About to plan your next website and don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. The Strafe Creative website planning list will give you a head start.
To outline our early discovery stages with a client we look at 9 key steps to planning your new website. These are:
- Defining the website’s purpose
- Defining its sub-purpose
- Identifying the ideal target client
- Mapping out the competition
- Establishing your aspirations
- Establishing how you will be sending traffic to the website
- Picking your content management system (CMS)
- Creating your 5-year goal plan
- Defining your targets
Each of these steps is crucial to establishing what your website will look like, how it will function and how to increase conversions.
Ready? Ok, let’s dive in.
Step 1: Defining your website’s main purpose
So, what do you want a user to do when they land on your website? What’s your central call to action? A lot of people fall into the trap of, “Well, we just want leads to contact us.”
Your strategy needs to be deeper than this. You need to know exactly how a potential client will be contacting you and how this feeds into your sales team’s processes.
For example, say your sales team like to follow up an email from a lead with a call. Chances are they want to know enough about the new lead to firstly qualify it and secondly personalise that call to clinch the sale.
To ensure this, your call to action should allow a lead to submit the information that helps sales qualify your leads and make that follow-up call easy.
Think about your website for a moment, what do you want your leads to do:
- Pick up the phone?
- Fill in a form?
- Send an email?
- Request a particular thing?
- Or pay for something?
How you design your website to elicit the right action is what you need to consider first.
Now you might be thinking, “Well, actually we don’t need them to do a particular thing, we just need to look really credible and really important because most of the time we’ll be going in for tendering.”
And that is fine. That can still be your purpose. Your purpose can just be to look as credible as possible. But here at Strafe Creative, we believe it shouldn’t just be a brochure and that there should always be an end goal to your website. So think about that for a moment.
Step 2: Defining the website’s sub-purpose
The reason we have a sub-purpose, as well as a main purpose for our sites is that although people might be interested in buying, they might not be ready at that moment. So we need an alternative option for these people, for example converting them to a social follow or an email sign-up.
Let’s imagine we have a shoe shop website. Our main purpose is pretty obvious, to have clients make purchases. But what if they aren’t sure about a shoe’s design, or they need to wait until payday – how do we keep that potential customer interested?
That’s where the sub-purpose comes in. It’s a way for a user to identify themselves as interested, but not necessarily ready to purchase right now. In the case of our shoe shop, our sub-purpose could be to offer 10% off if they join the newsletter list.
For B2B businesses we might want leads to download our white paper or watch a demo.
We find this step is often a missed opportunity on websites, so make sure you think about how to keep that potential lead in your circle of marketing.
Step 3: Identifying the ideal target client
Who your ideal client is, especially from a web point of view, is crucial to planning. Firstly you’ll need to understand the basics:
- Age group
- Technological ability
- Wants and desires
To get a much deeper understanding you need to ask those deeper questions, such as:
- Their gender
- The potential role this person is going to have
- Are they B2C
- Are they B2B – if so, what size business do they have? Are they a business owner or department lead?
- The car they’re currently driving
- Which brands of clothing do they own?
- Their ambitions
- Their dislikes.
Continuing with the example of selling shoes, you would sell a shoe very differently to a sports therapist than you would to Joe Bloggs on the street. They’re going to have different needs and desires as well as objections, so knowing who these people are when planning a new website will allow us to design for the right conversions.
Also, notice the start of this section refers to the “ideal” client. Not your average client. You are going to have a huge plethora of people who are going to buy from you and you don’t necessarily want to alienate them, but who is the ideal person? If we can focus the new website on these specific people then we’ll start to see more conversions.
Step 4: Mapping out the competition
This sounds obvious but many people skip this step.
One of the main SEO steps in your website design is to research the words or terms you’d anticipate to be found in search engine results. Your competitors might be using slightly different terminology, so it’s worth being 100% sure about what they are going for.
- Are they using different terms overall to you?
- How are they grouping their services?
- How are they grouping their products?
- What sort of terminology are they using?
- What type of imagery are they using?
- Which overall tone of messaging are they using?
Now, this works well in three ways;
Firstly, you know where and how competitors are showing up online and secondly, you might be inspired by a couple of things that these guys are doing and think, “We’ve not thought of that. That’s a really good idea. Let’s add that in ourselves!”
And then the third one is about looking for holes in their offerings that you know are important, which allows you to better differentiate yourself from them.
Step 5: Establishing your aspirations
This area of your planning is all about who you aspire to be like. These aren’t necessarily your closest competitors, they might be in a different field, but they should be well-known.
It’s really important to look at what they’re doing online and how they are doing it. And this isn’t just from a messaging point of view, but also in stylistic choices or best practice examples. For example:
- Have they introduced members areas to create a community that you’ve not necessarily thought about before?
- Do they have a large social media following that they could push to the site?
- Are they showcasing the behind-the-scenes of their business?
So looking at and making a list of companies that you aspire to can be super beneficial. Especially if you then want to come to a web design agency for planning a new website – it’s great to have aspirational references.
Step 6: Establishing how you will be sending traffic to the website
This next one can easily be overlooked when planning your new website, but if you’re planning on sending mainly pay-per-click advertising (PPC) to your website, you would design this very differently when compared to aiming your website at search engine traffic alone.
Again, you will design the site very differently if most of the traffic is going to come from social media. In this case, we will send users to internal pages rather than the homepage, and we need to include additional information to give the user context on the business as well as the product or service. (Lots to think about!)
Having an understanding of what your marketing is going to be, or has been in the past, is also hugely beneficial when you start working with a web agency. This is because quite quickly the agency is thinking about how traffic is coming to you and therefore which pages they need to land on.
If you have any of your past marketing reports, I’d be sure to collate them and send these too. Anything like this can only help when planning your new website.
Step 7: Picking your content management system (CMS)
There are lots of different content management systems (CMS) out there and it completely depends on what you are going to be doing on the site for which you choose. Most people choose something like WordPress or Craft CMS, but depending on your main purpose you might choose something else. We wrote a comparison review of WordPress and Craft CMS to help you out.
Or if you’re going down the e-commerce route, depending on the size of the site and the number of products, you might need to start looking at Magento or Shopify. These are all content management systems but all work in different ways, and because of this, all have pros and cons associated with them. Here’s our comparison review of Magento and Shopify.
You can leave this decision to an agency and they’ll be able to recommend the best option based on your requirements. Here at Strafe Creative we support, consult and advise you throughout the project, no matter your goals, or experience with the tech.
However saying that there’s nothing wrong with having a look at these different content management systems to get an understanding of how you think you could use them, especially from an administrative point of view.
For example, Magento is the daddy of all e-commerce but is very complex in the backend because it’s designed for large-scale product ranges with a couple of thousand products and lots going on. So, actually, if you’re only selling a small number of products, Magento is probably not the right choice for you, and that’s fine. If you can start to identify that early, that’s a good thing.
Just don’t worry too much if you start to look into this and it doesn’t mean anything. As mentioned, a good web agency will be able to guide you through this part of the website planning stage.
Step 8: Creating your 5-year goal plan
This might seem like we’re jumping the gun here but knowing where your company is going is critical to the success of a website design. Decisions like if you’re going to be in multiple countries, and, therefore, need the website to be available in multiple languages are going to dictate the scope of the project.
Remember – it is much easier (and possibly cheaper) to future-proof a website than add onto one later.
For example, let’s say you are starting with one service, but are planning to roll out five more across the next five years. Most really good agencies can design and build the website in a way that it still looks great with one service, but it looks even better with five services later on.
You are probably asking how much this is likely to cost at this stage – Here’s our guide to website costs.
Once you’ve read that, you’ll probably want to know how long a website design and build can take too.
Step 9: Defining your targets
Now, this is actually my favourite question and it’s really nice for you to think about it too – What does success look like?
Continuing our theme of the shoe company website, they decided success would be, “Sales moving from 100 pairs of shoes a week to 2000 pairs of shoes a week with a new website.”
Now, if you can start to really think about what success, for you, is going to be, it makes it so much easier to make a plan on how to get there. In this example, yes, we could create a super high-converting website but we’re still going to need a large amount of traffic to hit 2000 shoes per week, so have we considered that?
Sometimes success doesn’t need to be tangible either, but it might be that “We start to attract better candidates to come work with us“, or, ” We want to increase the size of the client that is wanting to work with us.”
Knowing how success will be determined, will help shape other answers. You can start to set targets for the progress, build, integration and results of your website.
In Summary: planning your new website successfully
We reckon we’ve given you lots to think about at this stage of your initial website development. Once you’ve got these nailed down you can go to the web agency with much more confidence that you’ll get exactly what you need in return. It will massively speed up the initial discovery stage too, meaning you can get into design much quicker.
There are hundreds of other things that we could start discussing, such as, “Okay, we need to start considering the sitemaps and the number of pages and other elements like that.” Personally, we think these nine steps are your essentials to getting started.
Best of luck with your new website!
Looking for the perfect web design partner to realise your new idea? Drop your concept into our planner below and we will be in touch!