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Website Planning

Updated on May 10, 2009

The renovations have finally finished. It took 8 months, which was 5 months longer than we were promised. The ceiling lights are misaligned, the wall colors are all wrong but I don't care - I have my house back and I'm slowly regaining my sanity after going through a nightmare experience. When I look back, the problems all come back to bad planning which reminded me of similar experiences I've had when building websites. Website owners who plan badly or skip planning altogether risk difficulties or complete failure. The good news is that it isn't hard if you have the right direction and follow some simple steps. In this hub, I take you through those steps and give you some helpful resources. You might also like to have a look at my free training videos on website planning using the link at the bottom of this hub.

Step 1 - choosing a domain name

The most obvious choice for a domain name is the name of the organization, however there is a better choice. Using keyword research in step 2, you can discover if a your desired keywords are available as a domain name. For example, if you are a plumber in London, you might see if londonplumbing.co.uk is available.

The ideal domain name is:

  • short
  • easy to remember
  • hard to misspell

That's not always easy these days as so many good domains are already taken but that's what you should aim for.

Step 2 - keyword research

Depending on your industry, it might be difficult to get good rankings in the search engines. However it is worthwhile trying and the first step is understanding which keywords people use to search for whatever it is that you do. Google has an advertising program called Adwords and they provide a tool to help you research their database. You don't have to use Adwords to use this tool and it is absolute gold mine of information.

Start by going to http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and entering what you THINK people would search for. Then go through the resulting list and pick an appropriate keyword. I show you how to use this tool in my video tutorials.

Step 3 - website goals

It might seem obvious but why are you building a website? It's surprising how many people fail to think this through properly or have any method in place to measure the site results. A business site may want visitors to make a phone call or complete a website form. An e-commerce site is all about money but there are specific statistics that should be measured such as repeat customers, average dollar sale and conversion rates. Some organisations can save on administration costs by publishing information and gathering data online.

It is important to devise a measurable goal during the website planning stage.

Step 4 - Research, brainstorm, sitemap

The first three steps have little to do with content but in step 4, we start to build the framework of the site. This step is broken into three parts:

  1. Research - visit AT LEAST three competing sites and note down as many positives and negatives about each one.
  2. Brainstorm - get your team together and brainstorm to come up with as many content ideas as possible
  3. Sitemap - filter out unwanted ideas from step 2 and place these into a hierarchical diagram

You now have the structure of your website.

Step 5 - page elements

In this step we start to put the extra elements of a page together. These include:

  • page title
  • page description
  • images

Step 6 - copywriting

It isn't until the final step where you need to think about your page text, which is known as copywriting. A lot of people find this step intimidating but it's easier than you think. When someone visits your page, they are subconsciously asking:

  • who are you
  • what do you do
  • how do you do this differently from everyone else who does what you do
  • why should I do business with you
  • how do I do business with you

These questions apply, even if your site is not for business. So your job is to write text that answers these questions.

Conclusion

Website planning really is that simple and by going through this process, you will stay in control of your project and get the job done quickly. Naturally it helps if you then go over your plan with an experienced web developer who can help refine it if necessary. To learn more about these steps and watch some examples, watch the free Website Planning video tutorials using the link below.

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