3 Key Decisions Before You Build a Website | Digital Masters

Episode #26

3 Key Decisions Before You Build a Website

Website planning meeting

Do you put a lot of care into your own projects for clients, but often find yourself neglecting those same processes when it comes to your own?

I’ll admit, I’m 100% guilty of that. I’m starting a new project for myself that I’m hoping to have live by the end of the year, and I decided that I needed to follow my standard process. But not only that, improve on it!

That got me to thinking. As I work through this personal website redesign, what decisions need to be made or thought about before you write a single line of code, think about a design, or write any copy?

Let’s dive in to the 3 key decisions you’ll need to make and think about before you build a website. And the best part? These decisions will set you up for website success like nothing else.

What Are the Goals?

The first thing you need to write down – what do you want this website to accomplish? What’s the objective in building the website in the first place?

For many, creating a website is about getting more sales. But you need to dig deeper into it than just “get more money.”

If you’re working with a client, you’ll want to sit down and ask them what their sales process looks like. Success is different for different businesses. For instance, a restaurant isn’t going to get a ton of sales on their website unless they push online ordering. But they will want more phone calls, more reservations, and more people looking for directions to their physical location.

A service-based business is not necessarily going to get sales directly on their website either. Especially if you’re dealing with a service that’s in the hundreds to thousands, that’s going to require more touchpoints than a simple website visit is going to gain. However, your objectives for the website can be to build trust and get more leads – more phone calls and more people filling out contact forms.

A product-based business, however, might want to increase their sales by a certain percentage month over month.

But even when you’re dealing with “get more sales,” there’s often side objectives and goals that help to contribute to all of that. That can include increasing readership of a blog, getting more email newsletter sign ups, increasing lead capture sign ups, driving traffic to high-value landing pages, getting webinar views, and more.

Know the Sales Process

This is why you’ll want to break down with your client what their sales process normally looks like. Especially if this is an established business, knowing their process that’s already working can help you to emulate that online and beef that up. You’ll be able to replicate what works, patch what isn’t, and work with the client to take that all into their online storefront (aka their website).

Ask them a few simple questions like –

  • “How do you talk to clients about this now”
  • “How do you describe your services/products when you meet someone the first time”
  • “Walk me through your process when you make that first contact with a lead”

All of these questions can help you drill down and better get to the answers to that “Why.”

More than that though, knowing the sales process can help you discover those side objectives and goals the client might not think about on their own – like increasing their email signups – that will aid you in creating the steps a website needs to be successful.

Who Are You Talking to?

Once you know the overall current goals and objectives for building a website, you have to ask next who the target market is. Knowing the audience isn’t just about knowing whether you cater to men or women and whether or not to make a website “feminine” or “masculine” or “professional” or “fun.” Knowing who your speaking to will help you decide on the entire strategy and language they use.

Think about it this way – depending on who your target audience is will change the problems you’re looking to solve. They will, after all, have specific ways that they’ll talk about their problems, which means they’ll be Googling for answers to those problems. But that also means they’ll be looking for those solutions to their specific problems on the websites they’re researching. If you don’t answer in the way they expect, and don’t even talk about their problems in the way they’d expect, they may not think you can help.

Talk in Their Language

The big thing here is that you have to talk in your target audience’s language. What happens a lot, especially in more technical businesses, is that we get caught up in our industry lingo and terminology. The problem is that 90% of the time our ideal customer isn’t going to understand completely what we mean. Instead, flip the switch and speak about the services you provide the way your customers do.

If the client you’re working with already has a customer base, you can interview them to find the language they’re using and learn how they talk about their problems. Or you can do some Google keyword research and digging on YouTube and social media to find those pain points and how they’re being discussed. Think of places where someone might be more likely to ask a question and looking for a solution or suggestion – like a Facebook Group.

Then, create a thesaurus for that brand. A quick-reference document can help you keep track of the translations for how your client talks about their services and how their target audience actually talks about it.

Focus on Benefits

Another helpful tip as you’re going through all of this – focus on the benefits the brand provides and not the features of that benefits. Your clients are likely going to want to talk about all the cool things their product or service includes, but the target audience will only care what they get out of it. If necessary, add the Features > Benefits to your thesaurus, too, to make sure you’re staying customer focused.

What are Future Growth Goals?

The last decision you’ll need to make is deciding on future growth goals. Where does the owner and executive team hope the business will grow to over the next year? Five? Knowing what the goals are, even if they may or may not come to fruition will help you to build a website that is more future proofed.

Let me break this down a bit. I have a client now that operates an online business, but wants that to grow into a physical location. Knowing that she wants to grow into a physical location (plus a lot more!), impacted including a page in the website. I also know that she wants to also include a membership section later, too, so I’m making sure that as we build the website I’m accounting for that in my code and how I’m structuring the site.

For another client, they eventually wanted to have individual pages for all of their team members, but we just really needed their headshots, titles, and emails on a Team page for now. Knowing they wanted to get bios for all of their employees, I still created the team members in a custom post type. This allows them to have the individual page for each team member once they’re ready, but not have them linked to another inside page unless that Bio exists. (After a year, we’re FINALLY getting ready to add all the team members’ bios to create the individual pages, and having built it this way, the client can actually do this themselves or my junior developer can very quickly instead of having to switch it to a custom post type now.)

When you know where the client wants to grow to over time, you’re better able to make the decisions in building the website upfront. That helps to future proof the site and make updates much more cost-effective, which helps them and you.

They’re not always going to have answers to this question, but the more you ask it as you build websites, the better you’ll get at digging into a customer’s business and learning exactly what you’ll need to know to build their website effectively.

Upfront Work Improves Performance

All three of these key decisions have one thing in common – they’ll work to improve the overall performance of the websites you’re building.

When you’ve clearly defined the goals and objectives of a website, you can know what success really looks like. It also removes any confusion in thinking that we’re trying to drive sales when really we’re trying to increase lead generation and email sign ups.

When you speak in and understand the target audience’s language, you’re doing a lot of the work to improve the SEO. After all, your audience is searching in their language – not your client’s technical jargon. Stick with theirs over yours.

And when you know where the business wants to grow to, you’re better able to set them up for long-term success. With long-term success comes happy customers who refer you to their friends and professional contacts and keep coming back for more assistance. It’s honestly the best way to turn your business into a referral-generating machine.

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