Crafting a website plan that works

If your small business does not yet have a website, you may find this post helpful in gaining understanding of where and how you need to start and what to expect. With today's heavily digitized society, it is no longer enough to just have a yellow page or newspaper listing. To gain new customers, your business will need some dedicated presence online. Otherwise, most online users won't know if you have a business.

What we going to suggest may sound like a lot of information but it is necessary to prepare yourself an effective plan for your website. Planning is everything. Without it success is left to a chance. Who runs a business based on random events? Any website owner who wants to succeed online will need a plan that promises success. A successful plan will give you a clearer direction of accomplishing your online business objectives.

We believe developing an effective plan for a new website need to take minimally into account the following:

  • The objective of the website
  • The targeted customers or audience
  • Content
  • Competition analysis
  • Technical requirements
  • Costs
  • Launch date

Obviously, you may not have the knowledge and experience in gathering such information so you may consider hiring a web agency. Although this post focuses on pointing out the tasks involved or should be involved in planning a website, we will try our best to indicate when help from a third party will be helpful. If you can do all the tasks in the planning stage of the website development, it's even better because you don't have to pay someone do that for you.

Website objective

You want a website for your business for a reason or a number of reasons. Right? No one knows your business and its web requirements more than you do. So you develop a clear objective for your website. Think of what you want your website to do. Do you want it simply present information (such as the services or products you offer, business hours, contact information, etc.)? Do you want to sell on your website? Do you want your website to let your patients make and mange appointments online?

Be clear about what your website needs to accomplish. Make sure it is achievable. A goal that just simply states I want a new website because I want my business to make more money is not probably sufficient. First of all, most websites are created for some financial gain. If you primary driver for your new website is to make more money, you may be disappointed if your website fails to make you money as you anticipated.

The fact is a new website does not start making you money immediately. A new website does not mean more immediate business or money. There are no short-cuts to making money from an online presence. Think of your business. If you built it from scratch, think of the hard work you put into it. The return on your investment was not immediate. It took time and effective management skills to build the customer base. Similarly, a new website takes time to build online recognition of your business before you see any real return on your investment.

To keep disappointments to minimum, we suggest set the right objective from the start. For a new website, define your primary objective in terms of what you want your website to do (and to what extent) for your customers, not what the website do for you, especially financially – as we pointed out in the previous paragraph.

Website audience

The success of your business is dependent on your customers. If your customers come to you because they rely on the quality of your product or services, you can expect to stay in business for long time to come. Similarly, your online success is driven by your online customers or audience. Your online customers will come back to your website if your site convinces them you have what they need now (or in the future).

A website should be targeted to the right audience to grow online, as much as it is true off-line. Are your customers residential or commercial? Are they doctors? Are they car owners? Are they senior citizens? Are they patients? Are they children? Are they teens? Are they listeners (radio listeners) or viewers (TV viewers)?

By knowing who you want to serve online, you have a better idea of what content to serve and in what format. For example, website that is targeted to doctors should assume the doctors know more than patients do. So there is no need to explain medical terms that the average person does not know. On the other hand, a website targeting patients should keep medical jargon to minimum.


It is often said the content is king or content is everything. Content is what your potential customers see, hear, view, do, or even feel when they come to your proposed website. For your website to be successful, your website content has to be relevant to your customer needs or desires.

It is worth mentioning studies indicate on average people spend no more than 10 seconds to browsing a website they visit the first time. During this first brief visit, they can quickly decide they want to stay or leave the website. Most site users leave within 10 seconds because they did not immediately find what they were looking for. Suppose your website is called and a customer lands on this website. He wants to have his house painted but he quickly discovers the site is targeting only commercial building clients, not residential customers. So the customer immediately moves to the next website.

So how does the customer know that the website is not for residential clients? There probably is more than one clue on the home page of the website. First, the site slogan may indicate the targeted customers. For instance, if the slogan reads "for all of your residential painting needs" or "for all of your commercial painting needs" is a very clear way to indicate the targeted customer. Also, there are other clues, such as images. The images may show the employees painting large buildings and commercial structures. Finally, a quick glance at the text on the home page can indicate the targeted audience of the website of this business.

So how do you make your website relevant to your customers or their needs? Regardless of your business, assume you want to serve three special audiences:

  • New customers
  • Existing customers
  • Everyone else (i.e., press, students, job seekers, suppliers, etc.)

Your website's content should address the needs of minimally of the first two audiences because they offer you the best chance of brining you a positive return on your online investments. It is true that initially what you add to the website will be new to everyone. However, you want to do your best to write content that best addresses the needs of your potential customers. One of the ways, you can do this is by reviewing your offline selling practices. How do you sell to your new customers? Think of all the steps you take to ensure why you are better than your competitors. You take a similar approach but with written words, videos, animations, and graphics to attract, retain, and hopefully sell to your potential online customers.

If you have trouble coming up with what content you need to have for your website, try visiting your competitors' websites for ideas. As you observe these websites make a note of the things you like and dislike. Obviously, you want to keep your website content to be unique so we here are not suggesting that your website has to be similar to what your competitors have.

Competition analysis

As we briefly discussed in the previous section, keep an eye on your competitor websites. Why should you have to visit your competitor websites? The short answer is that you should know what they have done on their website so you don't do something similar, particularly what has not worked for them. The bottom line is you want to avoid using techniques, technologies, and suppliers for your website that don't work for you competitors. A few years ago there was a well known European company that used a web content management system that made it harder for the website to appear in top search results. There were other companies that experienced the same problem and had to invest additional recourses to rectify the problem.

In your planning stages, if you avoid considering solutions that are known to be problems for others, you can help yourself stay ahead of competition and reduce risks of failures. Talk with your web agency about clarification on technical jargon or concepts to get a better understanding of what's out there that works and does not work.

Technical requirements

You should have some understanding of what hardware and software you will need to successfully run your website. Ideally, your web development agency will discuss with you what technical solutions you will need based on what you want to accomplish online.

When it comes to choosing a particular web solution, consider:

  • The reliability, and performance. Know its weaknesses. Ask for these if you are not told.
  • Using a technology that is "new" or "cool." Simply, put let your business and online goals dictate your online presence, don't let the technology force your online business decisions.


It should not be a surprise that hardware, software, and internet access costs have reduced dramatically and continue to decrease with time. But it does not mean running a website is free or almost free. At the very minimum, you will incur all or most of the costs shown in table 1. In constructing this table, we are basing the costs on personal experience for a small business website. Depending on the complexity involved, your actual costs of running a website could be substantially lower or higher than what is represented in the table.

Table 1 typical costs of running a website
Costs Low, medium or high? Ongoing?
Acquiring a domain name Low Yes – typically annually
Web server (also web hosting) Low – medium Yes – monthly, semiannually, or yearly
Initial web site design Medium to high No
Marketing the website Low to medium Yes- daily, weekly, monthly, and so on depending on the advertising media.
Website maintenance and monitoring Medium to high Yes
Low = $15
Medium = $100
High = greater than $100

Launch date

Don't forget the launch date for your website. If you want to launch your website next week, it's probably too late to do any real planning! You need ample time not only to do your serious planning but also a consideration for the development, testing, and launch of the website. Based on our experience, we expect the time allocation provided in table 2 for each task leading up to the launch of the website.

Table 2 time guide to website launch date
Task Suggested time required Who performs this task?
Website planning: purpose/concept, functions/features, budgeting, etc. Low to medium You
Developing content High You
Website design, development, and testing Medium to high Your web agency
Website review Low to medium You
Implementing the changes you propose. Low to medium Your web agency
Launching Low to medium Your web agency
Low = a few weeks
Medium = month
High = over a month
You = small business owner

As the table suggests, it can take months to turn a website idea into virtual reality. Please note the complexity of your website may require more development times than what we are suggesting here. However, if your ideal website is simple or just one-page, your website could be ready for a launch considerably sooner.

If you have an idea for your business website, let us turn it into an online success for many years to come! Think about the time and the money you will save by leaving this task to the pros. Get in touch with us today to discuss the possibilities of growing your business online.

Posted on 5/7/2011 2:50:40 PM