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Six Key Website Planning Questions

by Michael Waite, Bonefrog Creative

Understand that hard work at the research and planning stage of website development makes EVERYTHING that follows more effective and efficient. Avoid the temptation to just get something up. Do not create a patchwork of under construction pages and future promises. Do not design your site purely to look good and drip with cool. Rather, the GOALS and function of your site drive everything else. Everything.

Planning Questions—

1) What do you want your site to do? Move product? Collect leads? Education and market awareness? Information and entertainment? Persuasion? Drive offline sales (like put people in your restaurant)? A combination of some of the above?

And then think of it this way: What do you want visitors to do once they reach your site? Order product? Call a rep? Join a mailing list/subscribe to a newsletter? Download free PDFs and stuff? Upload a testimonial, or a comment or a review? Read lots of pages? Make a monetary contribution? A combination of some of the above?

Looking at what you wrote, what have you got?
—A simple, single focus? If so, can it do more?
—Conversely, is your list long? Can to prioritize that list? What is critical, what is secondary?

2) Who is your customer? Think about these points as you work through the answers to this question.
—Everyone is not your customer. You’ll burn out your marketing machinery trying to make it so.
—Tighten your focus...which potential customers would be the best? Provide the most return for least amount of work? Would be easiest to reach? Ask: do they need you? Why?
—If you’re in business already, what about your current customers? What do you know about them? Are they under-appreciated by your company? Even ignored? Do you know what brings them in? Really? Can you/do you talk to them about their experience?

3) What motivates your target/ideal customer? Status? Saving money? Don’t-burn-me service? Quick results? Loss Aversion? Such (hypothetical or experienced-based) thinking is important as it allows you plan the online customer experience and to structure the buying process so as to get the results you want. You must, of course, know what you want them to do. Let me remind you: today’s online customer, thanks to readily available information, is empowered. Answer the “what motivates” question for each type of target customer. Work to understand their buying process. What is relevant to these customers? What is valuable to them? Why and how does your product or service meet those needs and desires?

4) What aspects and features of your product and service meet the motivations and needs of your target customer types? Where are the connections? The sweet spots? How can you emphasis them, enhance them? Can you tweak or expand your product or service to meet identified key motivations and needs currently unmet?

5) Examine the sales process for your product or service. Is it a quick, impulse sale? If so, what is the tipping point? The triggers? Or is the process one of decisions and relationship-building? If it is a process, what are steps that need to be taken? How best to break the process down and lead them through it? Obviously, the sales process will heavily weigh on (what and) how the site content is developed.

GOING LONG: A long sales process, where confidence and trust and multiple decisions are needed, must be carefully designed to move the prospect down the sales funnel. Questions must be anticipated, dead-ends eliminated, all bases covered.

SHORT STOP: If, conversely, the sales tend to be impulse-based, then the content focus of the site must be developed to encourage the prospect to jump in, pull the trigger, give it a whirl. Confidence must be quickly established, dealbreakers—like shipping and returns and color and size options— must be quickly detailed and dealt with.

6) What will keep them coming back? So much cost and energy goes into getting new customers. Not enough goes into bringing them back for more. What do customers/clients want from you, beyond a good product or service? What keeps them loyal, interested? Buzzing about you to others? THE POINT is to plan and design the web site around facilitating an ideal buying experience for the customer rather than the company’s sales process. It’s not about what’s easiest for you. It can’t be. The online consumer has too many other choices.
phone: (208) 776-5210

© Michael Waite • (May be reprinted as long as contact information is included)