Even though it looks overwhelming at the beginning, having a clear plan and knowing your goals is extremely important. It will save you time and money(!), and it will ensure that important things will not be overlooked or end up in the wrong place; not to mention missed deadlines and dangerous backtracking.
It’s without a doubt that the biggest risk factor, and contributor to delays, is not having clarity. We’ve got these 6 key elements that will help you identify your intentions and remain focused on your project goals.
1. Clarify your website objectives - project goals
When building a website, it may be tempting to skip straight to the fun parts of the process, like designing your homepage or selecting great images; however, there are some other important things that need to get straightened out first, such as the goals and objectives of your website.
You can start by asking yourself questions like, why do you actually need a website? What purpose does it serve and what do you want to achieve? Do you want to gain exposure for your business or increase your revenue, or perhaps both? Going on this journey of website development without clear goals could just get you into a lot of pointless wandering that doesn’t get you anywhere.
Setting clear goals is essential and it means that the entire project will stay focused on your set priorities. Throughout the website planning and build process, you’ll be able to refer back to your original goals, helping to keep your eye on the prize when making the decisions like page designs, and even user experience decisions down the line.
Another useful tip for website development and goal setting is to be S.M.A.R.T - which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By utilizing this approach, you’ll zero in on the clarity, focus and motivation needed to achieve your goals. Furthermore, this may actually increase the possibility of achieving your set intentions, as it encourages you to define the objectives and set a completion date!
Whether you’re building a lead generation website, brand awareness / product site or an ecommerce platform, clear objectives and project goals are the keys to success.
2. Understand your audience - user personas
A deep understanding of your target audience and user behavior will make it possible and easier for your business to define who your product or service is being created for and what is necessary or unnecessary for them from a user-centered point of view.
Something that will certainly be useful to have available to you as you gather user research is data from user personas. When designing a user-centered website, a user persona is created as a fictional representation of your ideal customer and helps you see things through your customers’ eyes, ensure that you’re addressing their needs effectively (and not what you think they need); all the while gaining deep insight into what they want to see / get from you, as well as how you should potentially present them with what they want / need.
Technical terms are always a bit intimidating, but the general idea here is to take some time out to think about and research who your audience is - what are you giving them, and how are you actually presenting your product or service for them to engage with.
3. Understand your website’s audiences goals - user stories
What’s a user story? It’s an informal way of describing the features of a software system which helps to simplify details from the end-user’s perspective. Whether you use index cards, post-it notes, or more sophisticated project management software, the main thing is to clearly define the activities that site users need to perform in order to complete a task or reach a specific goal.
User stories can prove to be extremely important communication and collaboration tools. Describing functionality in terms of outcome and focusing on the user’s goals for the product, they provide a surefire way to ensure that you are indeed meeting all the requirements for optimum user experience and successful project outcome.
4. Understand your market - competitor research
Understanding your competitors is a key point when it comes to website development. Market research can prepare you for changing markets, prevent your business from being left behind by the competition, and allow you to identify potential gaps in the market. It’s important that you’re not afraid to be critical of your business; analyze what your competitors do better than you, and which areas you can improve on. Even use your competitors as a source of inspiration - what better way to improve and increase your competitiveness!
A great place to start understanding where you stand in your market in relation to your competitors is by doing a quick SWOT analysis; it’s a strategic planning technique for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition or project planning. Take the time to do your competitor research, it will pay off.
5. Target organic traffic - SEO strategy
SEO is such a common and trendy acronym that easily gets thrown around in both casual and professional settings. The truth of the matter is, your SEO strategy is really a key element in the process of planning, outlining and implementing actions in order to improve your website’s search engine rankings, organically. To put it simply, it’s the foundation from which to create a well targeted sitemap, and content that is focused on people searching specifically for your product or services.
Good search engine optimization strategy is undertaken by a professional SEO agency who knows how to plan and execute effective keyword research for your business. Keyword research is the first step of any legit SEO strategy, it’s the backbone process to follow if you want a website that is targeted for your audience and your product or service.
6. Produce a content matrix - content inventory
A content matrix is essentially an inventory of all your content and yet at the same time, it’s much more than that. It’s used to make the process of developing, organizing, and tracking your content much less challenging; it provides a better understanding of your audience’s perception of your content and allows you to assess what is still relevant to them based on your research and SEO strategy. From here you can produce the kind of content that your audience actually cares about!
7. Structure your content architecture - your sitemap
Bad content structuring and poor navigation are some of the most common web issues that result in poor user experience. Luckily, there’s something called a sitemap! Once you have an idea about what your website needs - like content and overall design - it’s time to get everything categorised and this means creating your sitemap.
A sitemap is not only helpful in determining the overall philosophy for how your website architecture and taxonomy (categories of information for a website) should be laid out, it will also ensure that the pathways that exist are there to accommodate and to improve the overall user experience. A sitemap is what makes sense out of everything that goes into your website.
As you now know, building a website for your business doesn’t start with designing your homepage; when done well, there’s a whole process behind the planning and building. Although detailed and lengthy, it is this process of clarity and goal setting that will minimize - and even eliminate - the risks and delays typically associated with website development.
All of this is not just food for thought, it’s the nutrition needed for a healthy website build. If you’re in the process of creating a new website and need help with setting a clear plan, reach out to us, we’re all about handling the detailed planning so that you can enjoy that thrill of going live!