Whether you make your own website or hire a developer to do it, you already know the First Rule of Commercial Web Presence — a professional business needs a professional website.
Of course, understanding that is the easy part.
It’s coming up with the plan to build a successful website that’s the real challenge. When you don’t know where to start, mapping out directions to reach that destination of a professional online presence can be intimidating, overwhelming, even a little scary.
But if you want to get your business online, it’s not as difficult as you think. You just need a little plan that will streamline the process of making your own website or assist you when working with the expert you employ to do it for you.
Set your goals
Clearly stating your goals at the beginning is the key to any successful project. So, to make your own website, start by defining why you need one.
Think about what purpose your want your website to serve, such as:
- Showcasing your services
- Promoting your products
- Building a community
- Establishing the authority of your brand
- Generating leads
- Appearing in local search results
Then, consider the things you want your audience to do once they get to your website. This may include action items like:
- Browse through your products and services
- Read a blog post
- Download an ebook
- Call the phone number
- Leave a comment
- Share an article
Use these goals and action items to direct the creation of your website. Organize the list by priority so you know the most important purpose of your site and the No. 1 action you want your audience to take when they get there.
Define your target audience…
Do you have a solid picture of your customers?
Although this may sound like an easy question to answer, don’t rush through it. Spend some time thinking about the specifics of your target audience. To help determine just who “they” are, list their qualities that are both demographic and psychographic, such as:
- Education level
- Marital or family status
- Income level
- Ethnic background
- Personality traits
- Interests and hobbies
- Lifestyles habits
- World view
And discover where they live
It’s also important to know where your target audience is located. If your audience is specific to a geographic area because you’re a brick-and-mortar business, this will direct the way you promote your website and optimize it for local search.
Location is less relevant if your customers are worldwide, although you’ll want to consider using the top-level domain specific to the country of your target audience if they’re not in the U.S. For example, you may want to use www.yourbusinessname.ca if your target audience is in Canada.
Establish your website’s tone
The tone of your website will be shaped by the colors, fonts, and imagery you use. But before you dive into the details of building your website, begin by thinking in terms of how you want your website to “feel” to your visitors. What impression do you want them to take away?
List some adjectives that describe your brand. For instance, is it:
- Conservative or edgy
- Casual or professional
- Playful or serious
- Stylish or plain
- Thrifty or affluent
- Outspoken or reserved
Once you establish the tone of your website, it’ll be easier for you or your developer to choose the colors, fonts, graphics, icons and overall design that will visually define your business online.
Outline your content needs
Before you can make your own website, you need to have a good idea of just how much information you want it to provide.
So as part of your design plan, create a list of the pages of content you want to offer on your site. These pages typically include:
- Home page
- Blog page
- Service and/or product list (with a possible page for each service and/or product)
- About page
- Contact page
- Team page
- FAQ page
Each business will have different essentials when it comes to content. You may require more than what’s listed above, or you may need less.
As you figure out your necessities, consider the content that you already have available. What information from other existing resources — such as brochures, catalogs and info sheets — can you add to the site?
Think about what your customers need to know. Create pages that provide answers to common questions or requests.
Remember, unlike print, after you make your own website you can always change the content later! So start with publishing the most vital, useful information. You can go back and add other pages of material as your business needs require.
List the functions your website should perform
Web developers like to talk about “functionality requirements,” which is a fancy way of saying just what do you want the website to do?
These six basic functionality requirements can help you focus on the role you envision the website playing in your business and what you want it to deliver:
1. Do you want to interact with customers using your website?
If yes, then determine how you want to interact with them.
2. Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader (to build credibility) through your site?
If yes, you may want to include a blog or another way to publish regular articles.
3. Do you want to increase referrals with your site?
If yes, you should have a method of capturing leads on the page.
4. Do you want to drive business to a brick-and-mortar store?
If yes, you’ll need content that pushes users toward visiting your location.
5. Do you want to collect visitors’ contact information?
If yes, you should have an opt-in form where users can provide their information.
6. Do you want to sell products and services on your site?
If yes, you’ll need to add an ecommerce element to your site that processes payment and allows users to make purchases.
Pinpointing the functions you need performed can then assist you in detailing how that specific job will be accomplished before you make your own website.
This list will also be extremely helpful if you’re hiring a pro to build a site for you. By reviewing the list, he or she will be better able to assess your needs and provide a more accurate quote for the cost and time frame required to do the job.