Planning your business website

You've decided your small business needs a website, or maybe a website makeover. You want to get it right, and you could use a little help from square one.

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You’ve decided your small business needs a website, or maybe a website makeover. You want to get it right, and you could use a little help from square one.

This short article will help you to frame your thinking, to consider important questions, and to avoid some of the typical pitfalls.

Remember, this list is the beginning of planning.

1. Why do you want a website? How will the website support the purpose of the business or organization?

I can’t tell you how many times asking this question has prompted a most interesting conversation. At first everyone seems to think the answer is obvious (“Well, so people know about us, of course,” or “So we can sell a million whatevers.”)

2. Who is your target market, or audience? Break it down into segments, and then prioritize those segments. If you sell real estate, for example, do you want your site to appeal primarily to first time buyers, or is your market more likely to be retirees? Consider the different groups carefully, because your content and presentation may well be different for each group.

3. When these people go to your website, what will they find there that will be useful? Be sure to put yourself in their shoes, don’t approach it from your point of view, yet. You are your site visitor, you go to the website to find what? Start at a high level and work into the specifics.

4. Is there anyone else in, or close to, your organization who should also be answering these questions?

Even if you’re the decision maker, the final authority, it pays to get additional perspectives. This is especially true in not-for-profit or volunteer organizations.

When that happens, I ask, “What do you think so-and-so would say?” And usually the person ends up saying, “You know, I really should go talk with them.” Take the time to do it right; you won’t regret it.

5. Do you want to draw repeat visits? Some sites don’t, you know. They’re providing a simple list, or looking for a quick hit wherein the visitor basically finds a “lead” to another site, and they make money because of the “clickthrough” to that next site. Or you may be selling where frequent repeats are unlikely (multi-million dollar homes, perhaps). Sure, you want people to send other people to your site, but you know you don’t have to generate brand new content every single day.

And then my last question for this particular set…

6. Who else is doing this now? Chances are very good that you won’t be alone on the web. Are you planning to go head-to-head with established competition? When someone visits your site, what will they see in the first 15 seconds that will make you stand out? What are going to do for your base that the competition doesn’t do, or doesn’t do as well as you?

That’s how I start web projects when I work with small business owners, and it’s usually in chunks, like this one, to be able to fit the necessary work into packed schedules. And that’s how you climb any mountain, right? One step at a time.

Photo credits: woodleywonderworks; ohhector

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