And why website planning is important.

Whether you’re doing it yourself, or outsourcing, building your website is an exciting step. It can also be stressful and loads of work.  You don’t want to end up with a website that’s cost you time and money and isn’t even able to be found.  But this can easily be avoided with website planning. Here’s five things you must do before you even think about how your new website will look.

1. Be clear on how best to serve your customers

What would your customers expect to read and do on your website?

Understand your services? Get to know you? Make a booking? Read about or watch others who have used your services or products? Make a transaction? Or simply enquire?

There will be a few things that your customers will want to be able to do, depending on where they are in the purchasing journey. So start with making a list. Think about what different calls to action will be needed.

Yes, you’ll need more than one.

What value can you give them? How can you be most helpful? Content on your web page, including a blog, allows you to offer more advice and insight for your customers. Think about what you’d like to see if it was a service or product that you were searching for. 

What would be a stand-out website for you?

Also choose fonts and colours that are easy on the eye. Don’t make your visitors work hard. Because they won’t. They bounce away from site and onto someone else’s.

2. Know what topics you want to cover

Be sure to include standard navigation pages such as About, Services, Contact. And if it’s an ecommerce site, that your navigation should include the main categories of what you sell. This makes it super easy for people to understand what they can expect to see in your shop.

It’s not the place to be cute or clever. Purpose and usability must come first.

Lay out the topics or ideas you want to include. This will give you an outline of what pages you might need. Each webpage should be a topic or idea on it’s own. It’s easier for people and Google to know what each page is all about the way. It gives you the opportunity to keep extending and improving the quality of the content for each page – without overlap.

Topics should match your buyers’ needs and what they’re already searching for online. Take the time to research for key search terms, giving you clues for important topics or categories of ideas.  You can ask your network what they would search for.

Tools such as Uber Suggest, Keywords Everywhere, Answer the public will be a huge help in conducting keyword research.

It’s easy to get bogged down in data, so don’t spend too much time there.

3. Decide which platform works best for you

Researching for the best platforms is a great idea to do upfront.

Migrating a website down the track is a big deal.

It’s so easy to skip this step because you’re overwhelmed, but then realise that the one you built on doesn’t do what you want.

I’m a WordPress fan.  It’s best to say that upfront.  I knew zip about platforms and building websites. But then I built my first – on wordpress  – and it was great. WordPress gives you loads of flexibility to grow. You’re not locked into what the platform decides is available to you.

Consider doing an online short course to walk you through building your own – and save yourself thousands. Or find a wed designer / developer you feel comfortable with that can build it for you. You don’t need to spend thousands.

But you do need to keep it up-to-date. Which isn’t hard, you just need to make sure
you do it and keep it safe from hackers.

Which reminds me – I need to duck away and update my own.

Templated websites such as Wix, Squarespace, Duda, Shopify and lots more will all build you lovely websites, but you’re locked into monthly payments (if you go premium – which at some point you hopefully will need to if your business is growing).  Updates and security are all done for you. And if you’re an ecommerce store, then Shopify makes it very easy for you to get your shop up and running.

It just all depends on what you need for your business to run best.

4. Make sure it’s https

You’ll notice websites start with either http or https.  The ‘s’ stands for secure. If a website is https, it means it has been overlayed with a thing called an ‘SSL’ certificate. And this is a good thing because a) it makes your site more secure for people to use and b) Google likes you more for it.

Some hosts will give you your SSL certificate for free. Some will charge a fee.

If you’re not sure, ask a web developer who knows SEO.  There are still many web developer folk who don’t know SEO and who still think that https sites are only for ecommerce. 

Don’t listen to them. They’re wrong.

5. Choose your domain name wisely

Here’s a few tips on choosing your domain name:

  • It doesn’t have to match a key search term. It was a good idea many moons ago. But things have moved on since then.
  • It needs to be easily spelt (including no hyphens)
  • It needs to give your business room to grow
  • Ideally, it should say what you do – or what benefit you bring
  • Don’t be cryptic.  If you have to explain it – it’s no good
  • If it closely matches someone else’s – don’t use it
  • Make sure you own the ‘dot com’ as well as the ‘dot com dot au’
  • It needs to be available across all social media platforms (use Namechk.com for this)

Skip the headache and plan first

The more time you spend planning, the easier the process of building will be.  You’ll save yourself headaches later, simply by having built a website that is set up for being easily found and navigated by your customers. Purpose and usability must come first. Cuteness or cleverness that has to be explained doesn’t serve your audience and doesn’t belong in a website.

Over to you

What’s important for your website? What do you wished you’d done before you built yours?

Amy Annetts, a marketing specialist in Melbourne, has been practising marketing for 25 years.  She creates marketing strategies that give small businesses an advantage over their competition. Amy blends her corporate and traditional marketing experience with the latest digital techniques. Using a full-scale marketing toolkit, Amy’s clients have access to effective campaigns that earn them more customers.  And she loves a challenge, evidenced by her mad interest in outdoor obstacle courses, where she’s happy to climb walls, crawl under barbed wire and be covered in mud. 

But that’s another story. 

Get in touch to see how Amy can help you.