster year-end profits?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you create a plan that is strategically tied to your business goals, so it’s important to always start at square one: the purpose of your website.
Start thinking about the broad purpose of your website
The purpose of your website is the reason why you want to build it. It’s the somewhat obvious reason for what you think a website can do for you. You might think the purpose is to:
- Attract traffic and grow an audience
- Show your products
- Share what you know
- Advertise your business
- Entertain your readers
While those are good reasons to have a website, they won’t necessarily help you do anything specific, which is why you need to turn the purpose into a concrete goal.
Turn your purpose into a concrete goal
To find your concrete goal, start with the purpose that seems obvious and then keeping ask yourself “why,” until you get to the real purpose. Examples of this might be:
Broad PurposeConcrete GoalAttract traffic and grow and audienceSell an eBook to your audienceShow your productsSell more productsShare what you knowBuild authority and get speaking engagementsAdvertise your businessGet clients to register for a consultationEntertain your readersBuild your newsletter subscriber base
As you can see in the examples, this exercise narrows your focus so you can see what you actually want your website to do. You can see the conversion or action that you want to drive on your website.
Decide what your website needs to help you reach your goal
Understanding the goal for the website (the action you want to trigger) enables you to start designing a strategy that leads to that conversion.
When you plan a website, look at your goal and determine what your site needs to help you accomplish the objective.
For example, if your goal is to:
- Sell an eBook to your audience — You need to funnel users to your eBook product pages and have a way for them to make their purchase.
- Build authority and get speaking engagements — You need to highlight your expertise through blog posts and drive users to your contact page.
- Build your newsletter subscriber base — You need to create interesting and engaging lead magnets and add opt-in forms on your site.
Break down your goal and determine the elements you need on your site (such as opt-in forms, landing pages, etc.) to reach that goal. Also, design the funnel on your site to drive audiences toward the action you want them to take.
2. Identify your target audience
Once you know what you want users to do on your site, you need to figure out who those users are.
It’s critical to clearly identify your website’s target audience when planning your website.
Only then can you create strategic plans to get website visitors to take action.
Why you need to know your target audience
If you’re trying to attract everybody to your website, you’re probably not going to attract anybody. Casting a wide, broad net does little to help with driving traffic, connecting with audiences, or driving conversions. So, you need to know exactly who you are trying to reach.
If you skip this step and fail to clearly identify your target audience, it can lead to a variety of marketing problems.
You won’t know how to talk to your audience. If you don’t know who your customers are and what they like, want and need, it’s difficult to know how to speak directly to them. When you can clearly visualize your audience, it’s much easier to create copy that resonates with them.
You will develop weak, vague branding. Great branding pulls in a specific target audience. If you don’t know your audience, you can’t design your branding to reach them. You will end up creating branding elements that target everyone, which end up being unmemorable, bland and boring.
You will struggle with building lasting customer loyalty and affinity. When your brand and marketing messages are weak and generic, they won’t resonate with customers. If you can’t connect with customers in this way, you will struggle with building lasting brand affinity or loyalty.
You will attract the wrong customers. Vague messaging will not only prevent your target audience from being drawn to your brand, but it will also draw in the wrong type of customers. When your communication isn’t targeting the right audience, you may attract unqualified leads and customers who can’t benefit from your offerings.
You will blend into the competition. When you don’t know who you are trying to attract, you can’t build a brand with a point-of-view. And without a strong brand identity, you risk looking like everyone else in your industry. Your company won’t stand out or connect with customers.
You won’t be able to effectively use targeted advertising. Through targeted social media advertising campaigns, you can choose who sees your ads based on details related to demographics and interests. If you don’t know these things about your ideal audience, you won’t be able to launch effective ad campaigns that target the people most likely to buy from your brand.
Now that you can see why knowing your audience is so important, let’s look at some tips for getting to know your ideal customers.
How to get to know your target audience
You may think you already know who your target audience is. Maybe you have an idea in your head. Unfortunately, that image in your mind might be wrong.
A lot of brands and marketers make incorrect assumptions about their audience.
The only way to truly know who your audience is and what they want, think and need is to do research. To get insights into your target audience, you can do a few things.
Interview your customers. Get to know the people who are already buying from you. Conduct in-person interviews with readers and past customers and shoppers.
Interview your ideal buyers. Get to know the people you want to sell to. Identify people who would be your ideal customer and interview them as well.
Send out surveys. Collect feedback in a more streamlined way but sending out small surveys to your past customers and email subscribers.
See what customers are saying online. If you can’t get customers to talk to you, go to the places where they share their opinions online. Engage in social listening by browsing hashtags related to your brand or industry, and visit review sites to collect feedback.
See what your business data says. Business data is information about the products and services you sell as well as how customers engage with your offerings. Knowing what you sell, when you sell it, how often people buy, and similar information will help you get to know your customers and see how they make purchasing decisions.
See what your website stats say. Google Analytics website traffic monitoring can also offer insights into how your customers act. Use your website data to see what pages customers visit, how often they visit your site before they buy and other metrics to get to know your audience.
Once you collect this information, you will get a better idea about who your customers are and what is going on in their heads. From there, you can create a clear and detailed description of your customer, also known as a buyer persona.
How to create a buyer persona
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character you create to represent your ideal customer. It is a description of an imaginary customer who meets the criteria of your target audience.
To build a buyer persona for your brand, imagine your ideal buyer and then fill in the following information that describes him or her:
- Family situation
- Annual income
- Job title
- Company size
- What are his/her professional goals?
- Personality traits
- Subconscious and conscious beliefs
- Favorite blogs/websites
- Favorite magazines/books
- Favorite thought leaders
Beliefs / Goals
- What does he/she believe strongly in?
- What are the characteristics of his/her personality?
- What are his/her personal goals?
- What keeps him/her up at night?
- What are his/her pain points?
- What challenges is he/she facing?
- What is his/her role in the purchase process?
- How does he/she regularly buy?
- What are his/her objections to purchasing?
By filling in these details, you create a customer profile that describes your ideal buyer. Then, you can bring the details to life by turning it into a narrative that tells a story about your target customer.
Don’t just describe the persona as a list of details. Add a photo to the story and write a few paragraphs about who they are and what they need.
Having a narrative and photo of your target audience will make it easier to shape your marketing messages. You will keep this image in mind as you create your website.
3. Define your unique selling proposition
So far in your process to plan a website, you’ve determined your goals and defined your target audience. Now, you can start developing marketing strategies for reaching the audience and encouraging them to act.
The first step in that process is creating a unique selling proposition.
What is a unique selling proposition?
A unique selling proposition, or USP, is something special that makes your brand, products or services different from and better than your competitors.
It explains the selling points that get prospects to act and take a step closer toward becoming your customer.
It grabs the attention of your ideal customers and is the reason why they choose you over all others.
You need to know your USP as you plan a website because your entire site will be positioned around your unique selling propositions. All of your copy and content will be positioned to subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) promote your USP and drive website visitors to buy from your brand.
How to develop your unique selling proposition
To develop your unique selling proposition, think about your brand, products and services and answer the following questions.
- How are you different from your competitors?
- Why does that difference matter to customers?
- What specific benefit do customers get by choosing you over the competition?
- Why does that benefit matter to customers?
Don’t rush through this exercise. The things that immediately come to mind might be too obvious. Spend time really digging into how your offerings truly help your customers and solve their problems.
Tips for finding your USP
If you’re having a hard time identifying your unique selling proposition, use the following tips for help.
- Think about what your customers value and how you help them get those things.
- Think about the problems your customers have and how you help solve them.
- Consider the unique strengths that your brand brings to the table.
- Look at your competitors to see how you can differentiate your brand.
Remember, unique selling propositions aren’t specific to eCommerce sites and service-oriented businesses. If you’re a blogger, you’re likely “selling” information and want to establish yourself as a thought leader. The above questions still apply — what are you doing to do to set yourself apart from the crowd?
4. Secure a domain name (and hosting)
Now that you have finished a big portion of your website strategy, you can start getting ready to set up your site. Begin that process by securing a domain name.
What is a domain name?
As you learn how to plan a website, it’s important to know the difference between a domain and hosting and to understand how they work together. These two elements can be purchased together or separately, although many times they are purchased together.
Likewise, hosting is included with some website builder solutions — including Bluehost Website Builder, SiteGround’s Builder & Managed WordPress options (more on that later). Also, Network Solutions has great deals and Big Commerce will handle just about everything FOR YOU!