A website is one of the greatest tools an entrepreneur has to help him or her build a successful business. In fact, it’s been estimated that nearly 50% of a website’s success hinges on how well it is planned out before construction begins. But there are some common mistakes that can derail a well-intentioned site. And when these mistakes are made, the results can often be catastrophic for the business.
Many solopreneurs struggle with the planning process and are confused by the huge amount of information online. This is a step-by-step guide to help you plan a website.
What’s the Goal of the Website?
There’s no point in having a website if you don’t have a clear objective for your audience. Without a clear goal, your audience won’t be able to tell whether or not they’re on track towards solving their problem or if they’re even in the right place. That makes it hard to understand whether or not you’re actually accomplishing anything, which is what the purpose of a website is all about. Your objectives should be short and specific, and ideally, they should include measurable results.
Your website should be updated to help people get stuff done and to solve problems. They can be used for education, entertainment, communication, or any number of other purposes. But when you’re planning a website, think about the specific objective or purpose of your site. Does it help the user do something? For example, if you have a site that sells coaching services , your goal is to educate your visitors through a blog and content marketing, build an email list of warm leads and then convert those leads into customers.
What Type of Person is Visiting Your Website?
When you’re planning your website, it’s important to consider who’s going to be visiting your site.
- Who is your target audience?
- Why are they visiting your website?
- What questions are they asking before arriving at your site?
- What problems do they need you to solve?
- What are they looking for specifically on your website?
Although you want a website that’s visually attractive to your target audience, knowing this information ahead of time will help you with the website plan and to make sure your site has the content needed to help answer these questions and leads you into the next planning stage.
What Information Needs to be on Your Website?
One of the most critical parts of planning any website is its content. The first part of any site plan is defining what information needs to be on the website. This can vary widely depending on the company and the type of product or service you’re selling, but it will always start with the following questions:
- What is the primary reason a user will visit the site?
- How can I attract their attention?
- What marketing content is needed to convert them into a lead?
- What’s the process or steps your visitor needs to take to work with you?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to be put in place for your site.
Tip: as your business evolves, your website will evolve, including the content. Don’t feel pressured that you have to get the words written perfectly in the beginning. Perfection doesn’t exist.
What do you want the site to look like?
- what colour theme are you looking at?
- what fonts do you want to use?
- what image style resonates with your ideal customer?
Your Website Structure
At this point, creating a sitemap helps visualize your website’s structure without going into any tech. You can sketch out your site’s main pages and the page hierarchy. This is especially useful for those who are building a new site or updating an old one.
You can think of this as creating a visual outline of your website. This ensures that the content your website visitor need to see won’t be forgotten.
This becomes the “blueprint” and is the backbone of your site, dictating where pages go and what content appears on each one. There are many different ways to sketch this out, but here are some basics to get you started:
- A home page that outlines your key message so your website visitor instantly knows if they are in the right place. Your home page will also act as a condensed version of your website, linking out to key areas. It will include sections for your value statement, main services or products with a summary of your offer, features, benefits, transformation, faq and a call to action.
- Create subpages for key areas of your business, such as
- a page for each product or service
- an about page
- a dedicated page for frequently asked questions
- a contact page
- shipping and returns
- a blog
- Create a list of 4-5 topics for your blog. These could include what questions your audience is asking, a myth buster or a tutorial. If you’re stuck on this part, I’ve written a blog post “How to Create Blog Content Fast” and “How to Write Your First Blog Post” to should get you started quickly.
- A list of items in the main menu of your site, such as Home, About, Products/Services, Blog & Contact.
- A list of items for the footer which can include the remaining pages that aren’t as important. Your footer should also include your business name.
Write Your Draft Copy for your Website
The first thing you need to do is to write copy for your site. Your draft copy should include all of the information that you want to include on your site and remember, a draft isn’t perfect. Right now, just get the content written. You can do this with pen and paper, but using your favorite text editor such as Word or Docs, start by writing the main heading for the first page of your site. (you’ll have one document for every page in your website structure or outline). For the example below, start with the About page.
The next step is to write down your first paragraph of your site which I like to call the branding statement for your hero section. In general, you could start with a sentence like, “Hi, I’m [your name] and the owner of [company name].” Then, you can write a sentence that says, “I started [company name] because [your why]” This should be a sentence that describes the beginning of your business. The last paragraph should describe what you have done since you started your business. You should write a sentence that says, “My goal is to help [target audience] + [problem you solve] + [benefit your target audience gets].
Once you’re at this stage, if you are feeling the flow for writing, continue on. If you’re feeling stuck, save your document and move onto the next page.
Create a new document, title it with the next page and write an introduction. Repeat this for every page for your site.
Here are some blog posts I’ve written to help you with each of these pages:
- Contact Page: How to Design a Contact Page that Converts
- Services Page: How to Write Copy for your Services Web Page
- Products Page: How to Stop Writing Boring Product Descriptions
- About Page: How to Write a Simple but Effective About Page
- Home Page Hero Section: How to Write Your Website Branding Statement
What Type of Images Do You Need?
You may be wondering what I mean by “type of images”? Well, it’s a lot more than just a picture of something. It can be an icon, a graphic, or a photo. What matters most is what those images are used for. For example, you wouldn’t use an image of a woman in a bathing suit as a background image for a children’s clothing page. The image would distract from the content, and it would confused your reader because the image isn’t relevant to the content. But if the image is on a webpage to sell children’s swimwear and the photo is of a mom and child both in swimwear, then it makes perfect sense to feature it there. The photos enhance the copy so your reader can visualize it.
There are many sources for free images that are legal to use for commercial purposes.
But you do run the risk of the photos you choose being seen on other websites. Ideally taking your own photos is recommended, but not always feasible.
You can also look at commercial stock photos but they come at a cost. Sites like:
can provide high quality photos and graphics for your website. If you’re just starting out with your first website, stick with the free sites listed above for now.
In this step, you’ll also need your logo. If you don’t have one already, don’t worry, you can refer to this blog post I wrote about how to create a simple logo using Canva (the free version).
You’ll also need a square version of the logo for browser graphics. While reading this blog post, look at your browser tab at the top of your page, the little graphic that shows up, that’s called a Favicon image.
Tip: Unless you’re a well known brand, don’t put too much emphasis on the perfect logo.
What Colour Theme will Your Website Have
Many solopreneurs like to make their websites match the colour scheme of their brand. This is a good idea, because it can create a sense of familiarity and continuity. However, if you want to be different, or if you don’t want your website to look like everyone else’s, then you need to think about the colours you’re using.
When choosing a website colour theme, it is important to consider the overall look and feel of your site. There are many different ways to approach this, and what works best for one person might not be the best choice for another. Some popular colour themes to consider are:
– Professional: This colour scheme is typically used for sites that are professional or high-class. Colors may be muted or bright, and there should be a clear focus on layout and content.
– Contemporary: This color scheme is popular because it looks good on both traditional and modern websites. Colors can be light or bold, but they should still be soft on the eyes. Layout should take precedence over decoration.
– Neutral: This color scheme is perfect for sites that don’t have a specific look or theme. Any color can be used, as long as it is neutral. This is a great option if you want to keep your site versatile and quick to update.
– Vintage: This color scheme is perfect for sites that are retro or vintage-inspired. Colors may be muted with an orange or brown tint.
Here are the 5 steps I use when working with clients when choosing their website colour theme:
- What one colour resonates with your ideal customer? For example, if you design custom leather jackets, black may be a good choice, but neon green wouldn’t. If you are a yoga instructor, a soft sage green may be a good choice, but not bright, bold colours.
- Next pick a secondary colour that works with your primary colour
- Next, you’ll choose a light and darker version of your primary and secondary colours
- and choose 2-3 neutral grey tones of those colours
- Finally, the colour for your CTA buttons (this should be completely different from colours chosen and needs to stand out.
Here is a list of palette generating tools that might help you choose your colours. The first 2 on the list are my favourites:
- Coolors.co <- their free version gives you some really good features
- Colorhunt.co/ <- pre-designed palettes by theme make this an ideal to use tool
- Colormind.io <- interactive palette generator with tools to give you control
- Color.adobe.com <- easy to use interface, but helps if you have a basic knowledge of colour theory to fully understand the tool
Choose Two Fonts for Headlines/Titles and the Body of Your Pages
To keep things clean looking, keep the font choices to only two, one for headlines/titles and one for the main body copy. To make this process simple, refer to a blog post I wrote which are the top 10 fonts for readability.
Decide to DIY the Website or Have Your Website Built for You
Once you have your website plan in place, now you’re ready to take that plan and build your website. Whether you DIY it or hire a website designer, you’ve done the heavy lifting and as long as you stick to your plan, your website will be on point.
In conclusion planning a website can be a daunting task, but with the right plan, it can be smooth and successful! I hope this guide has helped you get started on your journey to having your own website.