In the beginning, there’s a plan.
Now that you’ve made the decision to put a shiny new business Web site among the tens of millions of others on the internet, you’re no doubt in a hurry to see the face of your company looking back from the screen – slick, professional, inviting, with eye-catching graphics and exciting text that just begs new customers to check you out.
But right now it’s important to take a breath, clear your mind and plan, plan, plan. A well-thought-out blueprint will guide all the other decisions you’ll make in the next 10 steps.
It can also help you avoid spending more than you need. Skimp on planning, and you’ll have problems down the road.
In this step we’ll cover:
- Defining your Customers and Mission
- Choosing and Buying your Domain Name
- Text, Images and other Graphic Elements
- Budgets, and Who Does What
Now let’s get going.
Defining your Customers and Mission
You may think this goes against common sense, but the essence of your Web site isn’t really about you. What? It’s true. Sure, it presents your business face to the world and you’ll carefully make choices later on to put that together.
But your Web site is a specialized tool, one that enables you to reach countless new customers and, if it’s a retail site, sell to them and process their purchases.
Here, your primary purpose is to know your customers so well that you answer any questions they might have before they ask, then make it easy for them to buy what you’re selling.
This bedrock principle applies whether you’re creating a one- or two-page site that simply tells who you are and where you can be reached by e-mail, snail mail and phone; or a fully functioning retail site with hundreds, even thousands, of pages and a “shopping cart” that let’s your buyers collect products and pay for them, comfortable that their financial and other personal data are secure.
Exactly who are they and what do you know about them, what they want, what they need, what they don’t know they need, what gives them the willies on the Web?
- How old are they? Are they men, women, kids?
- What do they expect when they come to a company like yours?
- How smart are they and what specific talents or skills do they have?
- Where do they live? What are those places like?
- Are they Web savvy or are they just beginning to use it? In either case, what are their concerns about doing business on the Web – what scares them off?
Answer those questions, and any others that suit the specific customer you’ve now identified, and you’ll know how to go forward in writing your raison d’être, your reason for being – your mission.
You’ll tell them why you’re qualified to do what you do, and why your company is unique and better than the competition. You’ll tell them exactly how you’ll serve their needs right here, right now, on your Web site. You’ll sell your company as one that knows they, too are unique, and that you’ve tailored your goods, services and shopping experience to these special people.
Now, draw a simple diagram of your Web site, starting with the home page and proceeding – as your customer would – from page to page to page. Keep it simple – more detail comes later.