Website Planning Guide – Part 1

After much research and planning, and some very helpful feedback from my peers, I've put together a quick package for any business looking to get online.

This is Part 1 of a 2 part a primer, of sorts, to get you off on the right foot. There is also a quick questionnaire which would help any designer get a feel for you and your business, and help make you the best site possible. (Though I hope you do choose me!)

Website Planning Guide – Introduction

Last updated February 04, 2012

Excited? You should be!Developing a new website can be a challenge, but we’d like to get you online without all that hassle.

Getting off on the right foot, and laying good foundations for your new website is key to creating a kick-ass online presence that will make you look savvy and professional. This quick guide is meant to help you figure out what you need from your website, and help you decide what it can do for you. At the very least, this guide will help you get started asking yourself the right questions – right from the beginning.

Why Plan?

Planning is essential – without planning we’d still be banging rocks together – but still, when it comes to creating a new website the planning phase is often rushed, or overlooked completely. I get it, I’m a business owner too, the ever-busy dynamic nature of running a business has so many demands who has the time? Well, the challenge is to make the time – remember – your website is the #1 marketing tool you have, it’s definitely not something to take lightly!

Planning out a new website can be a lot like hiring a contractor to build you a house. There are many considerations, if you call up and ask any contractor “How much for new house?”, the only right answer is “It Depends.” It depends on how big you want it, how you want to roof it, how many floors, or if it needs special Italian marble floors. A good contractor will help you figure out these needs, and put it together for you, perfectly, the first time. A failure to plan could easily make your new house a huge headache!

But back to websites, improper planning can cost more money to fix than if it was spent planning in the first place. For example, a designer may make assumptions, which may or may not be correct; the back and forth communication on trivial things can begin to add up; Backtracking and redo’s can delay or create cost overruns; Unforseen work may end up costing more money than was planned for; and dissatisfaction can take over as the project ends up being a big pain for both parties.

Where to start?

The biggest point is that the site must work with your overall marketing plan. Everything you do outside of your website should be reflected in your site, that is, the marketing tone and your aesthetic.

A website beyond all the shiny bits, is really a marketing tool. Think about what you want your website to do for you, set yourself some goals. Do you want your website to drive traffic to your store? Do you want people to call you and book an appointment? Maybe you want people to buy your products, right from the online store? Either way, having a clear goal helps us build the website to really funnel people towards your desires, and this can be the biggest different between having a site that returns on your investment, or one that doesnt. In many ways, this is the most important consideration, and it should permeate all aspects of the new site.

Think about the Content

Websites are fun and interactive, the best websites are beautiful -and- functional. Unless you want the most boring website imaginable, a lot of time and effort needs to be put into your content.

  • Photography

    Photography really reflects your business, bad photography can reflect badly on you – but good photography can give the impression that you’re a quality, respectable company. In most instances, unless you have some pretty good skills with a camera you wont be snapping the sort of photos you want to represent your business. Try to budget for professional photos – remember, 6 professionally done photos is better than 60 amateur photos!

    Eggplant Studios has connections with local photographers, and we can negotiate and arrange all the photo shoots for you. Also, you may want to consider stock photography, which can sometimes be your best option.

  • Writing

    As with photography, good writing skills aren’t in everyone. It’s even harder to find someone whose able to write good marketing material. Good marketing copy needs to address a specific audience – and professional copywriters are amazing at this. Because setting a tone, and speaking to your target audience in a clear and concise way, while addressing their needs and leading them towards your goals, is so important it should be forefront of your considerations. Your readers will appreciate being able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, without being bogged down by an online novel.

    Eggplant works very closely with some of the most talented writers in the valley (such is the benefit of working at the local newspaper), not only are they experts at editing, they often deal with local businesses for profiles and magazine features. Additionally, Eggplant Studios works closely with marketing professionals who can help you come up with content that works!

  • Features

    Consider the types of features you want in your new website. Do you want Video, or flash? Would you like to have slideshows, image galleries or nice pop-ups for your photos? Would you like to have a blog? Would you like to edit your own site with a powerful CMS (content management system)? These sorts of interactive bits really take a website to the next level, plus, they can be really fun to put together. We know this stuff works is a mystery to most, so ask – we’d love to explain it, talk about the best way to implement it, and see if they’re worth it for your business.

  • Structure

    Next we need to think about how it’s all going to come together. What sorts of pages do you need? Most sites have 3 key pages, a landing or Index page, an About page, and a Contact page. Really focus on what you want to feature on your website, and see how you can categorize that into pages. Most websites have between 3 and 7 main pages; see if you can find a way to pare-down your ideas to the most important aspects. Sometimes, the fewer the pages the better.

Putting it all together:

That’s where we come in. Eggplant Studios prides itself on developing strong, powerful websites that work, and work well. If this is your first site, don’t fret, we’re here to help, and we can figure it out together. Getting online can be a big challenge, but we can help you plan it out into easily manageable stages. We can even take a lot of the technical hassle out of it, leaving you with a hands-free experience; don’t worry about domains, hosting or anything, just reap the benefits of your new online presence!

Preparing for your first meeting:

Take a moment to really think about what you want from your website – come prepared with ideas, sketches, questions or anything at all! You may even want to write out your ideas, or start writing some drafts of what you want to say for each of your pages. Either way, it will help us figure out what the best solution for you will be.

Hope to see you soon!