Without a doubt, a website is one of the most powerful tools your business should have. If your site is poorly made (or if you don’t have one), customers see you as less professional.
If you’re gearing up to create an industry-specific website, you need to start with these important steps in planning your site.
Steps in Planning a Website
Before you dust off your programming skills, you need to create a well-formed plan. Here are the steps to help you get there:
#1: Establish Your Brand
Branding is an essential part of every business plan. Your brand is your sense of identity, and how you want customers to see you.
Having a well-established brand makes all your marketing more effective. When customers see your billboard, it will remind them of your website, your online ad, etc. But to be effective, your brand needs to be integrated into everything you do.
For this reason, you need to have a well-defined brand so you can infuse it into your website from the start.
#2: Budgeting Costs and Time
Many a company has started making a beautiful, complex set only to run out of money halfway through.
This is why budgeting is one of the first steps in planning your site. Analyze your finances to see what you can reasonably pay. For help, check out this guide to website costs.
You should also set a timeline for when you want your site to be live. The process can take months depending on the complexity and customization of your design. Create an end goal, and use this to set deadlines for each stage of the process along the way.
#3: Find a Set of Tools or a Professional Team
If you’re hiring a professional web design team, this is the time to start looking around. Ask for references (don’t just look at their past work–talk to the clients as well). Find out what services they provide and how involved you will be.
If you’re building the site yourself, it’s a good idea to find a suite of tools to use. Ideally, find a service like Slickplan, which has several website planning tools that all work together.
This is also a good time to think about your site’s maintenance. For the site to be effective, it will need consistent updates to content, plug-ins, SEO, and more. Find the professionals or the tools you’ll need to keep up.
#4: Design a Format
Sit down and map out the navigation and how you want your site to work. Create a diagram of pages. This will be your basis for the all-important content creation
One of the most important functions of a website is to attract readers through Google and other search engines. This is done through search engine optimization (SEO). SEO makes search engines recognize your site as relevant (when you want it to), sending you targeted traffic.
Learn about SEO to find out what type of content you should focus on to drive traffic.
#5: Choose a Content Management System
Once you know how you want your site to function, you can choose a content management system (CMS).
WordPress is a well-known, open source option that’s easy for beginners to use. But paid options may support more complex functions. It’s all about choosing the right CMS for your needs – which you can do now that you have a plan for your site.
Designing Your Website
With your website being such an important part of your image, you want to take your time with the design process. Use the steps above to create a well-thought-out plan before you start.
To see if your current site is up to snuff, get a free SEO audit.