8 Step Process to Planning Your Website Project
Here is a simple eight-step process that is essential to every website
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
- 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?
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
- Company Info (About Us)
- FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What's New?
- Contact us
- 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?
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
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