Building a website is a feat. But it’s not as scary as it may seem! Knowing what needs to be done and creating a plan to do it is half the battle. And the best thing about websites? You can edit, update, and change at any point. Nothing is set in stone.
There are three steps you should take before you even think about designing your website. It doesn’t matter if you’re DIYing or working with a designer OR if this is for a new website or a redesign. Doing these three things will ensure your website is prepped for success...
Step #1: Know Your Audience
It is SO important to understand who your target audience is before you create your website. These are the people that will get the most value from your product or service (a.k.a. your ideal clients, dream clients, new best friends). Know what their interests, desires, and frustrations are so that you can create content and structure your website to appeal to them. (This is something that would be covered in your brand strategy so this step should be easy!)
It’s OK if your website turns some people off. If you try to appeal to everybody, you’ll end up appealing to nobody. It’s all about your niche! Tweet this.
After you have a clear, deep understanding of your target audience, answer the following questions:
- How does your business help solve your target audience’s main frustrations?
- Why might they hesitate to purchase your product or service?
- How does your product or service give your clients what they desire?
- What questions do your clients often ask?
(Answers to these questions will give you an outline for your content!)
Step #2: Plan Your Pages
The next step is to determine what pages your website will need. Most websites use the same basic pages: Homepage, Blog, About, Contact, Products/Services, and Portfolio. Each has a specific focus, but can look very different from business to business.
The following are examples of each type of page, with examples from successful online entrepreneurs.
The Queen Bey of your website, your homepage is the most important page on your site. Whenever someone navigates directly to your website (i.e. enters your domain name), this is where they’ll land. Your goal here is to grab their attention, guide them through the rest of your site, and convert them into a lead.
Melyssa Griffin does a fantastic job of all three goals on her homepage. She uses a colorful banner image to drive traffic to her top lead magnet, a free resource library. Directly below, she has a section that guides her website visitors to one of three calls-to-action: sign up for her free workshop, view her e-courses, or join her Facebook community. Melyssa’s website does a great job of capturing her website visitors through super-useful content and converting them into email list subscribers (the key to monetizing your online business!)
This is where your potential customers go to learn more about you and your company. You can share your brand story, personal story, manifesto, mission, or anything else you think your audience would want to know about that’s related to your business. It’s important to remember that your audience isn’t coming here to learn about you so much as what you can do for them.
Think of this page as your first date. Don’t divulge your whole life story and don’t scare them away with TMI. Instead, communicate that you understand their situation and how you can help.
Copywriter Nikki Elledge Brown is the master of the About page. So much so that she created a five-part recipe to follow (which I use on my About page). She shares it in her free copywriting video training series...sign up for her emails on her site to get it!
This page typically includes your basic contact information (address, email, phone number, social media links) and a contact form. You may also want to use a brief block of text that informs your audience of your office hours, earliest availability, tips for contacting you, etc. Contact forms are important because people are more likely to fill out a (short) contact form than send you an email directly.
I’ve also seen a lot of service providers include FAQs on their contact page. (I do this, too!) It’s a great way to help answer common questions before someone contacts you.
Nesha of neshawoolery.com has a simple but effective contact page. As an online entrepreneur she doesn’t need to include standard contact information like phone number and address. Instead she uses a contact form to gather general inquiries and directs visitors to contact her at separate email addresses for her Shelancers Club and design services.
You probably don’t need me to tell you how important a blog is to your business. But, blogging is THE best way to drive traffic to your website from Google and other search engines. (They looove fresh content!)
One of my favorite lifestyle blogs, DesignLoveFest, is a testament to the power of blogging. The founder, Bri Emery has launched a successful studio, workshop, and even her own bottle of wine. (Cheers to that!)
Also called “Work With Me”, this is where you pitch your products or services. Typically this page includes detailed information about your offering, as well as testimonials, pricing, FAQs, and a strong Call to Action to purchase your product or book your service.
Carly Pollack clearly outlines her nutrition coaching services by detailing her process, features, benefits, and results.
For creative entrepreneurs, this is where you showcase your work. Images of your work can be presented via a gallery (grid layout of images—shown below), slideshow (rotating series of images), or as static stacked images. If you have a large, diverse body of work, you may want to use several pages to organize similar content together.
I love, love, love Jill Greenberg’s work and it’s presented beautifully in her online portfolio. The simple four-column grid layout allows her work to stand out.
Step #3: PLAN YOUR CONTENT
Now that you know what pages your website will have, it’s time to take it a step further and plan the content for each page. Text and images are the “meat and potatoes” of your website. Without quality content, your website has no substance.
Start by determining what your top goal for each page is. In other words, what action do you want your visitors to take? This will be your Call to Action. CTAs are important to guide visitors through your website and to capture their interest. Common CTAs include subscribing to your email list, downloading something, making a purchase, navigating to another page, reading your blog posts, and contacting you.
Then plan how you want to organize the content for each page. Do you have an image banner at the top of the page? Embed a video? Use a “Start Here” section to give your visitors multiple options?
Pro tip: place your most important content at the top of the page. Your visitors will be more likely to see it and take action.
To make this step easier, I created an editable Website Content Planner. It outlines popular types of content, includes links to the best sources for free high-quality stock photos, and has a page-by-page guided planner to help you plan the content for your website. (All of my clients use this same planner!)
Easily plan your website with this step-by-step guide
Now that you know who your audience is, what pages your website needs, and what content to use, it’s just a matter of creating! With a clear plan and content outline in place, it will make designing your website a breeze.
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