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A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide (part 1)

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A Comprehensive Website Planning Guide (Part 1 )

Most businesses and organizations require some kind of preparation. Unfortunately, there is often a failure to prepare adequately or at all when it comes to websites. The purpose of this guide is to change that.

The main problem that comes up in website designing is the failure to plan . This guide is to help website designers , businesses and organizations to create a successful site .

Who This Guide is For ?

This guide, written in relatively non-technical language, provides a general overview of the website development process, from initial needs assessment to site launch, maintenance, and follow-up. It is suitable for:

  • Small and medium businesses
  • Web designers and developers
  • Organizations
  • Institutions

Note :

The terms “business” and “organization” are used interchangeably throughout the text. The stages in this tutorial will be applied differently depending on your function and the level of responsibility you have. It will provide you with a more efficient approach if you are in charge of a web team. If you’re not as active in the construction process, it will help you understand best practices, expectations, and allow you to ask more educated questions of web team members — and confront them if they’re not doing a thorough, conscientious job. Furthermore, because this book is created for a diverse readership, it employs both “business” and “designer” terminology, and some sections are emphasized for specific project responsibilities. The term “designer” refers to the person or team who creates the websites.

Also , wherever prices are mentioned they are in U.S. Dollars, for the sake of uniformity .

Who the Guide is Not For ?

While you may profit from using the concepts contained inside, if you’re creating a four-page site for a family reunion or a 5,000-page site for a Fortune 500 corporation, this book may be far too extensive or far too brief. Furthermore, because it is meant to be generally accessible and non-technical, the tutorial does not cover how to write HTML, use Photoshop, or operate with a Content Management System (CMS). For those tasks, please consult specialized resources.

Recognize the Purpose of Your Website

The ultimate goal for almost all the businesses is to increase sales . The goals might include things like educating visitors , or increasing traffic ,but the ultimate goal is turning the visitors into leads and leads into customers . These customers might be able to purchase your product or service directly from the website or from ultimately getting involved with your business .

If making sales is the ultimate purpose of your website, you must keep this in mind at all times. Too frequently, this critical element is overlooked in the pursuit of design features, copious amounts of content, and extensive written descriptions of items and services. Don’t lose sight of why you’re creating a website in the first place.

If sales is not the ultimate goal of your website , recognize what is . Take action according to that . These goals might be donating , volunteering or anything . But there is always a main goal for business .  

Furthermore, investing in a website means investing in something that will develop with your company. Prepare expect your website to evolve over time.

Why Plan ?

Planning is important for every aspect of business . However , people tend to underestimate the efforts , planning and work that has to be put in website designing . Businesses often ignore the setting up of goals for a website . We all know that running a business is not a piece of cake but the thing is : Setting up goals for a website is as important as setting up your goals for sales , profits , or any other aspect .

Website is the Responsibility of Marketing and not IT (Information Technology )

Creating a website is more than just a technical job. The website is considered the realm of the IT department in certain firms, particularly those that have been reluctant to understand the value and relevance of online marketing (or outside IT resources). This is incorrect. Websites are a marketing function, not an IT function. Communicators, not technicians, should drive the design, structure, and content of your website. Yes, you will require IT to successfully execute the communicators’ plan and keep your site functioning efficiently. However, communicators should be in charge of piloting the ship. IT’s involvement in the planning stages and beyond is to assist in researching and supporting the technology that supports the company’s online marketing goals.

A lot of businesses get in their own way by giving the task of website designing to the IT department instead of marketing department . You should understand who will be more efficient and effective in completing the task first . Since creating a website basically means communicating what you want to the customers , it should be done by marketing department . You should first carefully analyze the job , hire right people and then assign it to them .

The Deck Example

Consider the construction of a deck. If you want to build a deck on your home, you’re not going to contact numerous carpenters and ask, “How much is a deck?” If you do, the wise response will be, “it depends.” A carpenter will need certain project data in order to provide you with an estimate. The more information you supply and the more planning you do ahead of time, the more accurate the estimate will be. Of course, there is always the possibility that things will alter during construction, but in general, the proverb “measure twice, cut once” applies to this and all other projects. A good carpenter will begin by explaining questions such as:

  • What kind of wood ? Cedar ? Treated ? or Simple ?
  • Where exactly will deck go ? Are there a lot of hindrances in working here?
  • What size and height will it be ? And how many levels ?
  • Do you want benches ? Railings ? Or something else ?
  • Is there clearance to bring special equipment into your yard ?
  • Do you have Homeowner’s Association Rules (HOA) to deal with ?

The carpenter must also consider scheduling, building permits, inspection, upkeep, and other factors. As a result, a wise carpenter will respond to your basic query with “it depends.” There is simply no way to know without more information. Obviously, it makes sense to meet with one or more contractors to discuss the issues raised above. When you hire a carpenter, they should present you with a precise plan of action that both of you sign. They should check in with you on a regular basis to address any potential difficulties in the project.

Obviously , all this makes sense but imagine how the deck project would look without a plan

Jennifer Carpenter begins by drilling post holes in each deck corner. She assumes Juan Homeowner has obtained a building permission from City Hall because that is how most of her prior jobs worked.

 

There is No Building Permit

Ms. Carpenter discovers Mr. Homeowner has placed a large hose reel against his house and linked it to his faucet as she begins building the deck. The hose reel will have to be relocated based on where the deck will be installed. She’s not sure if he’ll want to relocate it or have his faucet rerouted so he can reconnect it and link it to the deck, which is two feet from the ground. She pauses construction and intends to ask Mr. Homeowner what he wants to do when he returns home. She waits…

He is on a business trip for three days .

Ms. Carpenter calls him when he returns home. He’s upset that he’ll have to have his faucet relocated, which adds unanticipated costs to the project. That, however, is not Ms. Carpenter’s problem; she is not the plumber. She’s simply placing the deck where he requested.

She starts making a railing on the side . This was not planned but she comes and sees there are children in Mr. Homeowner’ s house . She does it for the safety of them . Mr. Homeowner comes and is happy to see the progress of the deck . Then he sees the railings . He starts thinking .

  • “What’s this?”
  • “I added a railing to this side, since you have kids. It’s a good safety feature.”
  • “I don’t have small children.”
  • “But I saw them playing in your front yard.”
  • “Oh, those are the neighborhood kids. My kids are in high school.”
  • “Well, a railing is a good feature.”
  • “Yeah, but can you make it shorter, and put a bench next to it?”
  • “I didn’t buy enough wood for a bench, and the railing is already drilled and attached. I’d have to remove and re-cut it. Also, we didn’t talk about a bench.”
  • “Well, I’d like a bench here.”
  • “That will take more time. I won’t be able to get this done by your two-week deadline if we add the bench. Plus, I’d have to charge you for the extra wood.”

What started off as a “simple project” turns into a series of hassles owing to a failure to prepare and communicate. Jennifer Carpenter must additionally bill Mr. Homeowner for all unforeseen complications, such as extra material, extra time, and other unplanned chores that have gone into completing this (now) intricate deck job.

By website designers ‘ point of views building six different websites for 50 users is more difficult than building a deck . The deck is physical , you can look out of the window and see its progress . But the website ‘s progress is quite invisible to the business .

 A Caveat .. and the ‘Waterfall’ Method of Development

IT departments in charge of large projects frequently employ the “waterfall” approach of development. The notion is that the stages of development flow downward through the steps, toward the project’s completion, with each previous stage influencing the next. In theory, this isn’t such a horrible idea. In reality, however, this might have the unintended consequence of over-specification, of specifying every minute element of the project from top to bottom. Everything is described, right down to the typeface’s point size, the line length of page headers, and how a simple photo gallery will function.

Websites are flexible . You can create a website that can hold 10 news in its menu bar or 200 news . The content and the deign of different websites is different / customized . When properly implemented in a Content Management System (CMS), a website will allow site editors the flexibility to swap out key photos, change titles, headers, reorder content, etc. — but all within the framework established in the planning stage.

Getting Agile

You might also think about using a method known as Agile Development. While Agile is most commonly linked with software development, it may also be applied to website construction. It can be just as successful as following a precise plan, but it must be tailored to the project participants’ skills, approach, and temperament.

Keep in mind that agile development can take longer than traditional methods . However , if you tend to lose focus you should not go for this method and try something else .But if the project is complex than this is the best method you can apply . You should always ask your other team members and make sure they are on board for implementing this technique .

The Value of Paying for Planning Needs Assessment

Some companies requesting an estimate for their website will have a broad notion of what they want to accomplish and may have created a simple site map or list of pages. Others, particularly organisations, will issue an RFP (Request for Proposal). In most circumstances, none of these items are sufficient in and of themselves to develop an accurate proposal. Even in the case of a multi-page RFP, there is frequently insufficient usable detail to generate a proposal and estimate. We can usually provide a very broad ballpark figure if a client only wants a very broad ballpark figure. However, much more information is required to arrive at an actual cost.

Enter the Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is a process of determining where the business is , where it needs to be and how to get there . That is pretty broad . So lets figure it out .

No More RFPs

RFPs, while well-intended, are frequently a lousy idea for both the issuing party and the online firms responding to them. Businesses and organizations that are used to the RFP process should recognize that this technique is frequently improper for a complicated and creative undertaking like constructing a website. (It works brilliantly for more static creative work, such as print advertisements, but it’s ineffective for adaptable digital activities.) In many circumstances, requesting a thorough response to an RFP is akin to requesting plans for a house “so we can see what you would accomplish for us.” This is analogous to asking someone to work for free (on “spec”), and such a procedure might be considered as demanding and unfair .

When a huge number of designers are issued RFPs, the only thing a response reveals is a willingness to reply to an RFP, not that designer’s fit for the project.

Skipping the RFPs , Assigning Needs

Business can benefit greatly from needs assessment . Twenty hours spent on needs assessment can save forty hours of development time during the building of web .

Proper planning is an investment in a trouble-free growth process, and the first stage in planning is determining what is required in as much detail as possible from top to bottom. That is the goal of a needs assessment, and it is a critical phase in the development of any website.

What Happens When You Fail to Plan ?

  • Work that falls outside the scope of the project creates cost overruns .
  • The amount of back-and-forth discussion over insignificant issues might be multiplied many times. (It takes longer to clear up miscommunication than it does to get it properly the first time.)
  • Confusion and client unhappiness are unintended consequences of the shoot-from-the-hip method. (Let’s be honest: nobody is happy when things go wrong.)

End of result : A website that fails to meet its goals produces less ROI (Return on Investments) and ends up disappointing the people it was designed to serve .

Needs Assessment

Three Important Things to Remember

  1. Website is not a one time thing . It is a flexible tool of communication between your business and customers . It also reflects on your business .
  2. Unless you’re creating a tool just for internal communication, your website isn’t for you—it must fulfil the needs of its target audience.
  3. This is where we might start employing business jargon, such as “assemble your important internal stakeholders.” That’s another way of saying “bring everyone who has anything valuable to give together.”

A website needs assessment may overlap with other marketing department initiatives and tactics. That’s all right. In truth, the structure and style of your website should be informed by your company’s established branding and marketing. A decent website cannot be created in a vacuum. Continuity and consistency throughout all of your marketing efforts, digital and otherwise, are critical to conveying the impression that you are professional and that your company should be taken seriously.

We have seen this multiple times , a good website with a terrible brochure or vice versa . People notice these things , even if they cannot put a finger on what is wrong . The customer does not stop to think , ‘Oh well! They must have hired a new web designer who does not bother to update the brochure’. People tend to judge your business because of this .

 

Cost and Timeline

In general, a proper needs assessment will cost between 5 and 15% of the whole project budget and will take between 10 and 30% of the total project time. Of course, this presupposes you’ve established a reasonable budget and timetable for your project. It’s okay if you haven’t Because you never know what you don’t know. A good needs assessment can assist you in determining this.

The Needs Assessment: Intake

In your intake meeting you will want to address a series of questions . Start with the message , goals etcetera of the business and then get into the details .

 There are numerous valid ways, some of which are quite formal and precise, while others are looser and more intuitive. In any event, if you’re in charge of this procedure, you should have a list of critical questions ready.

Generally , there are three new questions generated from the answer the business gives of a given question . If you are having a meeting within the business , then you should go to the same process and ask and answer the same questions .

Note : the following questions apply to a small business but can easily be portrayed according to a large organization , or a non profit business .

  • Who is your competition ? (A competition review should follow three or more websites of the same industry . It should mention where those businesses succeed and fail in their sites )
  • Mission statement: who you are and what you do (or a one-paragraph company/or description)?
  • Why was your company/organization founded?
  • How do you want to be seen as a result of your website?
  • What is the single most important thing your site’s visitors want? Find new items, sign up for a course, or join a mailing list, for example. Take note: Try to think about it from the customer’s point of view. This is not about what you want for the firm, such as increased sales, but about what your visitors desire from the site.
  • What is the most crucial message you wish to convey through your website? From the standpoint of your company/organization?
  • Describe your target demographic.
  • Why should customers choose your products or services over those of your competitors?
  • How will you determine whether or not this initiative was a success?
  • Make a list of three or more websites that you enjoy .
  • List three websites that you dislike and explain why.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding how many questions should be asked and how long it should take .However , if you finish this meeting in 40 minutes you are not doing something right .

Indeed, if you’re doing your job correctly, each time you go through this process, the questions will be different as you tune into the demands of the business, listen to their responses, and identify more areas that need clarification or expose potential worth examining.

Each business and each project is different .

Keep ‘Em Talking

The intake procedure revolves entirely around the business owner. It’s critical to pay close attention, take good notes, and keep following threads and tangents if they’re producing useful information. Resist the temptation to provide solutions right away. Maintain your emphasis on learning as much as you can about the client’s business, audience, and message. Solutions will be found later. You must answer all of the questions in order to provide the best answer.

You should try to take more than just one meeting with your clients . The clients will first resist because of day to day pressure of running a business . But you should imply that you need to understand the goal of business , before giving any solutions , which is true .

More dialogue is frequently the only way to obtain this knowledge. If you still have questions or need more information to make educated conclusions and suggestions for the evaluation, keep going until you have all of the information you require. You don’t want to be a bother, but being focused and following through on every conceivable thread that arises during the intake process is critical. Clients will usually realize the significance of this time of inquiry if you manage it with elegance and humor.

Messaging Essentials – You Must Know Who You Are

Your business probably has a lot going on . Workshops , classes , webinars , conference calls, product demos , sponsorships and a lot more . The day -to- day content activity of your business can be overwhelming .

Because your home page can only focus on so many things at once, it’s quite beneficial to condense what your company performs into a phrase or two. As an example:

  • “ We make project management better . “
  • “Beautiful , sustainable furniture for home and patio .”
  • “ Building understanding about the impact of mental illness .”

This is not the same as a mission statement, but it can be derived from one. When you distill the essence of your business into a brief statement, this can serve as a beginning point for how you present it and can make a significant impact for the creative team as they delve into the spirit of the organization and figure out how to best show the business to the world.

In a business there can be one person who has a wealth of experience and knowledge . You can ask your client , ‘Is there anyone else I should be talking to about this matter ‘. Make sure you don’t ignore that one person who can enlighten you and change your business .

“Uh! We Don’t Really Know Who We Are”

Some firms, particularly those without a strong brand, may require some prodding to reveal their true identity. Probing inquiries can be beneficial. If you ask a business owner who their top customers are, find out why – what makes these customers so valuable, how did they find them, and what are they doing to find more like them.

Small businesses often underestimate the value of brands . When in reality it cannot be overestimated . You should take care of your brand name and logo . A logo is not something designed on a napkin or with the first font you found on Microsoft word . In reality , it should be made by professionals . There are very specific skills required to design a logo .

What is a Brand ?

  • Your company’s visual representation.
  • What people imagine or think of when they hear your company’s name.
  • The manifestation of your company’s own qualities.

Brand Guide

 At a bare minimum , a brand should have a professionally designed logo and a color pallet . Here are some other things you can add :

  • A brief statement summarizing the company’s objective or purpose and defining its target audience.
  • Fonts for the headline and body.
  • Photographic usage guidelines.
  • Guidelines for copywriting
  • Added design components (glyphs, textures, shapes).

 

Why Your Brand is So Important ?

  • It sets the stage for everything you produce – visually and otherwise .
  • It sets you apart from other business .
  • It is authentic , a manifestation of your cultural values . If it is not consistent of these values , it might look inauthentic .
  • Speaks to integrity .

Why Your Brand is So Important to Building Your Website ?

Choosing a visual style and feel is one of the initial phases in the web design process. Without at least minimum branding, your designer is essentially starting from scratch and must establish a brand identity for your firm on the fly. This may or may not correspond to the image you wish to project. The development of your brand should come before the development of your website, because the website is an extension of the brand, not the other way around – don’t put the cart before the horse.

 

An Example : A Surf Shop vs A 110 – Year Old Bank

Both categories of businesses have strong identities that suit there business and client base .

Consider how successful they would be if their brand identities were switched. Would you be enticed to visit a surf shop that used a staid, conservative font as its visual identity?

How about a bank with laid back , casual and breezy beach feel ?

Proceeding Without a Brand

Some companies simply refuse to invest in a brand or claim that the fuzzy logo they “created” in 1992 is absolutely fine as the foundation for their $15,000 website. Alternatively, they may wish to develop their site and then add a logo at the end. By the way, if the following logo examples appear to have taken around five minutes to create, you are correct.

Everyone needs to eat .

Despite this crucial flaw, you will undoubtedly discover a web professional who will gladly accept your assignment. Despite this significant disadvantage, they may be able to do a respectable job on the website.

However, at best, you’ll have a lovely, modern house on a decaying foundation, and at worst, you’ll have a house that’s barely standing, built in 8 different styles, with windows where the doors should be, and vice versa. Yes, a skilled professional can “make do,” but making do will never be as excellent as doing it correctly from the start. Take a time to consider whether it’s truly worth it to proceed with your foundationless house.

Our Fictional Restaurant

To give you an illustration regarding brand we have created a fictitious restaurant called – New Harvest Restaurant and Wine Bar . This is a suitable example because everybody knows how a restaurant works .

New Harvest is a high-end enterprise in a large metropolis. Its clientele extends from young professionals to older folks who enjoy gourmet meals. Its purpose is to deliver high-quality, visually appealing meals matched with mid-priced wines from throughout the world.

Logo

Fonts

Color Palette

These elements, along with other brand guidelines, will be used to develop mockups for the New Harvest website. Remember that this example is only used to demonstrate topics in this tutorial. It is not a real restaurant, and it does not represent all of the marketing features that are appropriate for such a business.

Mood Boards

A designer may utilize mood boards to help set the look and feel of a website when budget and ability allow, or the designer may ask the business to construct a simple one to gain a visual sense of what the firm is looking for. Mood boards use a variety of pictures to assist establish elements that are difficult to convey in language. Textures, pictures, and font treatments from a variety of print and web sources may be used.

In this example, we’ve gathered a collection of photographs that imply richness and elegance. They might be used for a travel website, or they could be used for something relating to luxury sailing or boat vacations.

Establish The Brand, But Don’t Provide Design Solutions

Participants may be tempted to suggest design solutions while working through the needs assessment, especially for organizations with weak or non-existent branding. Resist. When a needs assessment is focused on problems rather than solutions, it is more effective. You can’t give a remedy unless you understand the problem.

Choosing a Domain Name

The majority of established businesses have a domain name. If the company is new, go with the shortest, most readily pronounceable name you can think of. “All of the good ones are taken,” as the saying goes, whether it’s about men or women. That is also true of domain names. You might have to think outside the box. Fitzpatrick & Sons Construction Supply, for example, may prefer fitzpatricksupply.com, but if that name is already taken, consider fitzsupply.com or fitzconstructionsp.com.

Say the name aloud to evaluate if it’s clear or if it could be confusing. Type it out and look for visually confusing letter combinations (sassyssamosas.com) and make sure it reads and sounds nice. Long business names might result in typos when placed into a search bar, which is why fitzpatrickandsonsconstructsupply.com is not a good idea.

While search engines are quick to rectify spelling errors and inquire “do you mean X?” there is still value in having a short domain name.

A Few Words About Domain Names

I strongly advise you to spend some time learning about the fundamentals of names and how they work. A basic understanding of how domain names are managed, where they come from, what extensions (.com,.co,.org) imply, and how they’re used might save you a lot of difficulty later on.

Take a few moments to do some research. Changing your domain name after it’s already been created online is a pain that should be avoided at all costs. Choose your domain name during the planning stage, not after the site has been constructed.

New TLDs

TLD is an abbreviation for top-level domain, as in.com,.net,.biz, and so on. However, in 2014, ICAAN, the TLD regulator, approved the inclusion of a slew of new possibilities, ranging from.auto to.vegas. The choice of TLD is determined by the intended market. A.com TLD has specific associations—it may feel more traditional or trustworthy, although other alternative TLDs for your site may be easier to remember. You’ll need to determine if you want to go with a more standard TLD or attempt something new, and your designer can help you with this. Time will tell if these new TLDs are generally recognized and used.

In Part 2, I’ll go into more detail of evaluating a plan, choosing web professionals, and determining your site structure. Stay tuned!

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