Tips for Planning a Successful Website

websiteplanUpdated for 2020. Originally published on May 10, 2015, in the Smiths Falls HomeTown News. 

The importance of a strong website to promote your business is paramount. It acts as a sales agent for your business, greeting your visitors during each visit.

If your business does not have one, it is time to think about your marketing goals. Your website is your marketing hub and a tool that should be maximized to its full potential. Launching a new website is exciting, a little scary at times, and can be overwhelming to think about. As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Building a website without a plan is like constructing a building without blueprints. Here are some key components to consider:

 

What is the goal of your website?

Think strategically on what is your website’s role, what content goes into it, so it’s crystal clear what you want the new site to do. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and design your information architecture, what should be their action points? For example; sign up for your newsletter, buy your products or rally behind a cause. Who is your target audience? Set measurable, specific goals for your website that are in line with your marketing goals.

An analytics tool like Google Analytics will allow you to monitor your website’s performance over time.

 

What is lacking in your current website?

Ask your current users what they like and dislike in the current website, any common complaints from frequent visitors. A lot can be learnt from Google Analytics, where are the users spending the most time, where is the exit point, where are they going from your site. Follow the facts and don’t assume here. Is it mobile-friendly? Updates to the Google Algorithm means that all websites need to be an adaptive or responsive design for mobile devices. If they are not, they may not show up in a Google search on these devices, which can greatly hurt your business.

A Content Management System (CMS) is a must today, you can add, modify, delete your photos, text, pages, sections and be in complete control of your content on the fly. The most common CMS tool is WordPress. 

A free tool like Website Grader will give you the basics to grade the performance and usability of your website. It grades the structure of your website, whether it is mobile-friendly, the search engine optimization (SEO), and the security of your website. It is a great place to start when reviewing your current website. 

Is your current site helping you reach your marketing and sales goals? If not, you will have to consider not only the functionality and usability but the messaging and whether there are clear calls-to-action.  

 

Create a Content Strategy

What kind of content will you be displaying on your website? Content is basically anything that gives your visitors information. It can include but is not limited to: blog posts, documents, video, pictures, embedded social media feeds.

Your content strategy is the way that you plan to present your content over time. For instance, you may want to publish two blog posts a month, regular news posts or a regular report. Since content is such a vital aspect of a website, bring in help if you need it. Hire a writer who is experienced with writing for the web, and invest in some professional looking pictures of your business and staff. Also, you are a better writer than you think you are, don’t let that hold you back from creating content. If you are more comfortable, do a video, embed it on the website, and hire someone to transcribe the video to create the post content. 

Probably the most important aspect of website ‘structural design’ is how you breakdown the content into logical sections (Main Areas, Pages, Headers, Sub-Headers, etc). A major aspect of usability for a website is the need for people to be able to find what they want, and quickly. Logical, practical and sensible navigation is essential if your site is to succeed.

Create a sitemap diagram or use cards. A sitemap is like a flow chart and shows how users move from one page to the next. Use the site map diagram or cards to show how you envision the web page hierarchy and connectivity. Think about the end-user and not how you would like to see it, ask your website developer for assistance, as they have experience with how user’s view web content.

Have some content ready before you start building a new website. It will be much easier to see how the website style looks if you have your actual content instead of blank pages. You don’t need to everything ready, but it will look much better in mockups if you have some copy and images. Don’t hold the launch of your website up because you don’t have everything ready, because your website is fluid and content can be added and edited after launch, you do want the critical information before launch though. 

Select strong photos for your site. It’s not just written content that matters, the images/video, you use on your website will help build your brand and improve the user experience. Ideality, you can hire a photographer to take branding photos for your website, but in many cases, stock photography will work well too. Look into buying high-quality stock photography, make sure that it is royality-free, so you have to rights to use it. 

 

Maintain your Website

Once your site is launched, the work isn’t over. A website is an ongoing entity that continuously represents your business, so maintenance is very important. Monitor your analytics to see how your website is performing. Keep an eye on metrics like your number of unique visitors, bounce rate, and which pages are most popular on your website. Consider also ‘future-proofing’ your website. This means your site having a built-in ability to expand. You don’t want to have to rebuild the site again from the ground up, every time you have a new idea you want to add to it.

Launching a new website is by no means easy, but with a strong plan and a launch strategy in hand, your website launch should run smoothly.

 

If you need help planning and creating your new website, please contact us

 

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