Planning Your Website
With over 15 billion searches being made each month (comScore research), you already know that your small business should own a piece of virtual real estate so it can take advantage of this enormous market place called the internet. But before you race off and slap up a website, take a moment and think about just what it is you want to accomplish.
Think about it for a minute. If you want to sell directly to a visitor your site is going to look different and function differently than a small local business website that wants to drive traffic to its brick and mortar shop or office. Your website is an extension of your marketing efforts and you should seriously consider just what you want it to do before you start building it.
Here are a few steps to help you out with your website planning.
As mentioned above, you have to understand why you’re creating the site. Take the time to reduce what you want from the website to writing. Brainstorm with your partners or friends, or even better, with your customers and find out what they would like to see. If you do a good job with this task you’ll end up with an impossibly long list of objectives ranging from lead generation to providing online customer service.
Take that list and prioritize it by importance. Once you’ve done that, look at the top three or four objectives. These will be your primary goals. You’re new at this; don’t try to create the perfect website on your first time out. As you gain experience the website will evolve and at some point you will have covered every item on your prioritized list. The important thing is to get started and if you wait until you have what you think is the perfect design you will have missed out on significant opportunities.
There is an incredible number of design options that are limited only by your imagination and budget. One way to make choosing a design plan a bit easier is by doing a little comparison shopping. Visit your competitors’ sites and write down what you like and what you don’t. Go through the same exercise with sites that come up on the first page of a search engine after you enter a query that’s relevant to your business. Pay particular attention to the ease of navigation, number of panels in the layout, color schemes used and the type and placement of graphics, videos and photographs.
Review your list and then sketch out what you would like your home page to look like. Once you’re satisfied with the rough design it’s time to think about building.
A platform is the software that the website resides on. The free platform WordPress has become extremely popular with small businesses because of its built in features that eliminate much of the technical design and development skills required. Of course there are other options as well, some free and some that cost.
Before you make a decision on which platform you’re going to use, do some research and get a feel what other webmasters think of the product. Remember, your site is not going to be a static sales brochure. You’ll be making updates on a regular basis and you want a platform that is not only easy to use but that doesn’t take all day to modify.
If you follow these three steps you should be in a pretty good position to go forward with an actual website design and launch. Remember, these sites are not carved out of granite. As you get experience with traffic you can modify and optimize your design to better achieve your objectives.
So now go put on your webmaster hat with the Nike swoosh on it and “Just Do It”.
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