Sue Studios Holistic web design that works

8 Step Process to Planning Your Website Project

Here is a simple eight-step process that is essential to every website design project.

Step 1: Goals of Your Website

The first step is determining the goals of your website. Why do you want a website? Some typical reasons for putting up a website are to:

  • Improve visibility and reputation of the company or organization
  • Develop a qualified list of potential customers
  • Sell goods or services online
  • Disseminate information / educate people
  • Build relationships with customers or members
  • Encourage potential customers to contact you to complete a sale
  • Make available product information and price lists to distributors
  • Make available product information and price lists to customers
  • Offer customer service, technical support, other online services that you currently
  • provide via a telecentre, drop-in visits, or other means
  • Build brand awareness
  • Encourage site visitors to take action on some issue or program

Step 2: Define Your Audience

Who are your target audiences for this website?

  • Present customers
  • Present distributors
  • Potential new customers
  • Potential new distributors

(Include information regarding demographics, technical capabilities, geographical location, etc.) Rank each audiencein order of importance.

Do you want to reach remote and international customers, broaden your market or audience, or better serve your current customers?

What is it they would like to see on your site? What information can you provide them? What are they looking for? What will they expect your site to do for them? On which sites do these target viewers currently spend their Internet time?

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Step 3: Determine The Content

Where will the content for this website project come from? Is it existing, or will it have to be written? How much of the content will need to be regularly updated? Who will perform content updates?

Typical pages found on a website can be:

  • Home Page
  • Services/Products
  • Company Info (About Us)
  • FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
  • What's New?
  • Contact us
  • Links/Resources
  • Response/Order form

Step 4: Look at other sites for inspiration

Look at other sites for inspiration, especially your competition.

  • Which websites have you seen that you feel are particularly effective?
  • Which websites have you seen that are visually pleasing?
  • Which websites have you seen that are not visually pleasing?

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Step 5: Determine Activities and Features on your site

It's a proven fact that the more your visitors interact with your web site, the more comfortable they become. And the more comfortable they become, the more likely they are to make purchases. Determine what kind of activities you want your customers to be able to do on your website.

Are your customers asking you if you have a website? Are your customers local, national or international? Do you want to set up an e-commerce site where potential customers can learn about and purchase your products? Do you want a billboard site with information about your company and where potential customers can go to purchase your products? Do you want to gather information about your customers in order to market to them directly?

Some common activities and features are:

  • Shopping - Selling your products or services online can take many forms, from a simple email to you listing the productsthey want to credit card transactions online
  • Registration - A method in order to gather emails of customers, potential customers or interested parties
  • Requesting information - An activity to efficiently answer questions visitors to your site may have
  • Searching a database - If your site is very complex, with a lot of information and many pages, being able to search your website for specific information will save time for the visitor
  • Uploading files - Does your business require information be sent to you that would increase the efficiency of your operation by having the customer upload information
  • Downloading files - Would you like to have visitors be able to print off articles, brochures or information about yourproducts and services?
  • Discussion forums - A way to have your customers interact with each other and your business
  • Run a contest - Ask your customers to submit a short blurb about why they love your product, and offer a cash or merchandise prize to the weekly or monthly winners. Not only will you be getting your customers involved, you'll be collecting testimonials to post on your site.
  • Conduct an online survey - They'll be able to voice their opinions about your business, and you'll learn a lot about what they like (and don't like) about your products or service.
  • Forms, such as an online suggestion box - Allows visitors to easily submit or request information. This is a great way to get your customers involved with your products or services. Let them suggest products they'd like to see featured, recommend ways to improve your product, or tell you what they think of your merchandise.

  • Message Boards - Visitors can leave or respond to messages.
  • Photo Galleries - display graphical information on your products or services
  • Polls - a one question poll to gather feedback from your customers
  • Inventory Management - automatic updating of your inventory
  • Archive of Information - An archive of past content (such as articles and newsletters) increases a site's usefulness by about 50%. And since you've already produced the content, it's no hassle to simply index all of those articles in an archive. As your archive grows, you'll ADD CREDIBILITY to your business.

Step 6: Budget Requirements

Website projects typically start at under a thousand dollars and go up to several thousand depending on the complexityand size of the site you would like. In addition to the cost of designing and developing your site, you need to consider these additional costs:

  • domain name registration
  • site hosting
  • site maintenance

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Step 7: Timeline

When do you want your website to be live on the Internet?

Consider doing a phased-in approach to your website. Have a small site built first, learn how to drive traffic to the site and then add more activities and features to your site to keep visitors coming back. Budget for updates to the site and set a timeline for these updates.

Step 8: To Design or Not to Design (Yourself)

Once you decide you need a Web site, it's time to decide who will build it.

Inhouse (yourself or your employees):

It's easy enough to master the Web development basics - a few hours with an HTML book or a Web authoringtool is all you need. Consider the following:

  • Do you have the time to create the site yourself?
  • Do you have the skills and expertise to do it? Will the result look professional?
  • Can you afford to hire full time staff to maintain the site, make changes and updates?
  • Do know how to create additional graphics and images for your Web site?

Hiring a Web Designer:

Be careful who you hire, though. A poorly designed Web site can cost you money, drive away customers and hurt your reputation. To the degree that the site looks professionally done is the degree to which visitors will perceive your professionalism and their purchasing confidence will follow suit.

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