Planning Your Website

May 26 09:31 2007 Daniel Gibbins Print This Article

If you built a bridge without a blueprint, it would probably fall down. A website that hasn't been planned is just as likely to fail. Ensuring a successful website means successful planning, explore some of our top tips that that will take you through some of the steps you need to take in order to ensure your site is a success.

Most websites fail. For every Google or Amazon there are thousands of sites that don't make it,Guest Posting so what can you do to make your website a success? The first thing you need to do to avoid failure is to define exactly what you mean by success. What do you want your website to achieve?

Before you do anything you should decide on a short, clear goal for your site and then write it down. You can just have one goal, but it sometimes helps to have a handful to help you develop your site. Possible goals may include:

  • To make enough money selling your line of hand-made jewelry to give up your day job
  • To tell everyone how great your pet hamster is
  • To sell your range of skateboards to people outside California
  • To get more parents to send their children to your school
  • To fill more rooms in your hotel during the off-season
  • To educate divers about the dangers they pose to coral reefs
  • To raise money for cancer research
  • To help people understand trigonometry

It's important that you only set a small number of goals for your site. If you try to do too many things at once, you'll fail.

Focusing On Achieving Your Goal

Your goal can help you make the right decisions when designing your website - but only if you can keep focused on it. Whenever you need to make a decision, ask yourself which of the options is most likely to help you achieve your goal.

One decision you must take for any site is how large to make the text. Small text often looks nicer, but larger text is more readable. Imagine you were designing a site for a financial advisor whose goal was to "get new customers". Would large or small text help you to achieve the goal better? Larger text would be better in this instance, as most investors are older people and many wear glasses.

But what if their goal was "to get more young customers"? Smaller text might be more likely to appeal to younger investors, although you still need to make sure they can read it.

Hot Tip: Be careful when choosing your web designer. Some designers may be more interested in creating an attractive website for their portfolio than a site that makes money for you. Having a goal written down helps make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Understanding Your Visitors

A website without visitors is as pointless as a pencil without lead. To make sure the people who visit your site don't leave straight away you'll need to identify your target audience, the people you want to visit your site, so you can ensure the design and content will appeal to them.

You need to know as much about your target audience as possible. Ask yourself lots of questions about them:

  • How old are they?
  • What kind of jobs do they have?
  • Where do they live?
  • What computer do they own?
  • How much do they use the Web?
  • What other sites do they visit?
  • Why have they come to your site?

The Call to Action

Once you've got a clear idea of who your target audience is, you'll need to think about how you are going to use this knowledge to achieve the goal you've set for your site. If you're planning a business site then you probably want the visitor to buy something from you, either now or in the future. If your site is non-commercial, you probably still want your visitor to do something specific, like donate money to a charity or improve their knitting.

So, how do you get your visitors to do what you want? Well, you need to ask them - and it needs to be obvious. There's no point in having a "buy now" button if your visitor doesn't notice it. Your whole site, from the design to the writing, should be focused on getting your visitors to take up your call to action. For some sites, like Amazon, the action they want the visitor to perform might be to make an online purchase, but for others it could simply be tempting the visitor to make a phone call or send an email.

Whatever your call to action is, you'll need to understand your target audience in order to get them to perform it.

Check Out the Competition

There's no such thing as an original idea any more, at least not on the Web. If you're designing a new site it's almost certain that somebody somewhere will have done something similar before.

You might not welcome this competition but try to think of it as free market research. Your competitors may have spent a lot of time and money coming up with ideas for their site and there's nothing to stop you using those ideas for free. Take a look at your competitor's websites to see what they've done well and what they've done badly.

Learn From Other People's Mistakes

If you're able to offer visitors something your competitors don't, there's a good chance they'll start using your site instead. Visit other people's sites and think like an awkward customer. What's wrong with their site? What could they do better? What are they missing?

Here are some of the things you might find:

  • Their site looks cheap so I don't trust them. A site that looks professional would make me much more likely to buy online
  • I don't have Flash, so I can't use their site
  • It takes me too long to find the books I want
  • There are lots of spelling mistakes on the site and I found the articles boring, even though it's about my favourite singer
  • The site takes a long time to load, I can't wait that long so I'll probably go to another site instead
  • I found the order forms really confusing. I'd rather call them up than buy from their website

Credit Where Credit's Due

It's probably easy to pick holes in your competition's website, but also remember to focus on the things they've done well. Imagine you're a potential customer coming to the site. Try to perform one of the "tasks" you'd want them to carry out, such as finding the company's phone number and address or buying something online.

How easy it is to carry out the task? How long did it take? What impression of the company did you get? Remember, looking at other people's websites for inspiration is a great idea. However, copying them isn't. It may be tempting to cut corners by copying the terms and conditions from another site, but it's also against the law.

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About Article Author

Daniel Gibbins
Daniel Gibbins

Daniel Gibbins is an experienced business professional who has worked within Retail, Customer Service, Audit and Operations Management. He is the Managing Director of Cortina Web Solutions, a Website Design and SEO Consultation business that provides advanced internet business solutions.

Daniel is also the Operations Manager and Senior Project Leader of The Church Website Design Project, a Christian based not-for-profit online communications service that offer church website design for Christian churches throughout the world. Daniel is also a member of the General Teaching Council of England and holds Qualified Teacher Status in the UK.

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