Updated May 2, 2018
Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, blogger or small business owner, having a website is a must in today’s society. But walking blindly into the world of site creation can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with a detailed list of to-do items to plan a website before you build it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
Plan a website in 7 steps
When you’ve made the decision to anchor your online presence with an effective website (good move), follow these seven steps to plan a website that will work 24/7/365 for your business:
Identify business goals.
Determine your audience.
Define your unique selling proposition.
Secure a domain name.
Pick a platform.
Research design elements.
Create content ahead of time.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
1. Identify business goals
What do you want your website to accomplish? Is it strictly informational, or are you selling products? Are you looking to increase engagement with customers, boost website traffic, or bolster year-end profits? Answer the following questions to establish your business goals and how they’ll affect your audience.
- What kind of site will you build? (i.e., informational, eCommerce, etc.)
- What is your primary objective? (i.e., sell products, build authority, etc.)
- How will you accomplish that objective? (i.e., create product pages, run a blog, etc.)
2. Determine your audience
When it comes to establishing an online presence, casting a wide net does little to help with traffic. Think about your ideal customer and how you’re going to target them.
- Who is your ideal customer? (i.e., women in their 20s)
- Where does your ideal customer live? (i.e., Chicago)
- What kind of tone/language are you going to use? (i.e., humorous, professional, etc.)
- What do you want your customers to do when they land on your site? (i.e., purchase a product)
3. Define your unique selling proposition
Now that you’ve determined your goals and solidified your target audience, you can use that information to create a unique selling proposition to entice visitors to act — whether that means purchasing a product, signing up for your newsletter, sharing on social media, and more.
- Consider your customers’ motives. Why are they visiting your site? What pain point(s) are you solving for?
- Take note of your competitors. What are they doing right? Wrong? What would you do differently to bring customers to your door instead of theirs?
- What strengths do you bring to the table? List your skills as an entrepreneur/blogger/business owner. You’ll want to use this information to create unique and compelling calls-to-action.
Pro tip: Remember, unique selling propositions aren’t specific to eCommerce sites. If you’re a blogger, you’re likely “selling” information and want to establish yourself as a thought leader. The above questions still apply — what are you doing to do to set yourself apart from the crowd?
4. Secure a domain name
Your domain name is the heart of your website address — and you need a domain (and web hosting) for your website to show up online. It’s like your website’s street address. For example, yourbusinessname.com is the domain name for a website at www.yourbusinessname.com.
You want it to represent your brand, but not be too difficult to remember. Guidelines for a good domain include:
- Easy to spell
- Easy to remember
- Contains keywords
- Targets your location (optional, but handy)
- Avoids hyphens and numbers
- Specific to your brand
Go ahead, give it a try:
5. Pick a platform
With all your business information laid out and a domain in hand, it’s time to take a closer look at what type of website platform will best suit your needs. You can build a website yourself (DIY) or hire a pro to build one for you (DIFM). Your basic options include a template-based website builder (easiest), a content management system like WordPress (slightly more advanced), and hiring a professional web designer or developer to build a sight for you using one of these platforms or custom code.
Before you rush off to purchase the first platform in sight, consider the following:
- Do you want to interact with customers?
- Do you want to blog?
- Do you want to collect visitor information?
- Do you want to sell products or services?
- If so, will you accept electronic payment?
- Will you use a calendar or schedule appointments?
- Do you want to track inventory and shipping?
- Do you want total control over the site’s code?
- Do you prefer an easy-to-use builder?
- Are you going to hire a professional?
- Are you going to design on your own?
These answers will help you determine the type of platform you need.
If you find that you’re looking for more complicated asks, such as incorporating a blog or overseeing back-end code, then you’ll likely need a platform like GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress. With thousands of plugins, widgets and themes, total customization is at your fingertips. Bonus, you don’t even have to learn how to code. Our Quick Start Wizard makes building a site fast and easy — no coding or CSS knowledge required. It’s the perfect option for a more robust site, and there is plenty of documentation if you ever need help (or if you’re not hiring a designer.
If you’re short on time (or money) or simply don’t want to add “web design” to your already overflowing plate of tasks, then a site builder such as GoDaddy GoCentral Website Builder might be in your best interest. GoCentral is cost-effective, doesn’t require technical know-how, and is incredibly easy to use. With its swipe-to-style interface, hundreds of industry-specific themes, professionally selected photos and more, you’ll have everything you need to build a site — in under an hour. Best part? You can try it first for free.
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Once you’ve determined the type of platform you’re going to use, it’s time to research design elements.
6. Research design elements
Whether you elect to hire a professional or take on site building yourself, there are certain design elements you’ll want to consider. Successful websites typically incorporate:
- Easy-to-follow navigation
- Seamless path for purchase (eCommerce)
- Clean design and layout
- Strong CTAs
- Compelling text and images
- Easy social sharing
- Prominent customer testimonials
Always ask yourself — is my site easy to use? Does it solve for the pain points my customers are having? Is it engaging, clean and relevant? If you can answer “yes” to all of these, then you’re on the right track.
- Take a look at your competitors’ sites to see what they’re doing. What do you like? What don’t you like?
- Note any colors, fonts or layouts you’d like to use for your site. (Hint: if you have a logo, your colors should match).
Pro tip: Creating a website from scratch doesn’t have to be hard. Check out this A to Z guide for building a website.
7. Create content ahead of time
It pays to plan ahead with content. The best place to start is with your business’s story. Why are you starting this online venture? Was there a moment or event that sparked your desire to bring your idea to the web? Take a moment to jot down your thoughts.
You’ll want to incorporate your business story into your website, on either your Home or About Us page. For a standard website, you should have content prepped for five key pages:
- About Us
You’ll want to incorporate relevant images and compelling text that inspires your readers to act. Here’s a primer for using stock images on your website. And if you don’t have the time or inclination to write your own website content, consider hiring a freelance writer to help you create awesome website content.
With all of your materials compiled, you’re ready to start building a website. Either hand off your goods to a designer, or take a crack at creating your own website. Since you’ve already done the necessary groundwork to plan a website, you should be well on your way to establishing a solid online presence!
Also published on Medium.