Website Planning: 10 Things You Need to Know

If you need a website, or need to start over with one you already have, here are ten things you need to know to plan for a successful website.

1. Determine Website Purpose

Before you dive into website development, you need to decide what you want to accomplish with your website. Although you may have multiple goals, you need to identify your primary goal. Then rank your additional goals in order of priority. Ideally, you should consider both short-term and long-term goals. Website design, function and content need to be developed to support and achieve your goals. Starting a website without defined goals is like building a house without an architectural plan.

2. Be Realistic

Being online is vital in today's economy, but the Internet is highly competitive. There are potentially hundreds of businesses similar to yours, and millions of web pages, vying for attention. Launching a website doesn't mean customers will flock to it. Your website should be part of an overall, interconnected marketing plan. With websites, you get out of them what you put into them. You won't achieve high search engine rankings without offering a depth and breadth of fresh, relevant content to your target customers.

3. Focus on Customers

Successful websites and businesses focus on satisfying customers' needs. People come to your website looking for information and solutions. Make sure your goals don't get in their way. Make it easy for them to find and get what they came for, show them benefits, and talk to them in their language. Know your customers and put them first. Don't offer them marketing fluff, dry mission statements, or demand they provide personal information without receiving value in return.

4. Hire a Professional Web Developer

Good websites enhance a business' image, attract visitors and help turn those visitors into customers. Bad websites tarnish a business' reputation and turn customers away—never to return. Website development is complex and requires maintaining up-to-date knowledge of technology, design, marketing, project management, and more. Amateur and poorly designed websites will cost you more business than not having a website at all. A professional business requires professional services.

5. Don't Block Customers with Technology

Do you have enough business that you can afford to discriminate? That's what you do when your website uses technology that not everyone can access. Websites developed to be viewed only on browser or platform X are blocking potential customers. Don't miss out on customers—ensure that your website is functional and accessible to everyone.

6. Develop for Search Engines

You may think it's too competitive in your line of business to rank well with search engines. Or that your business is based on word-of-mouth, so you don't need search engines. Or you may be enamored of a technology that effectively blocks search engines. Although you may not actively court them, think long and hard before spurning search engines. Your website should be built to be search-engine friendly. Why turn away from potential free marketing? You don't want to be one of those businesses that can't rank in a search for their own name.

7. Hire a Copywriter

Words are the most powerful elements on your website. Great design enhances your image, but words are what attracts visitors and turns them into customers. A traditional writing style does not work online—content needs to be formatted for a web audience. Web-experienced copywriters can edit and write text to appeal to both search engines and people. The benefits of professionally edited and written content translate directly into customer conversions.

8. Commit Ongoing Resources

Too many businesses think that once their website has been developed and launched, they're done with it. If you don't maintain an interest in your website, why should search engines or customers? Before you start your website, develop a plan and a schedule for ongoing enhancements to keep the site fresh and relevant for your target audience. Be sure that you have both a budget and resources to commit to ongoing enhancements. If you have the site developed so you can make the updates yourself, plan your time to do it.

9. Promote!

Promote, promote, promote. Promote your website anywhere and everywhere you can. Your web address should be on any and all printed material you have: business cards, flyers, mailers, coupons, letterhead, etc. When you find ways to promote your business, always include website promotion. Cross pollinate!

10. Measure Results

Your first step was to define goals for your website. Once it is up and running, you need to measure the results of those goals so you can determine success or make course corrections as necessary. Part of your website plan should include defining methods to measure these results. A chief component should be a website traffic tracking program, which will report what your visitor numbers are and what they are doing. You may need to establish a plan in your business to capture additional relevant data, such as how many callers found you from your website.

Taking the time to develop a website plan will put you on the path to website success. Your website developer should be a valued partner and resource through all phases of the website's development, providing knowledge and support.

About Cool Plum Design

Cool Plum Design is a full-service web design business. We work with clients throughout the United States who need to represent their business online. We offer quality, customer-focused solutions integrating design, functionality, and content.

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