When it comes to planning a website, there are a lot of moving parts. From designing the site and choosing a web host to registering a domain name and adding content, there's a lot that goes into creating an online presence. And for business owners or entrepreneurs just starting out, the process can seem daunting.
That's why we've put together this simple, 9-step guide on how to plan a website. By the end, you'll have a better understanding of what goes into creating a website, and you'll be able to put together a plan to help make the process easier.
Identify Your Website & Business Goals
The first step in planning a website is to identify your goals. What do you want your website to accomplish? Are you looking to generate leads, sell products or services online, or raise awareness for your brand?
Answering these questions will help you determine the type of website you need and what features it should include. For example, if you're looking to sell products online, you'll need a shopping cart and eCommerce functionality. On the other hand, if your goal is to raise awareness for your brand, you might not need anything more than a simple, informative website.
You can also begin by asking yourself these simple questions:
- How will your website help you achieve these goals?
- What specific tasks do you need your website to perform for you and your business?
- What features and functionality do you need on your website to achieve these goals/tasks?
- How much traffic do you expect your website to generate, and what kind of visitors do you want it to attract?
- Are there any existing websites that provide the same services or products as yours, and if so, how will you differentiate yourself from them?
- Do you have a budget in mind for developing and launching your website?
- When do you want your website to be ready?
- Who will create and manage the site once it's launched?
Identify Your Target Audience
Next, you'll need to identify your target audience. Who are you making this website for? Knowing your target audience will help you determine what content to include on your site and how to design it to appeal to them.
Creating personas for your target audience can be a helpful way to get a better understanding of who they are, their needs and goals, and how they might interact with your website. Once you understand your target audience, you can begin thinking about reaching them.
Some questions you can ask yourself when trying to identify your target audience are:
- Who are the people most likely to use my product or service?
- What are their demographics (location, age, gender, income, etc.)?
- What do they need or want from my product or service?
- What are their motivations for using my product or service?
- What might prevent them from using my product or service?
- Do they have any specific pain points that my product or service can help address?
- What other products or services do they use?
- Where do they get their information?
- What do they think of my brand?
- What kind of language do they use when talking about my product or service?
Define Your Unique Selling or Service Proposition (USP)
Now that you know your target audience and their needs, it's time to define your Unique Selling Proposition or Service Proposition (USP). This is what sets your business apart from the competition.
Your USP should address a specific pain point for your target audience or provide a unique benefit they can't find anywhere else. Remember, your USP doesn't necessarily have to be about your product or service. It could be about your brand, customer service, or pricing.
- In the U.S., about one-in-five small business owners (21%) say they define their unique selling proposition based on the quality of their products or services, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
- Meanwhile, 24% of U.S. small business owners define their unique selling proposition based on how they differ from their competition, while 20% focus on price and 10% focus on customer service.
Some questions you can ask yourself when trying to create a USP are:
- What makes my product or service different from my competitors?
- What benefit does my product or service provide that my customers can't find elsewhere?
- How does my product or service solve my customers' problems or meet their needs in a way that no one else does?
Secure a Domain Name and Web Hosting
Now that you know what your website will be about and who it's for, it's time to start thinking about your domain name and web hosting.
Your domain name is the address people will use to find your site (www.example.com). Therefore, it should be easy to remember, spell, and type. And if possible, it should include one or more of your keywords.
You'll also need to find a web hosting provider. This is where your website will live on the internet. When choosing a web host, you'll want to ensure they offer security features, good customer support, and a money-back guarantee in case you're unsatisfied.
Tips to keep in mind when buying a domain name:
- Make it easy to type
- Make it easy to spell
- Use keywords (if possible)
- Keep it short
- Avoid hyphens and numbers
- Check for trademark infringement
- Use a popular domain name extension like ".com" or ".inc"
Tips to keep in mind when choosing a host:
- Make sure they offer good customer support
- Check to see if they have a money-back guarantee
- Look for security features like SSL certificates and malware protection
- See if they offer a free domain name with hosting plans
- Check the reviews to see what others say about their service
- Look for bandwidth and storage limits
Pick a Website Builder or CMS
Now that you have your domain name and web hosting, it's time to choose a website builder or Content Management System (CMS).You'll use this software to design, build, and manage your website.
There are several different website builders and CMSs to choose from. Some popular ones include WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. Each has its own set of features and benefits.
When choosing a website builder or CMS, you'll want to consider your technical ability, budget, and website needs. For example, if you're building an eCommerce site, you'll need a platform with built-in payment processing.
Some questions you can ask yourself when choosing a website builder or CMS are:
- Do I want a free or paid platform?
- How much am I willing to spend?
- How tech-savvy am I?
- What features and functionality do I need?
- What kind of support does the platform offer?
- Is the platform easy to use?
Design Your Website
Now it's time to start designing your website. This is where you'll decide on the layout, colors, fonts, and images used. You'll want to keep your target audience in mind when designing your website. Your design should be appealing to them and easy to navigate.
Additionally, your website's design will play an essential role in branding. Your logo, colors, and tagline should be consistent across all platforms, including your website.
Some questions you can ask yourself when designing your website are:
- What colors will appeal to my target audience?
- What font style will convey the right tone?
- Do I want a simple or complex layout?
- What images will represent my brand well?
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when designing your website:
- Keep it simple
- Make sure it's easy to navigate
- Include calls-to-action (CTAs)
- Use whitespace to break up the text
- Choose fonts that are easy to read
- Ensure it looks good on mobile devices
Now that your website's design is nailed down, it's time to start filling it with content. This is where you'll write the text for your pages, add images, and create any other forms of media.
You can create different types of content, such as blog posts, landing pages, and conversion pages. Each serves another purpose and should be used accordingly.
You'll want to keep your target audience and SEO in mind when creating content. Your content should be valuable to your readers and include keywords that help improve your ranking in search engines.
Some questions you can ask yourself when creating content are:
- What topics will my target audience be interested in?
- What keywords do I want to rank for?
- How can I make my content better than what's already out there?
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when creating content:
- Make sure it's well-written
- Use headings and subheadings
- Include images, videos, or infographics
- Add CTAs
- Optimize for SEO
Invest in Marketing Through SEO or PPC
After your website is live, you'll want to start investing in marketing. This will help you attract more visitors and convert them into leads or customers.
You can use several different marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC).
With SEO, you'll focus on optimizing your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This will help you attract organic traffic or people who find your site without paid advertising.
PPC is a type of paid advertising where you'll pay to have your website listed at the top of SERPs. This will help you attract more visitors but also cost you money.
You'll want to decide which marketing strategy is right for your business. For example, SEO may be a better option if you have a limited budget. But if you want immediate results, PPC can be a good choice.
Some questions you can ask yourself when deciding on a marketing strategy are:
- What is my budget?
- Do I want immediate results?
- Am I willing to invest time in SEO?
- What keywords do I want to target?
Once your website is up and running, you're not done yet. You'll want to continue improving your site by making changes based on feedback, analytics, and new trends.
For example, you can add new pages or blog posts, change your design, or update your content. You can also experiment with different marketing strategies to see what works best for your business.
The key is to keep making improvements and adapting to change. This will help you ensure that your website is always up-to-date and relevant to your target audience.
Some questions you ask yourself when making improvements are:
- What changes can I make based on feedback?
- What areas need improvement based on my analytics?
- What new trends should I be aware of?
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind when making improvements:
- Make sure to test any changes before implementing them
- Get feedback from your target audience
- Regularly check your analytics
- Monitor your competition
Creating a website can seem like a daunting task. But if you break it down into smaller steps, it's not as overwhelming.
Following this article's tips, you can create a website that meets your business' needs. Remember to keep your target audience and goals in mind throughout the process.