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Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Website – Workbook Included

This step by step guide to planning your website will help you to prepare for a smooth and stress free website build. Building a website is a little like building a house, you need good planning, the right building materials and the right builder to do a good job. We’ve been designing and developing websites for 11 years so we are very familiar with the process of gathering data from our clients for their websites. Website planning is not an everyday task for most business owners so we have put together a handy guide and workbook to help you out.

What are your products/services?

Create an outline of your products/services. Include the benefits and Unique Selling Points (USPs) of each product/service – what is it about your products/services that stands out from your competitors?

Who are your target markets?

Target-MarketsWho will buy your products/services? What are their demographics? Where are you most likely to find them online? Do they typically have common interests? What excites them? How can you tap into this?

Knowing as much relevant data as you can about your target markets will improve your aim. Target market research will help you to appeal directly to them. Speaking their language and offering a solution to their problem is a recipe for success.

What do your target markets search for to find the types of products/services you provide?

SearchAvoid a lot of jargon unless you know the majority of your customers are using it to find you. If you are unsure what your potential customers are looking for to find your product/service, ask some of them to tell you. Market research is vital if you are going to hit the mark online. Keep in mind that your potential customers might search for their problem rather than the solution because they don’t know what the solution is yet…

Knowing your keywords/phrases

google adwords logoThe most common search words your target markets use to find the types of products/services you are offering are your keywords and key phrases.

Another useful exercise is to use a flip chart or white board to brainstorm for keywords and key phrases. Start with the names of your products/services and work out from there. What words do you associate with each one, and what words do you think your target markets would associate with each one?

There are tools that allow you to assess good keywords for your industry. Check out the Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool. Google tools are free to use but you do need to sign up for a free Adwords account to access them.

Write about your company and products/services using these keywords/phrases

WritingNow it’s time to use the data you’ve come up with to improve on what you’ve written so far. Use your keywords and key phrases and build paragraphs and bullet points around them.

Each page on your website will concentrate on one central message (e.g.1. Home page – either your company name if you are a known brand, or your overall solution offering; e.g.2. Product/Service page – the key phrase associated with that particular product/service). Make sure your keyword/phrase appears in the headings of your page and the name of your photos… Which brings us to…

How to create visual interest and integrate your brand into your website

Brand and Colour

colour-picker-iconWhat is your company brand? This isn’t just your logo, it’s the character, ethos and mission of your company. What should someone feel when they visit your site? Welcome? Excited? Motivated? Calm? Reassured? Knowing this will direct not only the tone of your language but the appearance of your website.

For example, when creating a website for a professional service it’s important that people feel they have found a provider they can trust. If that provider’s logo is blue and red it would be wise to use more blue (calming, professional) than red (angry, warning). Alternately, if the business is a late night club whose logo colours are back (mystery) and red (love, excitement), then anything goes! Decide how your colours should be used.

Handy colour pickers online:

Photos, Graphics and Fonts

google-fontsPhotos, graphics and even fonts must also follow the tone of the company. Is your company mainly innovative, creative, speedy, comforting, ultra-modern, old-fashioned, stylish, serious, funny, friendly, curious, eager, trustworthy, …? Knowing this kind of information will help your web designer pick the right fonts, create the right graphics and find the right photos.

Book a professional photographer – if you can, get a professional in to take headshots for your team page, action shots of your people at work for various pages, and shots of the business itself. Stock photography is usually very obvious and doesn’t install the same sense of trust that your own will.

Graphics – ask for tailored graphics to illustrate your points or to represent your products/services is a great way to reinforce your brand and add visual interest to a page.

Fonts – web designers LOVE Google fonts – choose your fonts here if you’d like to do it yourself: https://www.google.com/fonts


Make a short demo of your business, product or service will be of interest to your visitors (if you have the budget, get a professional in). Potential customers usually want to know as much as possible about what you do and how you do it before making a decision. Why not make it easy for them? Warning: Do NOT have your video auto-play on your website when a page opens. No one likes this.

How to encourage interaction and repeat visitors

interaction-performanceMake sure every page has at least one call-to-action. This might be as simple as a contact us button or a prompt to call or it may be a book now or buy now button.

Make sure every page and post facilitates social media sharing – if you can get a visitor to do some online word-of-mouth for you, do!

Make it easy for visitors to follow you on social media by having follow buttons in the header or footer of the website.

Gamify some aspect of your website. For example, you might want to illustrate what a customer’s experience with you will be or what the process was for making the ice cream you sell. Using moving, story-telling illustrations that pop up or appear as the visitor scrolls down or across the page makes it more interesting and fun. Note: your budget may not allow for this, get a quote and see if you can stretch to it.

Offer regular fresh useful content to encourage repeat visitors. For example, fresh products if you are running an ecommerce website or useful articles in a company blog.

Provide a function that results in repeat visits such as a special calculator or converter (an excellent example of this is oanda.com), a set of templates or check sheets they can download and share, ecommerce, booking functionality, etc.

Simplify your message

brand-designKeep it short and sweet. People need to get the message quickly and easily. They have busy lives and life is too short to spend it reading reams of data on your product or service. Always put their point of view first and foremost in your mind. Using short paragraphs, bullet points, and info-graphics is the way to go. You can of course have whitepapers, manuals, product details, etc. on your website, just don’t put them front and center, instead make them options for opening or downloading should they want more information on a given topic.

When writing about your company, start by offering the information your potential customer needs to know most in order to make an informed decision. Then elaborate. For example, “… was founded in 1980…” isn’t important to their decision, but “… 36 years of experience…” is! Keep their point of view in mind.


Draw your site map

By this point you should have a good idea of what the pages on your website will be. Keep your navigation as simple as possible. Don’t be tempted to go any deeper than 3 levels (i.e. main navigation, level 2 and level 3 – see illustration).

There may be some items that belong only in the footer area such as: Terms & Conditions, and Privacy Policy.

Finalise and package your content for your professional web designer and developer

Use a check list to make sure you are ready with all of your data. (See workbook for example check list).

Get an email ready to send and include the following:

  • Attach a word document with the text content of your website – use a new page for every website page and put them in the order of your site map – don’t use any elaborate formatting, your web designer will do this for you.
  • In the email, give a description of your brand and the tone the website should have, any special instructions on functionality (elaborate functionality will need to be outlined in a document and discussed more than once with both the designer and developer), and if you’ve picked some Google Fonts to use, include their names.
  • Attach the vector file of your logo (your printer/designer should have this) and a pdf of how to handle your brand (if you have one)
  • Attach high resolution photos as .jpg files – these might be too big and you may need to use a file sharing site such as Dropbox.com
  • Links to YouTube videos you’ve made and put up on your business YouTube channel

It will take a while to get all of your data together. Be realistic about how long this will take and allow for it in your work schedule.

Download your workbook here (Word): 10 Steps to Planning a Website Workbook

Download your workbook here (PDF): 10 Steps to Planning a Website Workbook

Best of luck!

If you need any assistance, give me (Niamh) a call on 022-55002. I’d be delighted to help you 🙂