Tips on planning your small business website or eCommerce site.

Planning Your Web Site Content and Design

Whether you are considering a new site, want to improve your existing site, or are ready for a redesign, careful planning at the start of your project will help ensure that your site performs the purpose you intend. A good plan will also help keep your design costs to a minimum. No matter who you get to design your site, you are going to want to consider the following when planning your site.

Define the site’s purpose

  • What is the purpose or main objective of your site?

Define the most important action. What do you want your visitors to do when they come to your site? (e.g. give you email address, buy something, request more information, call or email you)

Target your audience

Your knowledge of your target audience can help give direction to not only the look and feel of the site but what kind of content to include on the site. The type of content you provide will help determine what visitors will be drawn to your site.

  • Who are your customers?
  • Who will visit your site?
  • What do you want site visitors to be able to do?
  • What type of content would be of interest to your target audience? e.g. information or articles, videos, games, tutorials.

Project Scope

Ask yourself the following questions to get an idea of the size and requirements of your Web site project.

  • What kinds of information do you want on the site?
  • How big do you think your site will be?
  • Will you be selling something?
  • Do you want any special features ( photo gallery, newsletter, video or flash etc.)
  • Will your site require regular updates? Would you like to make changes yourself?
  • When do you need the job done?
  • What is your budget range?
  • When do you want your site to launch?

Save the answers to these questions with your other Web site planning materials.

Get a feel for look and feel

Do you have an idea of what you want your site to look like? Consider what would appeal to your visitor and the message you want to convey. Think about the mood you want to convey, e.g., formal, businesslike, hi-tech, casual, artistic, lively, serene, feminine or masculine.

Look at several Web sites you enjoy visiting / reading. Make a note of what it is your find appealing. It could be color, ease of use, the way graphics are used, type of content, the way items are arranged on the page, overall mood or something else. Make a list of the site URLs and the elements you like and don’t like.

Content is king

Gather and organize the information and materials you want to use for your Web site:

  • Use a physical folder to collect photos, brochures, hard copy written material, notes, etc.
  • Make a folder on your computer to collect digital images, Word or text files, logos, etc.

Keywords are key

Try to think of words that you think people would use to look for your business in a search engine. Ask you friends what words they would use to find your business. Make a list of these words to give to your developer.

When preparing the text for your site include these keywords as much as possible to improve the chance that the customers you are looking for will find your site. (See article: Use keywords to increase site traffic)

Basic Web site content:

  • Your company logo
  • Information about you and your company: a brief history or philosophy
  • Information about your product(s) or services: description, prices, pictures or photos
  • Your credentials: experience in your field, accomplishments, experiences, projects
  • How to contact you: phone, email, mailing address, physical location.
  • Photos and/or drawings that enhance or illustrate the text
  • Testimonials: a compelling way to inform future customers of your great reputation - highly recommended

Other content:

For ideas of other information you may want for your site, ask yourself, "What questions do my customers most frequently ask me?" This is the type of information that will be of interest to your visitors and should be on your Web site.

What makes you stand out? Do you offer services that are unique, different or better than your competition has to offer? If so, what are they and how will they benefit your visitor? Let your customers know what is special about your business by putting it on your Web site.

Other considerations:

  • Will you have your own domain name? Is the one you want available?
    See article: How to Choose, Register, and Use Your Own Domain Name
  • Where will your site be hosted?
  • How often and what kinds of updates will your site require?
  • Who will perform updates and maintenance?

You'll want to be sure that you budget for your domain name registration fee plus the cost of one year of hosting and one year of website maintenance. A good web developer can help you with all these issues.

Ready to find a Web site designer

Your planning should result in some clear ideas about your Web site project. When talking with your future designer you'll want to have ready:

  • Purpose including the most important action
  • Size, budget, and timeline for your project
  • Your target audience - whom you wish to reach
  • What you want your site to look like
  • Your list of other Websites you like
  • Your keyword list
  • Outline of content you will include

Once you have finished this preliminary planning you are well prepared to start looking for a Web developer to transform your plans into reality.

Have questions about planning your Web site?

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Related Article: Develop Effective Content for Your Business Web Site

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