Website Planning…who has the time?

Rewind to 1994

I was studying computer programming and systems analysis (I was the oldest in my class and a mother of two young children), at that time we could only create webpages with actual code.  Back then, being able to code a an entire webpage in code meant you were in with the cool crowd and that was the only important thing…the coding, not the crowd.  Website planning was done as a ton of wireframe sketches which we had to document the heck out of.

website planning html coding

Fast forward to today

I’m seeing a trend with approximately 75% of the creative female entrepreneurs that reach out to me only focus on how “pretty” a website looks and how to sell their goods.  In addition, they…

  • don’t have a website or
  • have a website that doesn’t do what they want it to
  • want a website, but don’t know where to start
  • don’t have the skills to build it themselves
  • have a shoestring budget

Let me tell you a story.

Here’s a real scenario that was doomed from the start, but has a happy ending.  For privacy protection, we’ll call this potential customer “Mary” and she just developed a new product line of greetings cards.


Mary wants a website and says: “I want a website designed for my new greeting card line,  how much will this cost?


Secretly, I’ve always wanted to answer “I want you to build me a house, I don’t know the size, number of floors, location or style I want.  How much will it cost?”  duh!

greeting card business
Mary is asked a series of website planning questions:

  • Do you have a logo?  I don’t have a logo, I’ll whip one up in Word
  • Do you have brand colours?  I want red, blue,purple, orange and green for my website colours, the neon kinds that stand out.
  • Do you have brand fonts?  There are 4 fonts I really like, they are whimsical and really look different
  • What feeling will a visitor get when visiting the site?  I just want her to buy my greeting cards, wait, I also want to add neon pink to the website
  • Who are the people that will buy your products?  Everyone
  • What are the goals for your website?  to sell greeting cards
  • Have you considered blogging?  never thought about it, can’t be bothered, I don’t have the time and can’t see the point of it.  I just want to sell my greeting cards
  • Do you have a bio written for your About page – just use my name and a button so they can buy my greeting cards.  My name can be that neon pink, no wait, maybe it should be neon green.
  • Do you have product images?  I took pictures with my phone, the lighting wasn’t very good and I took the pictures on my work table, but you can make them look good right?  you can remove all the stuff in the background?  
  • Do you have product descriptions written out?  the website doesn’t need descriptions, the picture will sell the cards, but we can put the descriptions in really big letters
  • When are you looking at launching the website?  I have to have the website within a week, I have a craft show next week and have new business cards already printed to hand out.  I’m not going to be home for the next 3 days, so you can figure it out.  
  • What is your budget?  $500, but I want it to look really good.

At face value, you may think this is not someone I would want to work with right?  In reading this myself, I would agree with that.  But remember, there is a happy ending.


Let’s go through a website planning process first.. actually, it’s more of a pre-planning process because a lot of the important work happens even before you plan the actual website.  Think of the pre-planning stage as the blueprint.


When website planning or pre-planning a website, there are a few things that are really important and at a minimum includes:

  • a logo that needs to be top notch – it represents “who” you are
  • establishing a brand that is consistent is key – so people recognize you and start to trust you
  • Identify the ideal customer profiles and how they change in the business cycle – so you can market to the “right” people
  • build credibility so people get to know, like and trust you – blogging in conjunction with social media and an email list is great for this
  • getting clear on what the goals are and why they are the goals you’ve chosen – so you can stay super focused and get things done.  Helps avoid “shiney object” syndrome.

All of this needs to be figured out before the website design process starts.

website planning and branding starts in the office
Like a house, you start with a blueprint.  I often explain website planning as if you were building a house.


Now I’m not an architect or a house builder, but this is how I can vision the process:

  • what do you want the house to look like
  • how many bedrooms and bathrooms
  • how big of a kitchen
  • how many floors
  • full basement or crawl space
  • where to you want to build this house?
  • arrange the equipment rentals
  • buy the materials
  • hire contractors
  • build the foundation
  • setup the structure
  • setup the things that make the house function such as electrical, plumbing, insulation
  • make it look good with paint, appliances, accessories/decor and furniture
  • open the doors

The exact same process can be used when planning a website, regardless if you are designing it yourself or having a designer to it for you.  Planning the entire process might take time up front, but it will save you so much money the road and a ton of aggravation.


Realistically, Mary was looking at a minimum 6-8 week launch date for her new website.


Hey, I’m not going to burst anyone’s bubble.. she’s now on board with the pre-planning process…but what about the deadline?

website planning lightbulb momentMary being so excited about her new product line, got business cards printed up with her website address and is planning on handing them out at a craft show next week.

So here’s what happened.


Mary didn’t need a complicated website immediately, but needed something for the show.  She had a lightbulb moment!  


A one page website with an intro, opt-in, pictures of the cards, events, short bio and a contact section.  


Simple and effective.


Neutral colours and fonts were used, allowing the emphasis to be on section headlines, a bio photo and new product photos.


With a simple one page website visitors were able to:

  • know who Mary is
  • know what the products are
  • types of people that would enjoy her products
  • opt-in to an email list to be notified of new products, craft shows and when online ordering will be available
  • a list of craft shows that she’ll be at
  • a way for people to contact her


[clickToTweet tweet=”When website planning goes right, things just seem to flow beautifully during the building stage.” quote=”When website planning goes right, things just seem to flow beautifully during the building stage.” theme=”style6″]


So take a deep breath and plan with the time you have. Don’t rush through it or you’ll end up fixing it during the building stage.


If you find yourself getting stuck on the planning stage, learn how to plan your website using the same steps I use for my VIP clients.  Nothing is held back.

 

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