11 Tips For Planning an Effective Web Site

Effective Websites require intelligent planning from the start. Here are 11 questions related to marketing, functionality and web designers to consider in the planning stage and before building your website.

1. Consider how you will promote your site — The key to Web site success is Web traffic or drawing people to the site. Promoting your site (and your business) might mean traditional tools like business cards, advertising, speaking and writing articles. Or you might want to use internet marketing promote your business nationwide or worldwide like an email newsletter, blog, search engines, affiliate programs and social media networking. Having a marketing strategy in place while developing the site means the site’s success can be designed in from the start.

2. Know your audience — This is an aspect of a good marketing plan. Are your customers Web savvy and do they turn to the Web when they are looking for a service or product like yours? Also, what are the ages, class and lifestyle of your typical client and how do you appeal to them visually? Getting the visual cues right is part of your Web designers’ job, but you need to have a sense for this too.

3. Decide what is your most wanted response – Another marketing plan kind of question. Do you want visitors to your Web site to call you, sign up for an email newsletter, or buy a product? Maybe you want them to bookmark your site as a resource. If you have more than one desired response, prioritize them to help you focus your marketing copy.

4. Look at Web sites in your profession — Find three Web site examples you like and write down their web address so you can share these with your web designer. You might want to note features you dislike as well. You’re not only identifying possibilities for your site, you are giving your web designer an idea of what you and the people in your field look for in a Web site.

5. Evaluate the content you have or your ability to write content — Will you produce the copy or hire a copy writer? We know that it’s the copy on your site that sells you or your product. Without good copy you can just forget about Internet sales.

And at the same time writing the copy can often be the most challenging and most time consuming part of putting together a Web site. Even good writers find it hard to write about themselves or understand what goes into good marketing copy.

I encourage people to write the first drafts because you know your business better then anyone else. And you learn so much from writing about you business. But do hire a copy writer to give you feedback or help you polish the final drafts. If you feel your inability to write is what is standing between you and the Web, by all means hire help.

6. Don’t self-censor your ideas — There may be a web site feature that you think would be great for your site but that you believe would be too costly to develop or host — don’t be afraid to ask your web designer about it. Many impressive features are surprisingly easy to incorporate into a site and cost less then you might think. (The reverse is also true. Other seemingly simple features can be more expensive then some people might expect.)

7. Consider navigation — The structure of a Web site needs to make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for. Information for most businesses will break down into natural categories — but be careful just following that breakdown. What may seem obvious and natural to you may be meaningless to a potential client. You can expect your Web designer to help you plot out the navigation.

8. Dream up one or more Domain Names — Since browsers (both the software kind and the human kind) generally default to the “.com” domain, it’s worth the effort to find a “.com” domain name that works for your business. There are lot’s of sites that allow you to check availability (and register) domain names. We recommend godaddy.com; we’ve been using them for years. Be sure to hold onto the login and password information you use to register the domain name — this is important when it comes time to launch your site, and is difficult to recover.

9. Updates–Assess how often you will need to update your site — If you will be doing frequent updates, bring this up with your Web designer at the start. It may be worth the investment to include tools in the site to allow you to make updates yourself.

10. Search Engines—Consider whether search engines will play a big or small role in promoting your site. If you plan to focus on Internet marketing then it can be important to plan the site around this.

11. Find the right people to help you build the site –Find a web designer who is responsive and accessible. You need to feel comfortable with them and they need to be able to work with you so that you can make informed decisions regarding your site. Do ask your friends for referrals or call references. When investing in a Web site you must hire someone who is responsible and gives you the profitable site you desire.

Also, look at their portfolio. Maybe this designer hasn’t designed a site just like the one you have in mind, but do you like some of their designs? If all the designs in their portfolio are very similar, then you must like their style.

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