Just like most things, an effective website requires proper planning and S.M.A.R.T. goal assignment. Whether building it yourself or hiring a professional website designer, planning your website is a key part of the process that is usually skipped or not done properly. In this post, we will aim to briefly explain the website planning process, sometimes referred to as the Discovery Session.
A Discovery Session to Effectively Plan Your Website
A discovery session has the core goal of helping you (and your website designer) understand the key aspects of your business such as why you started your business, where your business is currently, where you plan to take the business and how a website will assist you in achieving these goals. Completion of this process will truly affect whether your end result will be an effective website.
This is an in depth video explaining the website discovery checklist and process.
Discovery Session Checklist
The first step in the discovery session may seem a bit redundant but is actually the most important. As the saying goes, “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been!” but in this case, you can’t plan for the future if you do not know why you started in the first place.
Even if you are planning to build your website yourself it is key to write down the answers to the following questions, as having it on paper serves as a reminder and even lets you see if your business has strayed off track and if your heading in the right direction.
- What is the nature of your business? eg: We are an organic supermarket specializing in locally grown produce.
- Why did you start this business over the other possible options? eg: My daughter has severe allergies to processed foods and it was tough to find organic food locally. In my search, I found other persons with the same issues.
- What are your business goals? eg: To provide affordable organic produce while educating people on the benefits of proper nutrition.
- What makes your business different? eg: Unlike other organic distributors, all our staff practice an organic lifestyle and are eager to share their experiences with our customers, plus we have a couple of nutritionists on staff.
- What are your current challenges? eg: Sometimes the store lines may become long because our clients ask ur staff a lot of questions which have caused other clients to become irate and some good-intentioned staff to be cursed out.
- What are your current successes? eg: We have been able to grow our sales from $30k to $50k monthly without raising our prices. Our current marketing is very effective.
- What is the current goal you would like to achieve? eg: We want to increase our brand awareness so we can open a second outlet in the next 2 years but more importantly keep our existing customers happy and fully informed.
Once you have written down and fine-tuned your business vision, the next step is to translate your vision, goals, and challenges into an effective website. An effective website has one primary goal that can be measured by the achievement of the desired outcome.
- What is the primary goal of your website? eg: To educate our customers about the benefits of organic nutrition making us a go-to expert in the industry.
- How do you plan to market your website? eg: Using our existing social media channels as well as flyer distribution to our existing customers and store signage.
- How will you measure the success and achievement of this goal? eg: We will monitor store lines as well as perform feedback surveys. Our aim is to get at least 50% of our customers to visit our website for basic information.
Website Functionality and Features
Next, decide on the core website functionality the desired end result of an effective website will make you. It is good to separate the must-have features from the nice to have features. This will come in handy when you need to adjust site efficiency in relation to site security, load time, and responsiveness.
- What features are key to your website goal? eg: We need a blog to share our articles and videos as well as an easy way for our customers to contact us if they have questions. We also want a way to notify them when a new blog is released.
- How will those features work on different device types? eg: The blog needs to be easy to read on all devices and some blog posts will have videos that we need to be able to load quickly.
- What level of security do you need on your website? eg: We will not store any confidential client data on the website so we mainly need to make sure our login info is secure.
- How will you track site visitors? eg: We want to see how people find our website and where information that we can use to run ads for sales and promotions.
- What are the nice to have features? eg: Can the website change the design automatically when a new holiday approaches?
Design Look and Feel
The last element but equally as important is the look and feel of your website. This is sometimes the part most business owners focus on the most but even though it is important, having a beautiful website without proper goals and features to achieve these goals is a waste of time and money and will not deliver an effective website.
- What visual style would you like your website to follow? eg: When we started our business we have a branding expert help us choose our colors and fonts which we use in-store and on all social media. We also want the website to have a modern appearance but balanced between country and city life.
- Have you seen any other websites that have design elements you like? eg: We looked through Pinterest and we like how these sites are laid out and we also found a couple of templates online.
- Do you want the website to be completely custom or is it ok to choose a template and customize it to represent your brand? eg: We are ok with a template for now as we want to see the results but we do not want the website to look exactly like someone else’s.
- Do you have your website content written as well as your images? eg: Not yet, but we have someone who does our marketing for social media and we will get them to put together the content.
- Based on the features and content, how many pages do you think you need, and how do you want them displayed? eg: I want a page to tell our story and page to allow our customers to get in contact with us. The “about” page should be in the main menu.
- What layout style do you want for your website pages? eg: We want a traditional homepage but the “blog” should be laid out in a grid.
This checklist is just a summary of everything that should be discussed during the planning stages to create an effective website. Do not rush this part of the process as it will make the end result very rewarding once done right. Also do not be afraid to revisit your answers before you start building your website as more information and inspiration come to you.
Building your own website and need help with planning?
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