I’m a designer and I’m going to tell you that website design is important, for trust, for a cohesive brand and for conversions… but if your content, messaging and website structure isn’t doing its job, great design won’t get you very far. This is why it’s essential that you start your project with website planning and strategy before any design work begins.
Over here we work with a content-first process. This means that:
- The design of your website aligns with your message.
- Every design element is there to amplify and clarify your message.
- We know the structure of your content and how it all links together before we start designing anything.
- We can build a user experience and user flow that is intuitive and in line with your goals.
All that requires content first.
Without the content upfront, your design is likely to be less impactful. Great content and website structure drive business growth, investing In the opposite could be a waste of your hard-earned time or cash and hold your business back. Whether you hire a designer to create your website or you do it yourself, you need a plan.
The problem with most websites
Most people struggle to write great content for their website. You’re probably not a copywriter or a salesperson and that’s ok but it doesn’t mean you can’t create great copy for your website on your own. What you need is a process and someone to guide you on how to create copy that connects with your ideal clients and customers.
The biggest problem with most websites (and this probably includes yours), is that no one knows what you do, who for, or most importantly how it will help them. Website planning and strategy helps you to explain the impact your product or service provides in a clear, concise and engaging way. What’s more, having this kind of clarity about your message will help in every aspect of your marketing and networking.
Great website copywriting includes making it clear and easy to buy what you’re offering, including calls to action and in most cases opportunities to engage the audience if they’re not ready to buy yet.
Website Planning and Strategy – What’s Involved?
Identify and understand your ideal clients
Clear messaging starts with understanding your ideal customer. Your website should be all about connecting with your audience. To create something with impact you need to truly understand the vision and values that define your brand and how your clients respond to that.
Imagine having complete clarity on who your perfect clients are; their struggles, objections and wildest dreams. Imagine creating a message that resonates with your dream clients, the ones who love what you do, connect with you on a personal level and pay their invoices on time! Imagine being able to write your website copy, social posts, adverts and anything else for your business with ease and clarity. This is what defining your ideal clients will do for you.
Be crystal clear on what you’re offering and how it impacts buyers
If you don’t know exactly what you offer and the transformation it provides then you’re going to struggle to write about it. Spend some time working out exactly what you sell, how you sell it, what the process is like for the buyer and what they get out of it.
The most important part here is what the client gets out of it. If you’re selling a service, do they get more leads and sales, do they get more time to focus ‘x’, do they get quality time with their family or maybe you take the stress out of task they don’t enjoy?
Think carefully not only about the features of what you sell but also the benefits. One of my favourite resources for this is Donald Miller’s – 5-Minute Marketing Makeover.
Know your website goals
Want more sales, want sign-ups to your course, want to grow your list? If you don’t decide this ahead of time, how can you encourage your website visitors to do what you want? Spend time thinking about what you really want people to do on your site and how you will encourage them to do it.
Plan the structure, user flow and functionality
Not only will planning your website structure ahead of time help you to a create cohesive and impactful site, but it’s also likely to save you a bunch of time when it comes to actually building the site. Key questions to ask your self:
- What pages will I have
- What links will appear in the header
- What links will appear in the footer
- How will pages link together within the content
- What advanced functions will I need, think courses, memberships, email marketing integrations
Plan where your traffic will come from
Understanding the ways that people might arrive on your website is essential. The old saying ‘if you build it they will come’ couldn’t be further from the truth. You need a plan to promote your website and get relevant people to view your content. Here are some great options:
- Promote on social media
- SEO optimisation
- Digital PR and link building
- Email marketing
- Partnerships and referrals
- Paid traffic
How to do website planning and strategy
You have three options when it comes to getting help with website planning and strategy; 1) work with an experienced designer who can guide you, 2) hire an experienced copywriter, and 3) tackle it yourself. Let’s talk briefly about each option.
Experienced website designers have received dozens of copy documents that start ‘Hello and welcome to my website’, this is a clear sign that the client doesn’t understand their audience or how to connect with them. Good designers have created a process their clients can use to write better copy and get more clarity around their brand in general. This process should take you through all the things you need to do to create a plan for your website and your website copy. Over the years I’ve had a lot of different processes to help clients with this, from Google docs to fillable PDFs. This year I have built a personalised portal that guides clients through each step and helps us share content and feedback. Each designer will work in different ways, be sure to ask about this when choosing a designer.
If writing isn’t your strength then hiring a copywriter might be a good option for you. Now that you know what goes into a website strategy you’ll be better equipped to choose the right copywriter for you. Anyone worth their salt will ask you about all of the above to ensure they’ll be creating copy that does a good job. If they spend 5 minutes asking you about your business and then say they’re ready to craft your brand’s message I would think twice. Obviously, the copy is only part of the picture, so you need to make sure you’re either getting support with the rest or are able to tackle it yourself.
If you’ve chosen to work with a less experienced designer they may not have the process in place to help you with your website strategy or content. Alternatively, you might be building your own website and need to do all this yourself too. If you are working it out on your own then make sure that you’re giving yourself the space to do it properly. Reread the above list and make sure you’ve covered every aspect, consider taking a copywriting course and if you can, ask a friend or colleague to go through the strategy and copy with you to check for clarity and pesky typos.
Since writing this, I have been thinking about opening up my strategy portal to DIYers so that they can get help with website planning and strategy. If you would like to be considered for a free trial please get in touch with me at email@example.com.