DESIGNING A WEBSITE, PART 1: PLANNING

In this digital age of information and technology, having a web presence is more vital today than ever before. The first step to achieving a solid web presence is a good website. Millions of people take the world wide web with them wherever they go on their phones, tablets and laptops. An attractive, easy-to-use website makes a great first impression, and it’s a place customers and patrons can come back to time and time again for the information they need.

In this series, I’ll walk you through the process Practical Promotions and Livestock HUB use to build websites:  Planning, Organization, Content, Media, Design, and Functionality. Building websites is a multi-step process with each step building on the previous ones, starting from the ground up. Miss a step, and your website structure is weak. In this post, we’ll be covering the first step:  Planning.

Step One:  Planning
A website is like a house; without proper framework and foundation, it falls apart. It’s important to take the time for planning at the beginning of the website building process in order to build a solid framework for a new website. I promise this first step sets you up for a great start on your website, and I promise it will save you so much time and mental energy later!

While in the planning stage, we ask a lot of questions. The following questions’ answers help us begin to structure the website’s framework:

  • What is the purpose of this website?
  • Who is the target audience? (There may be more than one. List them all.)
  • What are the goals for this website? 
  • How can this website best accomplish its purpose?
  • What elements will be needed in order to accomplish its purpose?

This post will go through each of these questions briefly and provide you with a gold mine of helpful website planning information. I’m working on a website redesign right now for a local business. I’ll use this website build as a step-by-step example throughout this blog series. At the end, I’ll reveal the finished product!

What is the Purpose of This Website?
It’s a temptation to skip right past this question. You need a website so people can find you online, duh. But why? Why do you want them to find you? What do you want to happen once they do? Make peace with this question. This question is your new best friend. It’s not until you determine what you want the main purpose of your website to be that the rest of your planning begins to take shape.

Website example: The website example I’m using for this series is a website redesign for a local company. I designed the original website, but now a second generation is coming on board in this company’s management. It’s time to go over the website planning steps again. My first question to them, of course, was “What is the purpose of this website?” My client’s response:

“To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events.”

This answer is a good one. It hits the nail on the head as far as the purpose of the website – to provide the information needed so customers and future customers will consider them for future work. Not only that, his answer touches on what we’ll be considering in the next:  the target audience and the website goals.

Who is the Target Audience?
This question can seem like a no-brainer. To be honest, most people already have a vision of who they want their website to reach. Even if that is the case and you feel like you already have a good grasp on this topic, I urge you to give the target audience question some extra thought. Here are some points for consideration:

  • Will your website have more than one target audience? This is very common, and you will want to address each audience’s needs (insofar as they pertain to you) within your website.
  • What are your target audiences’ needs? How can your business or organization meet them?
  • Where does your target audience get their information? How can your website utilize that to successfully speak to them?

Website example:  My website client did an excellent job defining his target audience for me. He hinted at it in his answer to the first question above – his website is targeted at the company’s customers and future customers. He then went on to break it down further into three categories, 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.

Now that my client has identified the three specific target audiences for his website, we can begin to define each one’s needs and come up with a plan on how to best present his company’s solutions to those needs in a relevant, concise, and specific, call-to-action way.

What are the Goals of This Website?
At first glance, it may seem we’ve already settled this question when we discussed the purpose of the website. Look deeper. The website’s purpose is its end game, the what-is-this-website-here-for. The website’s goals outline the practical steps you’ll take to get there. If the website’s purpose is the “what”, the goals are the “how”. Let’s look at our website example to help further explain how this works.

Website example:  My client wants a redesigned website that will give his customers and prospective customers (target audiences) the information they need in order to consider his company for future projects (purpose). But how will we do that? By implementing his goals:

  1. To demonstrate the capabilities of our plant to new and existing customers.
  2. To give our customers insight into our reputation and history through demonstrated case studies.
  3. To give our customers information about the technology that makes us unique when compared to other suppliers within our industry.
  4. To inform our customers of upcoming events and opportunities in the industry.

Determining the purpose, target audience, and goals of a website is absolutely vital to getting off to a good start on a new website or website redesign. These three questions provide the foundational first brick of website planning, a brick upon which all the other steps will be built on.

Next up: organization. This is where my little orderly brain really starts to churn. In part two of this blog series, “Designing a Website, Part 2:  Organization”, we’ll take all of the information we’ve gathered from the above three questions, plus much more, and begin to sort it all into tabs and pages. Exciting stuff – well at least it is to me! Until next time, friends!

Christa

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