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How to Create a Powerful Website By Doing These 4 Things in the Planning Stages of Web Design

Building a Website Can Be a Maze of Confusion

There are so many questions that arise in the initial phases of building a website. Whether you’re a new business looking to create a site from scratch, or an established brand in need of an online makeover, you’re probably asking questions like, “What are my options for website designers?” “Which platform should I build my website on?” “How much does it cost to build a website?”, “When will I see a return on my investment?” and so on.

While all these questions are valid, you don’t just care that any website is built for you – you want your website to seamlessly combine jaw-dropping beauty, while delivering an unforgettable user experience that drives your business goals.

So the real question becomes: how do I get there?

1. Identify your core users

You need to know who you’re creating your website for, and what they care about. If you haven’t already, build out or revisit your buyer personas. These are detailed profiles of your customers or target customers. They help you drill down into what truly matters to your customers in both their personal and professional life, and define which messages will resonate with them during different stages of their buyer’s journey. Buyer personas are crucial to your sales and marketing, so make sure you’ve got these to refer back to when you’re creating content for your website.

The next step is to create your web design personas. Web design personas are different from buyer personas in both purpose and application. Design personas identify core features and functions that matter most to your user, to ultimately map out the navigational structure of your website by prioritizing your customers’ needs. We’ve created this handy Web Design Personas Toolkit with step-by-step assistance, along with web design persona templates to help you understand exactly what your customers expect from your website.

2. Define goals for your website

Now that we understand what your customers need, it’s time to define what you need from your website. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tedious details of the website design, layout, and other snazzy features that you lose sight of what you’re really looking for: a website that drives your business goals.

List out what you need from your website. Is it leads through your contact form? Tons of website traffic? Email or blog subscribers? A quote request? Product sales? Once you have a defined set of goals, you’re able to provide your web designer with the most important call-to-actions for your site, and they’ll be able to optimize your customers’ pathway to reach those goals online.

3. Evaluate your current website

If you’re considering a website redesign, why? Is it the outdated look, disconnect between your brand and online presence, poor experience for your customers, or is it just not converting the sales or leads you were hoping for? If you’re experiencing one of these 5 signs for a website redesign, it’s time to take a good hard look about what’s working and what’s not.

Google Analytics can help you measure the effectiveness of your current site to identify opportunities to improve. Here’s some of the key metrics that will help you define where your strengths and weaknesses are, so you can apply them to your new website:

  • The number of users visiting your website
  • The average session duration (or time spent on your website)
  • Bounce rate (percentage of visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page)
  • Conversion rate (sales / signups)

If you’re starting from the ground-up, analyze your competitors websites. Create a list of elements you like or don’t like in preparation for your initial consultation with your web partner. It’ll help minimize the initial planning and design time.

4. Choose which partner is right for you

So who is the right partner to build your website? It’s completely up to what you value most from a partnership. There are significant differences in cost, quality of execution, effectiveness, timeliness, communication, accountability, or breadth of skills and expertise with each web design partner. It’s critical to find which partner makes the most sense for your business, and who will deliver the value and experience you’re looking for when building a website.

Here is a list of what you can expect from each of your options for your website project:

DIY: While the most financially cheap option, building and designing a website on your own requires a heavy time investment, especially if you’re a newbie to coding or design. If you’re a startup willing to take the time to learn the skills required to build your website, this could be a good alternative to a professional.

Freelancer: Flexibility is the name of this option. There are limited overhead expenses, reducing the cost to build. Be careful though, it can be tricky hiring the right freelancer. If your freelancer is juggling many projects, it can be quite easy to have your project pushed back, or communication goes dark for a while. If your project requires integrations with other platforms (such as email, inventory management systems, etc), their skills may be more limiting, forcing you to hire and manage multiple freelancers.

Small Web Agency: There’s a sweet spot between freelancer and large, digital agency and it includes a heavy emphasis on accountability, transparency, and quality. Small web agencies are attentive, able to adapt quickly, knowledgeable in other areas of digital (such as SEO, social media, writing, and more), and offer a diverse menu of services. You still get the benefits of a larger agency, combined with the flexibility of a freelancer at a reasonable cost.

Large Digital Agency: Larger agencies offer expansive selection of services related to all things digital, requiring several niche-experts like video, content writers, strategists, IT, and more. The teams involved with projects of a bigger digital agency are larger and more complex, making this the most expensive option available.

Preparing for your first meeting

Hooray, it’s time to discuss your needs and wants for your site with your selected web partner – and by now, you’re more prepared than most. In order to help your meeting be effective, bring along these things:

  • Examples of websites you love and have a list of elements you want to translate into your website
  • Your web design personas
  • Your business goals
  • Any branding work that you’ve done

By now, you should feel ready to tackle your website project. Your website is an investment, and the planning and strategy stages are crucial to ensuring your website is effective, delivers an experience your users love, and drives the business goals you’re looking for.

If you have any questions about building a website, or need some additional help, give one of our web geeks a call or shoot ‘em an email. They’d be happy to answer any questions you may have, even if you end up choosing a different web partner. We want to make sure your business website is on the path to success, even if it’s not created with us.

Web Design personas toolkit