Often when we start working with a new client, they are anxious to get their site up quickly and want to jump into the website design process and get started right away. But design isn’t the first step in the process of creating a successful small business website. Before we get started on the design of any client site, we first need to work with our clients to plan the site.
Planning a small business website can be a daunting task, but it will make a huge difference in your conversion rates, sales, and results you see from the site.
Here is a list of things you need to take into consideration and plan for before you get started on the design of your website:
What is your brand and core message?
Before you can clearly communicate your message and your value to others online, you have to have clarity about your own brand. You need to know what you stand for and represent, what makes you unique, what benefits and results you provide, what your message is, what you offer, why you are doing what you do and how you can help people. You need to be able to answer clearly the question, “When people leave your site, what do you want them to remember about your site, you, or your business?
Who is your ideal client or what is my niche?
Trying to be everything to everyone never results in more business. The jack of all trades approach makes it very difficult to create and maintain expert status at anything. To create a successful website, you need to know who the site needs to appeal to. Are you offering a range of services to a specific type of client (ideal client) or are you offering a very specific service to a range of consumers?
What type of experience do you want visitors to have on your site?
Knowing what type of experience you want your visitors to have is an important element in designing a site that fits your business and resonates with your audience. Do you want the site to be warm and cozy, or do you want it to be streamlined, and professional? Is it personal or corporate?
What are you selling?
Before you can get started designing your site, you have to be clear on what you are going to sell and how you want to sell it. Do you need a full e-commerce storefront, or will a third-party shopping cart and payment processor do the job? Will the site be focused around one specific product or will you be selling a variety of different products? Are you selling tangible products or digital products? Do you have photos of the items you are selling or do you need product graphics created?
What irresistible free offer (IFO) will you be using?
If you want your website visitors to opt-in, give you their email address, and join your marketing list, you need to give them something in return. Are you going to offer them a special report, a free CD, a video course, a checklist, or some other irresistible offer? You need to be clear on what you are going to be offering and how you want to offer it, so the right amount of emphasis can be given to the offer in your website design.
What pages do you need on your website?
- Coaching (coaches may opt for this instead of a services page)
- Getting Started
- Meeting the Team
- Testimonials / Success Stories
- Approach / Process
- Legal Disclaimer
- Return or Refund Policy
- Free Stuff
- Confirmation Pages (double opt-ins)
- Thank You Pages (contact form, opt-in, purchases)
- Strategy Session / Free Consultation
What is the goal of each page? What action(s) do you want visitors to take?
Every page on your website should have a specific reason for being there and each page should have a specific goal assigned to it. Do you want them to opt-in, sign-up, register, buy, contact you, email you, call you, click a link, visit the next page… You need to know what single action you want the visitor to take on each page of the site. You won’t achieve the results you want if you have more than one call to action on a single page. For example, you shouldn’t be promoting your irresistible free offer opt-in on the same page you that you are selling something — that’s confusing to your visitors.
Whether it’s to click a link and go to the next page or enter their credit card to buy something, each page should have one single call to action and one single goal.
What items do you want to feature or call attention to in your sidebar?
Are you an author or speaker? Do you have a featured product? Have you been featured in several media outlets? Your website sidebar provides an opportunity for you to highlight important information and provide quick access to that information. Typically, your sidebar elements will link to and feature information that may exist deeper in your site that in the main navigation or menu.
You want to also take into account the needs for multiple sidebars. One of the reason the Bourn Creative uses so many templates is that we wanted the ability to showcase different items in different areas of the website, to be able to change the order items are shown in the sidebars, or to not use a sidebar at all.
What items do you want to feature or call attention to in your footer?
What content on your site is very valuable to your visitors but isn’t listed in your main navigation or featured in your sidebar? Your website footer is the perfect place to provide additional ways to help your visitors access that information quickly and easily.
In a perfect world, your website visitors would be able to access all of the information on your website in no more than two clicks, and each page on your site would have a single, crystal clear call to action. The only way to achieve this level of functionality and ease of use with your website is to plan it out in advance and layout a solid foundation for the design of your website.