Planning your website project is one of the most important steps that you will undertake as part of your business' marketing strategy. The reason for having a website in the first place should not be because everyone else has one. It is almost a requirement now for every business to have a website as customers more and more expect to interact with businesses in this context.
One of the factors that will separate your website projects from others is planning. Good planning. Before you even speak to a website designer here is a few things that you will need to have establish.
The Objectives Of Your Website
The objectives of your website would have to be strategically connected to your business goals or objective. Your business goals should guide and give expression to your website goals. Your website in turn should serve your business goals or objectives. The objective describes what you want the website to do and what you want the website to do should be one of the first things your need to establish before ensuing on a project. The objective should be one sentence, and one sentence only, that uses clear English (no web or business jargon) to communicate purpose.
An objective for "Your Carpet Cleaning Company" might look like this: To establish Your Carpet Cleaning Company as the business of choice for anyone seeking carpet cleaning services. The objective is broad in scope, and needs some strategy to get it down to "shop floor level". Note that the verb used at the beginning of the objective can be replaced with other actions like promote, increase, position, etc.
Your strategy will define how you are going to achieve the objective you just developed. When it's finished, the strategy will outline the who, what, and why of the website. A strategy for the above example might look something like this:
To convince... anyone who wants to have their carpet cleaned
to contract... Your Carpet Cleaning Company services
instead of... Acme Carpet Cleaning Company
because... Your Carpet Cleaning Company actually has the experience, knowledge, and satisfied customers to prove it, whereas Acme Carpet Cleaning Company does not.
That's it. Strategy is served.
As with the objective, the verbs in the top two lines of the strategy can be interchanged but the last two lines must stay the same, because they identify your competitors and the rationale for choosing your site over the competition's. As stated earlier, this process can be more involved and detailed if the situation requires it. Otherwise, these four lines are all that's needed to clearly define the site's purpose and in those cases where more is needed, this format can be used as a starting point to communicate the project's core purpose. This isn't the do-this-and-you've-got-it solution, but I hope it helps business owners who haven't found an easy way to integrate strategy development into the planning of their website project, and others who aren't always involved in the decision making process. Use it, mix it, reword it; the main idea is to give a site a reason to exist& other than "everyone else has a website".
Yes, we can't talk about designing your website without talking about your budget. As I have expressed elsewhere in this series, your website project should be a part of your total business marketing strategy. It cannot be an after thought or an "oh maybe we should build a website". It should be included in your marketing budget.
The size of your web design budget all depends on the value that you have established for your website. One of the things I encounter on occasions as a designer are clients who want all the features that they see on websites they have visited without understanding that some of these companies have marketing budgets that are larger than the Gross National Products of many small countries. They plan; they have a strategy for their website and a budget to suit their goals.
The size of your budget will most times determine what you can and cannot do with your website. It can determine what features can or cannot be incorporated in the website. A small budget still does not mean a compromise on the quality and integrity of the site. A small budget also does not mean that your site cannot be built with the latest web standards.
There are many high budget websites today there are poorly built, and are already obsolete when it comes to building with web standards. It all depends on who your website design project will be contracted with.
You need to establish beforehand a reasonable budget for your website and off course that will depend most often on the size of your company or the size of your marketing budget.
What Do You Have To Offer?
What kind of products or services do you have to offer? How well can you describe or define those products or services? What value can your products or services offer to your clients that other companies that offer the same products or services do not? What are the advantages of buying into your products or services as opposed to that of another company? In other words what do you have to offer your clients? Before embarking on your website project those questions have to be answered.
Who Is Your Target?
Who will you be selling your products and services to? Who do you want visiting your website? Why is that important? Answering that question will help determine such issues as: the type of information or content that goes on the site, the technologies used to carry that information, the organization of information, even issues of the type of fonts and font sizes used, the colors used on the site, and very important, accessibility issues.
You need to know your target audience so you can tailor your message to that specific audience. Your business history should be able to give you a pretty good idea who buys your products and services and why. Collecting that data over the years will prove to be a valuable resource in knowing who to target with your message.