Planning a new website can be fraught with decisions that leave most business owners running for the duvet
As business owners we have to be jacks of all trades but for those that know me well by now, I am useless at accounts. I’m ok once I’m gently shown what bit to fill in where and given some clearly written rules of engagement with my accounting software, but up until that point I haven’t got a clue.
Now, you may be an accounting whiz or just naturally know what needs to be done when a customer pays you, but in my non-accounting brain a nice gift of money in my Paypal account spurs a series of confusing accounting tasks that I have ABSOLUTELY no understanding of – the why and the how alludes me to this day. Luckily (you will be relieved to know) I have a lovely accountant to sort it all out for me and make sure all my columns, invoices, accounting do dahs add up … or whatever it is they are supposed to do.
When I started up my business, and knowing that I should try to get all my accounting sorted out for me, I ran straight to the experts and got help, listened to their recommendations and let them get on with it. They knew what I (and my business) needed, what software was right for me and how it could support everything I planned to do in the future. They asked me questions about my customers and future plans that I hadn’t even considered and certainly had no idea would effect the way I set up my accounting. And I’ve really noticed the difference – my business has grown and expanded into new markets and everything still runs like clockwork in the background. Perfect!
In the same way as setting up my accounts made me want to hide under the duvet not even knowing where to start, planning a new website can be an impossibly daunting task if you haven’t done it before.
You’re desperate to get your business online but don’t know where to start, how to hire a website designer or how to build one yourself?
You’ve no idea which of these options would be best for you anyway.
You’ve no idea where to start with planning that new website or even what it needs to achieve.
AND it all seems to involve investment.
ARGH! It can seem like a mountain to climb!
Many business owners decide they need a website, are determined to build it themselves, choose WordPress to build it on because they have heard great things about it and then have just been daunted by the amount of choice out there – themes, widgets, plugins, bells and whistles!! WOAH THERE!
So to help you figure out exactly what you need from a website before you get hopelessly confused by the HUGE amount of choice, I have put together a really simple step by step guide to planning a new website to make sure you have the essentials in place before you even think about hiring somebody to build it, or start thinking about creating it yourself.
Your easy guide to knowing what you want AND need when planning a new website
1. Who is your website for?
I know, you’ve heard it all before. You need to focus on your ideal / super dooper customer who you LOVE to work with. But really, this is the stage of planning a new website that underpins EVERYTHING it will do for your business. After all, your business is nothing without those customers.
A well planned website will convert visitors and get them to take action. The more you can focus your website in converting those people, the harder your website will work for your business. And the trick of converting as much traffic as possible is to make sure that your website appeals to and talks to your ideal customer. You need them to feel as if your website is made for them. You need them to fall in love with your business simply by exploring your website. You need them to make that connection with you and your business without you physically being there to shake their hand and explain what you are all about.
Try these 4 quick tricks to get started and return to them throughout your planning:
- Pinpoint the person you love to work with, who never quibbles on price and who loves what you do. If you already work with somebody like this GREAT! If you don’t then pick somebody you dream of being able to work with. This is the person you will be writing to, appealing to and helping when you write your content and design the look of your site.
- Describe your ideal customer. What do they love to do, where do they hang out, what do they love to hate? Social media profile pages can be wonderful places for inspiration. Find a few good matches with your chosen ideal customer (or actually your ideal customer if you are already working with them) and explore what they are saying, what groups they are in, what they share and what inspires them.
- Visit your competitors’ websites – who are they trying to speak to? Is it the same sort of person or can you differentiate your business by talking to a slightly different customer base?
- Visit the websites that your ideal customer shops from. You’ll start to see similarities in colours, patterns, spacing, fonts, images they use. Steal these ideas (not the pictures), they work!
2. Jot down everything your website needs to do
What will visitors to your website be looking for?
- Information about your business
- A solution to a problem
- A particular product
- New ideas and inspiration
- A community
- Advice from an expert
- An answer to a specific question
What problems will your website seek to solve for your visitors?
What is THE SINGLE MOST important role of your website?
- Selling a product / service
- Getting them to sign up to a membership club
- Getting visitors to sign up to your list so you can sell to them later
- Building your brand identity
- Giving your visitors information
How will your website make your business money?
- Selling physical products
- Selling downloadable products
- Selling your services
- Sharing discount vouchers to encourage real world purchases
- Affiliate links
What is your main marketing message?
It is SO important that your website introduces what you do straight away, up front and not hidden amongst reams of text. Keep it short and sweet, no jargon and straight to the point.
What is the most important thing visitors should learn about your business? Try thinking:
- What results can your website’s main focus get your ideal customer?
- How will that make them feel?
- What problem does it solve for them?
- What questions does it answer?
How do you plan to attract people to your website?
I’m afraid that getting good (and the right) traffic to your website involves a lot more than publishing it and waiting for people to find it. But the good news is that there are lots of free and easy ways to get new people to ‘discover’ you online. Plan these tactics into your website early on and you won’t be sat waiting for somebody, anybody to arrive once you’re ready to launch.
- Consider a really helpful and regularly published blog. Create a very social site that encourages comments and share posts within social media to get people interested and visiting your site.
- Talk to other business owners who are aiming at your ideal customer. Could you share information and link to their website?
- Share your marvellous blogs to other websites, such as The Huffington Post
- Have a good root around google to find out what people are asking and answer those questions on your website.
3. How will all this work together?!
Make a map
Draw a little map of your website showing where all your pages are going to go. I use powerpoint most of the time as it is easy to draw boxes, but a biro and paper does just as well.
- How will your visitors find their way through your website?
- If they were to land on your home page, how will they get to the page where they can sign up for that membership club or buy that product
- If they land on one of your helpful blogs, how will they get to the page where they can sign up for that membership club or buy that product
- Make sure your products are easy to find and easy to buy once they get there
The truth is that a well-designed site is not necessarily the site with all the bells and whistles, but the site that is the most user friendly.
What action will be taken?
Now, for each page, make a note of what call to action needs to be included. This might be a read more button, a sign up form, a guide to which section of your website would suit your visitor most or a buy now button. Make sure every page asks them to do something.
4. Get an idea of the look you want
Sketch out your home page
Just on an envelope, with a crayon, stick men and plenty of scribbles if you must, but this will really help you to visualise what you are looking for before you spend hours of your precious time cruising through reams and reams of website designs.
Where are your calls to action going to be and where is all that precious information going to go? Don’t go into too much detail, you needn’t write it all out now. Get a good idea what information, what amount of information and what the purpose of the homepage is and you will start to understand what sort of design will suit your new website best.
And now it’s over to you. It may be that you decide to get a website professional to help you out on your journey, but by going through this little guide you will have a MUCH better idea of what your business needs and a MUCH better idea of what you are buying.
Start off with the basics and you won’t go wrong.
Love Kat x
PS: Have fun planning your new website, there is no right or wrong at this stage. Don’t limit your imagination. Create something that works for you, your business and your ideal customer. Then, and only should you think about building it 🙂