Hi, I’m David Lockie, and I’m at WP-Brighton today to talk to you about how to plan a successful website. By ‘successful’, I’m talking about a well-performing ‘normal’ website. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to tell you how to build the next Facebook or Amazon today.
These are the things I’m going to talk about. I’ve only got 15 minutes, so I can’t cover everything in much detail. What I’m aiming to do is to give you an overview of the breadth and scope of things you need to think about. You can then go back over each item in more detail in your own time.
cc photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blodgett-esq/5336512561/sizes/l/in/photostream/Before we can talk about any website (as with any external communication exercise), we need to take a minute to look inwards.
Throughout this talk, I’ll assume that we’re planning a website for a business, but the same things need to be considered whatever the purpose of the website, so please do adapt these points to your own needs.Do you know who you are as an organisation? How you want to be seen by others? What you want to say to them? What your competition is doing online?
More specifically about your proposed website, why do you want one? Generally and more specifically? Can you identify and put a value against some tangible, measurable objectives that you want the website to achieve for your business? What sort of targets do you have for its performance?Example answersBusiness purpose: to sell blue widgetsSpecific objectives:To raise awareness of blue widgetsTo let people find your blue widgets online, to let you control how people experience blue widgets onlineTo build a community of blue widget enthusiasts/customersTo let you communicate easily and effectively with that communityWhat value: £2 profit for each widget soldTargets: 20 sales per month, 50 new newsletter subscribers
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/4084430922/sizes/l/in/photostream/If you can’t answer those questions quickly and simply, it’s quite likely that part of your business looks a bit like this: in need of a good tidy.
If you’re happy that you can answer all of those questions to your satisfaction, then it’s time to have a quick check that you’ve got what it takes to complete the project successfully. Websites always take more time and energy than you think, and can raise some questions and issues that will challenge your team. You need to make sure that you start off with internal alignment and engagement – in other words, you need to sell this project internally before you proceed.You will also, inevitably, need some money to make a website happen. That’ll break down to some balance of internal staff/resource costs and external contractors and service providers, but you’ll need to budget something. Once you’ve been through this planning process, you’ll be in a much better position to understand what that budget will need to be.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nagy/50787611/sizes/l/in/photostream/So, in summary, it’s vital that you’ve got your ducks in a row before you proceed with any website project.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/2077918673/sizes/l/in/photostream/
The first thing to think about with a website is who you are building it for. Without visitors, even the World’s Best Website is without value or purpose. You might think that you want as many people as possible to look at your website: everyone!
But in reality, you don’t.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nagy/50787611/sizes/l/in/photostream/Not everyone is going to add value to your business, and having the whole internet looking at your website will make it very expensive and time-consuming to administer.
So, if you don’t want everyone to look at your website, who do you want? Your customers and potential customers usually, but also those who influence your target market.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawro/4560901607/sizes/l/in/photostream/You need to understand who your target visitors are to the point that you can pick them out of a crowd.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sally-aidan/3264808447/sizes/l/in/photostream/To do that, you might want to do some ‘persona profiling’ to get to know each type of visitor. Who are they and what are their interests?
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/5846713142/sizes/l/in/photostream/If you do that well, you’ll stand a better chance of making sure your site’s visitors look more like this. This is a community with which you can engage through your website to add value to your business.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nechbi/1006587555/sizes/l/in/photostream/
Once you’ve thought about who you want to visit your website, you need to think about how you’re going to tell those visitors about your website in a way that makes them want to visit.
Marketing is an incredibly important part of your website planning. Perhaps the most important part of your marketing plan is making sure that people can find you through natural (non-paid) search. Most people will find you through Google. Your business NEEDS to be able to be found by searching for its name – that’s known as branded search (e.g. Krispy Kreme). That’s great, but it’s likely that most of your potential customers won’t have heard of you yet, so you also want to be able to be found by non-branded search (e.g. vanilla doughnut). That’s likely to be a lot harder because usually other businesses and organisations will also want to be found for that search term. However unlikely it is that you’ll ever get to the number 1 spot in Google for your non-branded search terms, you need to know what they are, and to build them into your site’s structure and content. What you’re looking for is the overlap between what your visitors are searching for and what you offer as a business. This whole process is called ‘keyword research’.You should also consider listing your business in online directories, what social media presence you want and how to engage your existing customers through contact details you already have or engage with potential customers by joining communities like forums and social networks where they’re already active. If you’re building a new website, you’ll almost certainly want to consider some paid marketing in order to get immediate traffic to your website. Don’t forget to add your website’s address to everything that relates to your business – the sides of vans, your corporate stationery and your email signatures.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58789412@N00/3727373042/sizes/l/in/photostream/Content is what you put in your website, usually some kind mix of text, pictures, video, etc
As Ellen and Antony have already given excellent talks about content strategy, I’m only going to give a quick recap. Use the pillars of substance, structure, workflow and governance to ensure that…
…your site’s content is timely, interesting and relevant.
Don’t forget that your content is likely to be important to your ongoing marketing efforts. If you’re allowing users to sign up to receive new blog posts by email, then think about them reading your latest blog post title in their inbox. What will make them want to open it and read more? If they forward it to a friend, what will that friend (with no prior exposure to your business or context) think?
It’s easy to get excited about the power that web communications can bring to your business, but don’t forget that with that power comes responsibility. You need to make sure that your website is legally compliant in terms of legal notices and accessibility requirements. You might want to consider some formal record of editorial process to act as a record-keeper and first line of defence for issues such as copyright and libel.
Once you’ve planned out your content, you need to be able to produce a sitemap in this kind of structured, ordered format. Keep it as simple as possible – remember that it’s a lot easier to put people off than to draw them in, so say only what you absolutely need to.
Once you have a provisional sitemap, make sure that it makes sense in the context of your visitors. What sequence of actions do you want them to take if they arrive on your homepage in order to do something that adds value to your business? How about on a blog post? What about a product view page? These are your “user journeys” and they should be as short and simple as possible.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/twicepix/3288269210/sizes/l/in/photostream/Once you know what your user journeys are, you can plan your calls to action.
This is your chance to convert your visitors into business value.
Your calls to action will be specific to your business and the website’s objectives, but you need to list them hierarchically and understand their relative and absolute value. This is a pretty typical list.
At this stage, you understand the business purposes of your website, its content, visitors and key messages.
Design is about those first three seconds that a visitor lands on your website when they make a subconscious, emotional decision about your website. If they like it, you’ve got a chance that they’ll read your content and become engaged. If they don’t, you’ll struggle no matter what else you get right.
Design is also about making sure that your visitors understand how to get what they want from your site – whether that’s to buy a product or to sign up for your email newsletters. Your aim is to make “what you want your visitors to do” and “what your visitors want to do” as closely-matched as possible.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/3059349393/3786855827/sizes/l/in/photostream/One key principle for making your site clear and easy to navigate for your users is to keep it simple. The more choices a visitor has, the less likely they are to make a decision.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/humdrumboy/4670146127/Your website should be an investment for your business. A good investment returns more value than you put in. One way to maximise your investment in your website is to make sure that you put as little effort as possible in to achieving that return.
In other words, you need to be lazy. Think about the easiest possible workflows for your website. From keeping it updated to making sure that the output is as automated and efficient as possible. Don’t waste effort copying emailed enquiries into your CRM system – hook them up so it happens automatically. Think about routing sales enquiries automatically to the right team members.How can your publishing efforts reach as many people as possible? Through content syndication…
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/landscape_leadership/5451695686/sizes/o/in/set-72157625945078897/…this is when you connect up different websites and services so that your content is visible to your visitors in as many places as possible. Remember, that most people will spend most of their time on websites that aren’t yours. You need to get your content off your site and into their email inbox or social network.What this slide doesn’t show is the return process of this feedback loop. The point of getting your content out to these other locations is to encourage more visitors to come back to your site.
An important principle of being lazy is not to waste effort.
To avoid wasting effort, you need to know what’s wasted effort and what’s worthwhile effort. There’s no way to know this without listening to what your visitors are telling you through their behaviour. What blog posts attract comments and social sharing? Which don’t? What are the most and least popular pages on your site?Take successful content and pages and try variations – try to work out what made them popular.
AMRAP = As Many Repetitions As PossibleThe more loops of this process you complete, the better you will understand where you can add value to your website.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theplanetdotcom/4878805439/sizes/l/in/photostream/So far I’ve talked mainly about the business side of your website. Websites are complex, technological things though, so we also need to cover off some technical requirements.
SaaS = Software as a Service like Google Docs or Salesforce.com
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/5929622407/sizes/l/in/photostream/At this point, we’re finally in a position to evaluate the costs and requirements of the website.
There are more options for organisations to create their own website now than ever before, including some excellent options like WordPress.com and Shopify. Sometimes, especially for low budgets, these off-the-shelf options are the most appropriate solution.However, there’s a massive difference between a website and a GOOD website. By looking at a website as an investment and understanding the objectives and value that a website can return for your business, you’ll be in a great position to evaluate what you can afford to invest in the initial and on-going costs of a website.
cc image courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jemstone/9540487/sizes/l/in/photostream/Here are a few final points I’d like you to take away.
CopyrightDavid Lockie 2011
David Lockie at WP-Brighton 2011 - Planning a successful website
Planning a Successful Website<br />David Lockie<br />
Housekeeping<br />CC photo courtesy of blodgettesq.<br />
Can you answer these questions?<br />What do you do?<br />What are your brand & identity?<br />What are your key messages?<br />Who are your competitors and what are they doing online?<br />
How about these?<br />What business purpose will your website serve?<br />What are the specific objectives you want your website to achieve?<br />What actual money value can you put against these objectives?<br />What are your targets for the website?<br />
You need to be able to answer these questions simply and quickly<br />
A Sitemap<br />Home<br />About<br />Products<br />Products for men<br />Products for women<br />News & Blog<br />Contact Us<br />(excludes legal stuff, sitemap, etc)<br />
Maps and journeys<br />How does your content link to your goals?<br />
Calls to Action<br />CC photo courtesy of twicepix<br />
Ask your visitors to do something that adds value to your business<br />
For example:<br />Buy something<br />Contact you (by form, email or phone)<br />Give you their contact details<br />Create a relationship or conversation on social media or on your site<br />Tell other people about you<br />Spend longer looking at more pages of your site<br />
Key Commercial Decisions<br />Do you need professionals, or can you use off-the-shelf options and in-house skills?<br />Who might you need? Internal Project Manager, Copywriter, Designer, Developer<br />Timeline<br />Budget<br />Deliverables<br />Project Management<br />
Final Thoughts<br />CC photo courtesy jemstone<br />
Start with the simplest version you can, then learn what works<br />A good website is never finished - what does your Phase 2 look like?<br />A website should always be an investment, not a cost<br />Always build your website for your visitors, not for yourself<br />
Any Questions?<br />David Lockie<br />@divydovy<br />www.divydovy.com<br />