These 7 steps are intended to give the basic things that you need to look at while planning a web site. Planning is important for any industry including web development and e-marketing.
1. SET GOALS
The first step to planning your web site
should always be to define goals. A good place to start
is by asking yourself the following questions.
- What do you want to accomplish with your web site?
- Who is your audience or target market?
- Will your site be for advertising, making sales,
informational or provide other specific functionality?
Be sure to have a clear understanding of what your site should accomplish and then express those needs to your web developer
Think about how your site should look, what pages should it have, and how should the navigation be laid out. The basic structure of your web site should be created to fit the content that you will be providing visitors and the goals that you have set for your web site.
With a poorly structured web site or a navigation that has not been thought out, your visitors may end up abandoning the site if they don't see what they are looking for right away. However with a good structure the visitor will not be intimidated and may feel compelled to explore your web site.
Having a site created for you doesn't mean that you should be out of the planning process. In fact the best approach is to be clear on what you want every step of the way. That being said remember to be open to advice from your developer. They should have suggestions and advice that you may not have thought of.
The design of your site will set the tone for your visitors. It is important for your site to represent your company image and not be created to match an existing site that may not fit into your goals. You should also consider how your printed brochures and other marketing tools will work with your web site. Consistency on each page makes the visitors experience a lot more efficient and enjoyable.
Decide what do you want to say with your site design. Do you want to impress, inform, amuse, move to action, etc.?
Express to your web developer everything that you would like to have in your design. Provide a logo and any sales material that will help them get a feel for your company. If you don't have either of these things then have a designer create a logo for your company before your web site development starts. Often times a web developer would be willing to include a logo in the cost of a new web site design or would discount their usual logo price and provide different quality logos for print material and black and white versions for fax, letter head, etc.
The most important step to plan is what content you will have on your web site. This is what will keep visitors coming back, generate sales, or get your message heard! With a great design you will impress a visitor on first glance but without content their enthusiasm will quickly turn to disappointment. Your content should be a masterpiece in itself to ensure success.
You can often provide different types of content in the form of PDF files, Word files for downloadable newsletters or even dynamic content and animations, interactive product tours or a product demonstration created with Macromedia Flash. When it comes to the web you are not stuck with static text as you would be with brochures
If necessary it is often worth hiring a good content writer who will learn about your business and goals and work with you to place content that is written specifically to help market your site and/or reach your goals.
Once your web site has been completed it may not look or work exactly as you anticipated for a variety of reasons. Don't lose site of your goal. Remember that your site is a plan not a blueprint and there is always tweaking of content and navigation involved to reach your goals. The great thing about the web is the flexibility it offers for updating and creating the visitors experience. It is important to be able to constantly monitor the path of traffic and statistics for each page on your site so that you can use this data to improve the flow of traffic until you see that visitors are getting to the content or products that you want them to view.
Marketing your web site is by far the biggest challenge but with the right investment of time, money and planning you should be able to see traffic flow through your site and a return on your investment. Consider the following when planning and after production is complete.
- Make sure pages are optimized for search engines including descriptive titles and keywords in your meta tags.
- Register your site with search engines. They can take months to add your web site but they are free and will help drive traffic your way eventually.
- Use pay-per-click ads such as Goggles AdWords or Overture.
- Use banner ads on portal sites and sites related to your industry.
- Consider using web based promotions and sweepstakes on your site.
- Look into offline advertising, publicity and promotions.
- Be sure not to forget the obvious; Place your web site URL on everything you touch or handout. Business cards, pens & promotional items.
- Avoid *Free* marketing companies if at all possible. Many can damage your site more then help it. ( read below )
Be careful if you are trying to get a high ranking on search engines. There are many things that could drop your PageRank which is what the search engines use to decide where your site is placed. If you use certain "free" banner swapping deals or services that claim to be able to get you visitors for nothing there is usually a catch. One problem is if the wrong web site is linking to your site and they have been flagged by the search engines for abusing their services or they have a poor PageRank then the search engine looks back to your site lowers your ranking.
Having a web site should not mean that your content does not get modified and improved until your ready for a re-design in a few years.
The flexibility of the web allows you to always keep the latest and most updated information available online for visitors. For some sites the only way to be successful is to continually build out and improve the content on the site.
Consider paying a maintenance fee to give yourself the ability to have images or content changed monthly by your developer or if offered by the developer purchase tools that will give you dynamic content that you can change instantly without assistance from the web developer. Such tools could be content management, news and events administration, a Q&A database, or a customized database or feature made just for your needs.
Having content change or the ability to add content regularly will help keep your site fresh and provide useful information for your return visitors as well as the newcomers.