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A new website? Plan for success!

Mar 11, 2021 by Mark Baines Category: Websites 0 comments

A new website calls for a Plan. What is a website Plan? Well, it’s not a ‘back-of-a-fagpacket’ kind of plan. A Website Redesign Project Plan is a properly structured, timed Plan with a critical path and waypoints.

Planning a website is the key to success; without it, your new website risks becoming a mess, where success happens more through luck than design. With a proper Website Project Plan, you can be sure that the success you had hoped for will happen – or at least you will have done all you can to make success possible.

So here’s an example of what your new Website Project Plan could look like and include. It shows you how to create it, and will take you through all the steps you need for your new website to be successful:

Website Planning

Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

Objective setting:

Clarify your purpose, because if you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there? Therefore be clear on your objectives, which should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) so they mean something. These can be measured in relation to targets, and your success can be tracked by setting up a series of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Though do limit the number of these, as if you have too many you will just make it more difficult to focus.

Study the stats:

There are statistical analyses of all aspects of your existing website. These are extremely valuable and should be studied closely. They will guide you in all aspects of your UX (User Experience) and UJ (User Journeys), as well as give you helpful insights on visitors’ content preferences and browsing activities. Most importantly, they will tell you what Search Terms visitors are using to find your website. This will guide you in the construction of your website so that you will come higher up on Google’s Search Results Pages, and your Conversion Rate will be higher.

Understand your customers:

To be successful you need to have a clear picture of your customers. The more specific you can be about your target groups, the more the style and tone of voice can be customised to them. Sometimes this even involves creating ‘Personas’ – conceptual avatars that make it easier for the whole team to visualise each target group.  The more you understand who and why visitors come to your website, and the better you understand their buying motives and criteria, the more successful you will be!

Know your competition:

‘Know thine enemy’: think like Machiavelli or Jack Trout and Al Ries, the marketing academics. Don’t even start to design your website until you have discovered your competitive differentiation. Your website will only be successful if you have something better to offer than your competitors. It will be 'positioned against them in the minds of your customers and prospects'; so you must know what the competition are offering, and how to better it.

Strategy creation – messages and positioning:

All the above activities lead to your strategy – ie ‘how you are going to get there’. A clear strategy will deliver a simple website, which visitors understand and which leads them to fulfil your objectives – eg engage with you, buy from you, remember and admire your brand. Without a strategy you will achieve nothing and confuse visitors, with a weak strategy you are very unlikely to achieve your objectives, but with a strong strategy, clearly communicated, success is within your grasp!

Functionality requirements:

Now is the time to work out what you will need in your website. Decisions have to be made at this stage, as these will direct your planning, wireframes and choice of platform. If you try to add in functionality at a later date, eg ‘related products’ appearing at the bottom of product pages, it will be very expensive to implement and will throw your UJ into disarray.

Wireframes:

Planning each page content and all the links may sound like an obvious and unnecessary thing to do, but the benefit is that then everyone in your team knows what goes where. It also means that the UJ that you want can be planned in at this stage; this will enable you to test it, check the logic of your click paths and influence the UX.

Website planning

CMS selection:

It’s not always about WordPress, even though it is the market leader and 30-40% of the world’s websites use it (including 15% of the world’s top 100 websites). There are lots of other platforms, each with their own distinct benefits and drawbacks. Even Headless is growing in popularity. If you’ve done your prep work above, you’ll then be in a position to choose which is the best one for your website.

Content creation:

You are now ready to prepare your content. This will include the copy and pictures, as well as deciding which parts you want to feature and which are there to act as support to the main strategy. There will be a lot of writing and repurposing of content going on, especially if there is a change of strategy from before. You'll be busy...

SEO of content:

All your new content should be checked for the effectiveness of its SEO. This means each page should have a shortlist of Search Terms that it will be designed to respond to. Have the Search criteria been met? Are the key words and phrases repeated often enough – or too much? This is a vital stage of the process as all websites have to perform well on Google: inbound marketing and lead generation, brand reputation, database building and engagement practices – these are the things that will determine over time just how successful your website is.

Design:

It’s only at this stage that you want to start designing your website. Too many people rush to put design first, which sets them up to fail. It’s vital to go through the prep-steps above so you are not designing ‘blind’. The design has to follow all the above steps, otherwise you will spend all your budget designing the wrong website - trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Build:

Probably the most complex and lengthy part of the process, building the site can be simple or complicated, depending on all the factors above. If you have done your prep correctly it will be as smooth and low cost as is possible, but if you add/deduct elements, or change your mind – the costs and timing will ramp up exponentially.

Content population:

It always sounds easier than it actually turns out to be! The better you have planned and the closer you have stuck to your plan, the easier and quicker it will be. It’s a good time to become familiar with your CMS, so that as you develop your dynamic content, or work on your SEO, you are more able to make it work for you. It’s worth checking if the process can’t be automated.

Testing:

This where even the best-laid plans can come unstuck, because you and your team of testers are basically trying to break the system. However, no matter how hard you have tried, there will always be one aspect of your new site that doesn’t work; the important thing is to find it before your visitors do, because they won’t tell you – they’ll just leave and go to one of your competitors instead!

Launch:

At last, all eyes are on you as you give birth to what is a defining presentation of your brand and organisation. No pressure then! Make sure everyone in your organisation knows about it – it’s important that they hear about if from you, so you can introduce it in the way you would like it.

Ongoing SEO:

Don’t overlook the importance of those time-consuming 301 redirects, as you will not be popular if the new website sinks in the SERPs. And don’t forget the most important thing: that this is just the start of the journey – if your company is to prosper this new website will have to be on the first page of Google for all your important Search Terms. So get to work, marketers!

 

With your Plan complete, you can be sure that you have left no stone unturned to create an effective, attractive, responsive, functional and ultimately successful new website.

At Marcom, we’re experts with specialists in all aspects of website planning and creation, so if you would like any help or support with planning a website, please do contact me, Mark Baines.