In today’s modern era of the internet, a website is your business’ online representative. It is the first impression that the audience will get about your business. This is why you need to make sure that the website perfectly complements your business structure. To help you out, we have put together a planning checklist that covers every aspect that goes into building a successful website.
1. What is the goal?
The first and most important thing that you need to do is to decide why exactly do you need a website? As obvious as it may seem, there are numerous websites on the internet today that make no sense whatsoever. There is no purpose, no call to action, no information. You do not want your website to be like that! Therefore, before you start working on the actual website, define the goals for your website. Focus on what do you want to achieve from your website and what are the key elements that need to be included. Here are a few examples of what a website goal may look like:
- Sell a product or service to the consumers (target audience).
- Market a product for an existing business by creating an online presence.
- Provide information and details about a brand to the existing (and potential) customers.
There are several other possibilities for what the goal of a website can be. Just ensure that you know exactly what is it that you want to achieve by building your own website.
2. Domain Name:
The domain name is your website’s identification on the internet. It is a unique name that is chosen by the website’s owner at the time of registration. For example, google.com is the domain name for the search engine, Google. The next thing that you need to do is to choose a domain name for your website and get it registered.
3. Who is your target audience?
The next thing you need to do is to define the audience that you want to reach out to with your website. Why is this important? This is because the outlook of your website will depend on your target audience. The graphics, color scheme, font size, content, style, everything is dependent entirely on who is going to be visiting the website.
From an online marketing perspective, knowing your target audience will impact how you reach out to each and every individual, what unique selling points will you integrate into the website, and how you communicate with your customers.
Here are some questions that will help you define your target audience more clearly:
- What products or services do you offer? How are they unique and who needs them?
- Why should the audience choose you over your competitors?
- What is the pricing for your products or services?
Answering the questions above will help you build up a clearer picture of your target audience. Defining your target audience will be very useful for when you create the content for your website.
4. Take a hint from competitor websites:
A good way to start off with your website is by taking a look at your competitors’ websites. While visiting their websites, focus on what their unique selling point is and how they are conveying it via their site. Here are the primary goals of this research:
- To understand what your competitors’ products and services are. Compare your offerings with these.
- From their content and visuals, try to assess what their target audience is.
- Evaluate how they are using their website to convey information to the audience. Does it work? What are the improvements that you can make for your own website?
The purpose of this research is not to copy the layout, design, and content of your competitor websites. Instead, it is to give you a fair idea of how you can setup your website for achieving your goals and meeting the customer’s needs.
Think back to your site’s goal and decide what functionalities need to be present on the website. It is easy to assume that your website will be integrated with the necessary functionalities by the web development team, but they can easily miss out on things that you want on your website. The best way to approach this is to jot down a list of things that you need on your site. Once you have a list, review and refine it with your web developer.
Here are some of the functionalities that you will need for your website:
- Content Management System (CMS) so that you can easily update the website’s content.
- eCommerce shopping cart (if you are selling something).
- Payment options.
- Blog for providing your target audience with informative content.
- Image gallery.
- Email marketing.
- Social media integration.
There is a huge list of functionalities that you can include in your website. The best option is to look at what output do you want from your website and then make a list of everything that your website needs to have.
The design on your website, like any other design, is highly subjective. Even though it is very important that you are happy with the design of your website, it is also imperative to ensure that the design resonated with the audience you plan to target. When your start designing the site with your web development partner, it is always recommended to prepare a design brief first. This way, you can be quite clear about what you want your site to look like, and the designer will also understand what is essential for your business.
A few things you might want to consider before you start with the designing are:
- How will the users access the site? Would it be mostly on mobile devices or on desktop?
- What is the age demographic of your target audience?
- Is there an ethic or design style that is popular in your industry?
- What are your main goals for the site?
- Do you need to cater any particular accessibility requirements for your market?
- Are there any sites that have a design similar to what you prefer? You can use them as examples.
7. Web pages and features:
Make a list of your requirements for the site. It can include:
- Video or/and audio players
- Number of web pages
- Shopping cart
- Tools like blogs, maps, customer reviews, online forms, slideshows, etc.
- Tech support
- Amount of website storage (you will need more storage space if there are more graphics)
- Mobile device optimization
- Integration with or links to social media profiles
- Easy options for changes in content
8. Allocate a budget:
Even though it’s quite easy to get a free website now, there is a huge difference between a free site that you create by yourself, and a professionally developed, designed, and marketed website. You site can play a huge role in the success of your business, so it is advised to engage a professional web development company for this purpose. However, before you take any decision, try to get an idea of the estimated budget for the project. It’s good to know how much you want to spend beforehand, so you can make further decisions accordingly.
9. Decide between website builder and web developer:
Once you have estimated the budget that you want to spend on the project, the next step is to choose how do you want to build your website. You can choose the economical do-it-yourself (DIY) website building tools (that require no technical knowledge), or you can outsource the development to an expert. You can build a professional looking website with a DIY tool, but if you are looking for a customized, responsive website for your business, you should hire a web developer.
10. Choose a professional service:
Choose the best website builder for your site. It can be a professional service that develops your website according to your specifications or a do-it-yourself tool. Search for available options on the Internet or ask colleagues for suggestions.
11. Provide contact information:
If a user has read everything on your page and has scrolled all the way down so that he can get in touch with you, never make him navigate the site or scroll back all the way to the top to find your contact details. If you don’t want to add all the information there, you can only provide a contact link. Some websites make this information very prominent by adding it in a row just above the footer.
12. Invest in Email Marketing:
When it comes to lead generation, you must choose a good email marketing software so that you can keep a track of names and emails ethically and responsibly. This can attract and convince a lot of users, especially the ones who check their email accounts regularly. Aweber and Constant Contact are two of the most recommended software for basic email marketing.
13. Integrate social media profiles:
As the access and usage of social media platforms becomes more common, it is a norm to include links of your social media profiles on your website. Manage these profiles as well, because a lot of users may want to follow you there.
If you’re creating an eCommerce website, make sure your terms and conditions include the distance seller rules which are applicable to you.
15. Mobile Friendly Design:
It might not sound very important, but the way you website appears on smart devices like mobile phones and tablets has a great impact on your overall online performance. Over the past few years, the usage of such devices has increased rapidly, therefore this factor is considered important by search engines when it comes to rankings.
You can have an edge over your competitors only if your site looks good enough and performs properly on mobile devices. Your search rankings can have a negative effect if your site fails to pull up properly. If the images don’t display or take too much time to load, the font is too small, or if the navigation is too difficult – the users may become frustrated and not visit again.
Opting for a responsive design is the best way to make sure your website displays perfectly on all devices. A responsive design will adjust your site depending on the screen size of the device the customer is using. This means that the user will have the same experience across all devices, and your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts will not go to waste.
In order for visitors to be able to access your website online, it needs to be stored on a computer known as the server. Most website building tools include the feature for hosting, you can just follow the instructions and it will automatically host the site on the internet for you. Another way to host your website is by contacting a hosting company that provides this service (such as the one that you registered your domain with).
17. Focus on your website’s content:
A lot of people underestimate the time required to write down content for each webpage. However, it is something you can’t try to only get done with – every word can have an impact on the visitor.
For example, someone who’s creating an eCommerce website does not only have to write content for the homepage and internal pages, but he also has to create unique and creative descriptions for each product. This means that if there are hundreds of products, there will be a great amount of writing that needs to be done.
There will also be a wide range of images that have to be added. A lot of eCommerce website owners source the pictures from a manufacturer but a lot of time the availability and quality are not up to the mark. Therefore, you will have to invest money and time in professional photography as well. When it comes to budgeting time, it is always recommended for the site owner to be actively engaged in the whole project and invest his own time; meet the developers on a regular basis and keep up with the progress.
Understand what content on your website is essential and create it in the best possible way. Determine what information your visitors will find important. Never forget to add your business’ contact information to your site. This includes your phone number, company-branded email, and other details that may be required.
A company branded email can be created by using your domain name. Approach your hosting company or the one from which you bought your domain name.
18. Market your website publically:
Think about the ways people can find out about your website. It’s a good practice to add your web address to everywhere you can such as online business directories, business cards, advertisements, and social media. Give a try to paid search advertisements so pay-per-click traffic is attracted to your site.
Keep a check on how well your website is performing and who is visiting it. You can get great insights from website analytics about what changes you need to make and what you should do more of. In order to track the performance of your site, you can use the analytics program provided by your hosting company or your website builder too. You can also install an external program for this purpose.
20. Website backups:
After your website is complete, it is now time to ensure that a backup of files and data is being made regularly. If you do not have an automated backup system setup for your website, ask your web developer to add this functionality. Make sure that all backups are stored in an off-site, cloud service (such as Amazon S3).
21. Maintenance checks:
Scheduled maintenance checks are necessary for ensuring that your website is working correctly. Here is a list of things that you should do to make sure that your site is functioning properly:
- Check for broken links: Make sure that there are no broken links on your website. Whether they are backlinks to your own site or references to other sites, ensure that they are working properly. A link checker is a tool that you can use to search for broken links. Eliminate or fix broken links immediately.
- Monitor the website’s speed: As your website gets old, it slows down because of numerous factors. These include the accumulation of data and increased traffic on the website. You can use tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights and Google Analytics to monitor the speed for your website. In case of any problems, contact your web developer.
- Remove spam comments regularly: If you allow users to create content (such as comments) on your website, monitor it continuously for removing spam or unwanted content that passes through the content filters.
- Test individual components: Contact forms, signup forms, social media integration, these are all examples of components that are likely to be present on your website. Test these components to check if they are functioning properly or not.