Planning Your New Business Website

By failing to plan, you’re planning to fail

This statement has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and a procession of business gurus. Whoever said it first, however, this oft quoted adage couldn’t be more apposite than in the bewildering world of the web. Few businesses plan their websites intelligently. Rather, as often as not, they commission a site simply because they “thought they ought to have one”.

In turn, developers are generally more concerned with the site’s look, feel and technical functionality than its commercial application. Small wonder then, that so many sites provide little more than online brochure ware. And missed opportunity. Properly planned, your website should contribute towards your business’ development – providing a global platform on which to:

  • Build brand awareness and reputation
  • Expand your market reach
  • Generate, qualify and convert new leads
  • Showcase new services
  • Slash your marketing and transactional costs
  • Communicate with potential business partners, staff, investors and the media
  • Deliver better and more timely customer service
  • Sell more products more profitably
  • Enhance the lifetime value of your customers

The onus is on you to define your requirements: to determine what is achievable (in the context of your available budget, your customers’ needs and your own online ambitions) and to create a detailed project plan, setting down:

  • Your aims and objectives (to sell? generate enquiries? service existing customers?)
  • The content (text, images and video) that you wish to include
  • The manner in which you’d like that content to be presented
  • And of course: the desired technical functionality – which, depending on the nature of your business, could comprise anything from a simple enquiry form to a full-blown online store.

Setting down your technical, creative and commercial objectives in a language developers understand eliminates miscommunication enabling you to put your website out to tender, confident that you’ll receive like-for-like cost quotations, backed by realistic delivery schedules.

And there’s more good news: effective website planning is a process, which can be easily learned. It begins with a little navel gazing.

Or, more specifically, an honest and objective assessment of your business – its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. How you started out, where you are today, where you see yourself five or ten years from now – and, of course, your ambitions for online – all contribute to your company profile which, in turn, provides the starting point for your website plan.

Just a few topics your profile should cover include:

  • Your business’ history and culture
  • An overview of your products and/or services – your specialisms and core competences
  • Profiles of your key people – their experience, skills and achievements
  • Your current position in the marketplace – and that of your key competitors
  • Any anticipated threats to your business – or indeed potential opportunities
  • Why you’ve been successful to date – and those areas where you might need additional support (ecommerce, for instance)
  • What you hope to achieve in future, both on and offline.

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