Make the Best Plan for Your New Web Site
Congratulations! You are now ready to jump right in and get your first web site created! So what's the first step?
In almost all cases, your first step should involve planning out the site. Though it doesn't sound like a lot of fun, figuring out your potential web offerings can be a very exciting part of the process. Your web site plan can also have several parallels to your business plan, and between validating your current real-world practices and filling in some holes with web marketing opportunities, you might end up running a tighter ship before any code is even created!
A good web site plan will cover (at least) the following things:
- Your target market
who needs your product/service and why
- Target actions
what you want your target market to accomplish at your site
- Site features
how to get your site visitors to perform a target action
- Your web budget
money available for your site development, and its allocation per site feature
Who Are My Customers?
Ideally, you already have figured out your target market. If not, this means that you need to identify who your customers are. You will obviously want to know how your product/service fits their needs, but as it relates to the Internet, you will want to assess their level of web savvy and what they find attractive in a site. Where younger audiences would be able to comfortably navigate flashy mega-sites with heavy content density and micro-iconography, older audiences might prefer larger text, big buttons, and prominent phone number contact info.
A Call to Action
You probably shouldn't consider making a web site unless you have a target action in mind. Do you want people to buy something of yours? Do you need people to register for something like an event or petition? Are you just getting the word out there and want people to spread that word? Do you only need people to contact you online (and you'll take care of the rest offline)? There are a variety of things a web site can do for you; make sure you have at least one target action in mind before moving forward.
Dealing Winning Hands to Your Customers (and to Yourself)
Now the goal is to set up the site so it makes it easy for visitors to perform the target action. That is the purpose of your site features: sections of the site that inform, excite, and motivate your visitors. This is where you think about how many pages you want in your site, and what each of those pages will do. It won't hurt to preliminarily think about how those pages should look too.
There are a variety of approaches to site features that you can take here:
- Home page with one-click link(s) to the target action(s) (NOTE: this is a requirement for successful sites)
- Informational pages that position your business as an expert resource
- Step-by-step pages that slowly but surely complete a target action
- Imagery and/or video that show the product/service in action
- Customer testimony that your product/service successfully fulfills its duty
There are many other options available for web pages and site material. You might want to check out your favorite sites, along with those of your competitors, and get some good ideas of site features that you find interesting and motivational.
How Much Is Your Presence Worth to You?
Balancing your web budget with what you are willing to pay for on your first time out — here's where it gets interesting. Just like with most business expenses, the more effort and labor that goes into generating a web site, the more money it will probably take. Then again, unlike a brick-and-mortar facilty, your web materials have very little limitations when it comes to real-time editability and future expandability.
With this in mind, you will want to start out with the smallest site that you need. Save your money for that super-store site that you want until you really need it. A concise and focused site can generate business for you, ultimately refreshing your web budget for future, next-level endeavors.
In the event that a web design/development quote is too costly for you, be sure to have prioritized both your target actions and your site features in advance. A good web company (like FluidMedia) can even help you prioritize them. The mindset here is not about a permanent elimination of options that will help your business, but until you can afford to include them in your site, a temporary re-tasking from online options to offline ones.
For example, a full-blown online service estimator would be a fantastic site feature that saves you time, impresses your visitors, and generates sales. A substantially less costly option would be a simple "Contact Us" form that gives you an opportunity to provide a person-to-person price by email or phone. Both have their benefits, but for initial cost savings, you might consider starting out with the simpler feature first.
Where the Web Budget Goes
Here is a collection of the fees to expect:
- Server (a.k.a. web space) hosting fees†
- Domain name (a.k.a. "URL" or "web-link") hosting fees†
- Graphic design fees (minimized if you already have logo, branding, existing print materials)
- Standard web coding fees
- Text and image content creation fees (minimized if you already have photography and copy)
† Annual fees
There are also some fees and considerations that are optional, based on your project requirements:
- eCommerce fees
- The more items you are selling, the more complex and expensive the set-up fees.
- There are also fees that will be charged per transaction.
- This can be a low- to high-dollar, one-time expense. Depending on the frequency of item changes, this could be a low-dollar continuing expense.
- Web development fees
- Do you need your site to handle a function outside of sales and advertisement? (Examples: CRM; project management; account-based membership and interaction; file control; an online version of your service)
- Do you need metrics and other reporting technology embedded into your site to get assess how many people are visiting your site and how they are using it?
- Do you need content management functionality so you are able to edit your own site remotely and without advanced web editing know-how requirements?
- This can be a low- to high-dollar expense. Depending on the complexity and the need for maintenance, this could be either a one-time or continuing expense.
- eMarketing fees
- Do you need blog capability?
- Will you be deploying a newsletter (or even an eNewsletter), and how will you get a mailing list?
- Will you need Facebook or Twitter integration with your site? Will you need someone to set those kinds of pages up for you?
- This can be a low- to mid-dollar, one-time expense. Newsletter maintenance services can be a repeating expense.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) fees
- Though a good web coder will initially set your site up to be search-engine-friendly, gaining and maintaining a high ranking is a continuing process
- Since SEO is linked with social media marketing, you'll want to know if a Facebook or Twitter page is something you'll handle internally or if you want to pay someone to manage it for you
- This can be a low- to mid-dollar expense, and it is most likely spread over an extended period of time.
Sounds Like a Plan
Starting with a small project for your first site has other benefits beyond cost savings. The main one that we've noticed is the ability for a company to assess its site's strengths and weaknesses at the onset. Looking at the initial site's metrics and listening to visitor feedback, a business is in a better position to plan for the site's future usage.
Once you have everything up and running, there are always little things you might have missed or need to correct. Again, thanks to the way the Internet works, your web site will be malleable and expandable, and any updates will be immediate in their publication to the world.
Feel free to contact FluidMedia at your convenience to learn more about great web site planning and how to get the most out of your first-time budget!
Posted on 07/19/2011 (6:31 PM) by Keith Adams