. . . the art of design

Website Planning Tool

You've got the best company in your region.  You're providing the greatest product of our time.  Your customer service is constantly receiving accolades.  But, now it's time to build a website, and you have no clue where to get started.  You've come to the right place, my friend.  Whether you are hiring a professional or personally trying your hand at a website, proper planning is essential to getting the most out of your online presence.  With an unlimited amount of possibilities and an ever-changing landscape, it can be daunting to try to pinpoint which areas of your website will be most important.  This website planning tool should help you ask a few simple questions in order to bring the main areas of importance to the forefront.  It's sort of the Who, What, When, Where, Why of website planning.

1) WHO will be visiting my site?

The key principle here is a Target Audience.

Who do you want to visit your site?  The who of your target audience will help you determine how to show and tell your story.  Make a list of the types of people that you think are likely to utilize your website.  Doctors or Patients?  CEOs or Manual laborers?  Politicians or Preachers?  Investment bankers or Stay at home moms? When you have an extensive list, narrow those down into only two categories by thinking through who your primary and your secondary target audience is.  You can't be all things to all people, but you need to be the right thing to the right people.

2) WHAT will my visitors be doing when they come?

The key principle here is Valuable Functionality.

Now that you know who is coming to your site, it's important to look at what they want to do or find or learn.  The what of your users will help you determine how you need to display and showcase your websites functionality.  Take those main things that your users will do and make them obvious to locate and easy to use.  Sometimes this is a easy task.  If users want to buy your product, put the storefront of your site front and center with an intuitive shopping cart.  Sometimes it's not that concrete.  If your users want to research an area of your industry, it might be best to push your blog as an education tool.

3) WHEN will updates be made to my site?

The key principle here is Scheduled Updating.

Now that you know who is visiting your site and what they are doing when they come, you need to give them reason to come back.  Static sites rarely draw many returning users.  A site needs to be updated with fresh offers on a frequent and consistent basis.  The when is determined by how often you want your target audience to return and preform the valuable functions.  In other words, if you want repeat users to buy a new product once a month, you should offer new products at least monthly.  If you want repeat users to research material once a week, you should provide new material at least weekly.  If you want repeat users to view pictures everyday, you should add new pictures at least daily.

Since you are scheduling these updates, make sure you have the time, resources and ability to make (or afford) these updates.  You may want to also ask, "Who will be making the updates?" and "How much time/money will the updates take?"

4) WHERE will people likely see my site?

The key principle here is Social Sharing.

Now that you are providing scheduled updates to encourage your target audience to preform valuable functions, you want them to tell all of their friends, family members, coworkers or colleagues about your website so they will do the same.  The where of this word of mouth advertising will determine what social media (if any) to utilize.  There is always an underlying danger of spending too much time on social networks because they can be so addictive.  In times like this you should remember that you can equip your users with a megaphone as they share things on the social network of their choice.  By providing an easy way to retweet, facebook, plus or otherwise share your site and its newly updated content, you open your site to a new world of potential users.

5) WHY am I building this website to begin with?

The key principle here is Intended Goal.

Tasks are most meaningful when they are working toward a goal.  Therein they find their purpose.  Therein their success can be measured.  Perhaps your goal is merely to have a nice, professional website.  OK, that's great.  Did it work?  Did you end up with a nice, professional website?  How long will it stay trendy enough to maintain that status?  Perhaps your goal is to sell product.  Wonderful!  It won't happen over night, but you should begin now to monitor the progress that your site is making toward that goal.  Chart the analytics of your site; record the sales that are generated; take note of the mentions your site received in-store.  Whatever you goal is, you should pay attention to whether or not your website is helping you reach it.  Set some short term goals, and ask the tough questions if you don't meet them.

Remember, its the goal of a good designer to help you have the best site you possibly can and that means meeting your goals.