1. Like any Business Tool, a Website Needs a Purpose
How many times have you searched for something online, clicked a result, and then bounced away from that site within a couple of seconds because it wasn’t clear that the site you landed on was relevant to what you were trying to achieve? Whew. Many times.
2. Got an Idea for Website? Quick, Get a Domain!
Far too often you see people find a reason to create a website and then get very excited. What domain to use? The rush begins. They start to search for the ultimate domain name, as if it exists. They spend many hours trying to get the most unique name possible, which invariably was taken years ago. Eventually the domain is bought and paid for, and they can already see the completed website doing well in your mind’s eye.
This is also the time when they start to think that one domain can’t possibly be enough. After all they are so cheap and they are registered for an entire year. Their mind starts to wonder if they will need to reserve every possible combination of the name, as there will be a need for a domain in every country as their website concept takes off, and becomes a global sensation in the next few months.
3. Build the Site, Fast
OK so the first major milestone is done. Now to actually build the site. Whether to choose a platform like WordPress or Joomla, or a Do It Yourself system like Weebly, or consult with professionals, the race is on to “go live”. This sounds like the easy part, but this is where it can go very wrong. The panic rush from domain to platform decision is often done without first considering what the website will do.
With the platform chosen, it all happens so fast. The domain, the logo, the template and the site has begun to take shape. They start to look at competitors for ideas, what do they have on their site and how do they pitch it? They consider their colors, their pricing, and the way they communicate their offering and their value.
They make some choices, give feedback along the way and after some time the site is ready. It looks amazing, just how they imagined it to look. They show their friends, family, their puppy and whoever else will hear it. They post it to Twitter and Facebook, and believe it or not some people actually visit the site and tell them how great it looks.
4. Reality Hits. Hard.
They just built a website, but it doesn’t actually do anything. No sales are coming in, the phone isn’t ringing, and the only emails they are getting to their new work email address are bills for the domain, the website and logo. The site has all the right elements. There is a product catalog, a shopping cart, a SSL Certificate, a way to collect payment via credit card, but on the whole, it doesn’t actually work the way they had envisioned.
5. What is your Website's Big Purpose?
Too many entrepreneurs believe that the day their website is published or the moment they have secured the ultimate domain, that their job is done. Not enough time is spent on the subtle intricacies of web purpose. So once you have bought your domain, and before you start building your site without a plan, consider answering these questions first:
What is the big picture aim of my website? It could be one or more of the following:
6. What Do You Want a Visitor To Do On the Site?
Once you know what kind of site you want, do you know what you want someone to do once they get there. Must they:
- Phone you
- Complete a form to contact you
- Subscribe to your email newsletter
- Leave a review
- Buy a product or a service,
- Or just read the content?
7. OK. Now it's Time to Build the Site
Now that you know what you want people to do when they get to your site, you can start to think about design, layout and user flow. User flow is how you intend the user to navigate on the site to reaching the objective. Do you need to educate your customer first before they can take the desired action, or do you need to build trust before they would be willing to make a purchase?
When answering these questions, you need to consider
- Your business model, how you make money
- The geographic scope of your business
- Your target audience. How sophisticated or knowledgeable they are, and whether the site visitor is capable of doing what you expect of them. (Think about the older generation buying online, or having a website targeting customers in a rural area.)
- How much effort the user needs to put in to achieve the goal of the website.
It’s really only at this point, once you have answered all the questions and carefully envisioned your target audience, that you begin to start your site. If you do it this way round, your site should launch with a direction, flow, feel that closely matches your initial intentions. It’s costly in terms of time and money to build a site once. But to have to rebuild it and redesign it a second time can be a complete disaster.
Successful websites are difficult to create, even after following the right steps. Identifying what the purpose of your website is right at the start will save hundreds of hours and put you on the path to success.