Planning for your website is an important first step in getting the results you desire. Much of that planning will be conducted in conjunction with your web designer, however, before approaching a design company it pays to be prepared.

When people first come to see us about a website they typically have three questions at front of mind.

  1. What will it look like?
  2. How much will it cost?
  3. How long will it take?

Yes, we all want our website to look nice and we want it now and we want to pay as little as possible; that’s a given.

Long before we start asking, or answering those three questions though, we should ask ourselves a couple of different questions.

  1. What business objectives am I trying to achieve?
  2. What are my potential / existing customers likely to want from our site?

What business objectives am I trying to achieve?

By defining from the outset the primary goals for your site you are maximising your chances of achieving them. For example you may want your site to:

  • Attract new customers
  • Give existing customers a place to find information, eg a news feed, a calendar of events, a document library, etc
  • Collect entries for your marketing database
  • Promote your products and services
  • Act as a shopping cart for your products and services, etc

It is this definition of site goals that will ultimately help define the design. Without it your designer is just taking shots in the dark and you are likely wasting time and money.

So define you business goals first up!

What are my potential / existing customers likely to want from our site?

By putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes we:

  • Design around their needs not just yours
  • Are more likely to design a user friendly site
  • Start thinking about the synergies between our customers’ needs and our business goals, etc

Let’s look at a simple example. We are a physiotherapist and want a new website for our business. We have defined our business goals and want our site to:

  1. Increase the number of bookings via the website
  2. Dissmeninate useful information to our existing client base
  3. Lift our profile in the profession
  4. Get found in search engines
  5. Introduce some social media, eg Facebook and Twitter

We’ve thought about our customers and believe they will want the site to:

  1. Make it easy for them to make contact with us
  2. Inform them on what they need to bring to an appointment
  3. Tell them what physiotherapists are available for them to book, and what they specialise in.
  4. Tell them when we are open for business
  5. Give them useful tips on looking after themselves

OK, so now we know roughly what we are building! This also means we can now begin to answer the three questions at the beginning of the article.By examining the needs of the business and its customers we can start to make decisions about the functionality required. We can make decisions about how long it is likely to take to build the site based on that functionality and we begin to get a picture of some of the design elements to be used.

The point of this article is not to show a design to meet the needs outlined above, but rather to encourage you to do some homework before approaching your web designer. Hopefully your web design company will take you through this process anyway, but better to go prepared!