Scoping your website is likely to be a time consuming task. However, trust us: not scoping it will end up being a much more time consuming task in the long run and will inevitably end up costing you more.
Even if you choose to have someone else build your site (see below), make sure you understand its basic functionality first by mapping-out what you need it to do. Break your proposed site down into the key areas, perhaps using a tool like iMindMap. This is a powerful mind mapping tool which we use almost everyday. It’s versatile and powerful and does the job.
Mind mapping works because it lets you think graphically – you’ll see when you try it. It also lets you think ‘big picture’, which is ideal when you need to scope something like a website. But it’s not our place to convince you of that – what works for one person may not work for another – you need to find what’s right for you. We like it – we’re simple at ClubBlogger
Independent studies have been undertaken about the power of mind mapping – just go to the ThinkBuzan website and click on “So why do mind maps work?” if you’re interested in learning more.
Key principles of building your online presence:
- Realize that this will be an ongoing process. The reason we recommend scoping is to help in making the whole process go smoothly, and so that you, as the entrepreneur behind the business, can put your stamp on it and control it (just handing over control of such an important part of your business to a coder/designer isn’t the way to go). But do not forget that no website is really ever “finished”. Building your site is a work in progress and, whilst planning is important, it’s important at the right level – it should not be a barrier to progress. Don’t wait until your site is “perfect” to get it going. If you do, it will probably never happen. As long as the substance is there, you can develop and ‘fix’ it as it operates. You have to get this balance right, and this will come with experience.
- Understand your target market inside out. You can never know your market well enough, but again don’t let this be a barrier to action. The key part of your site will be the message that is your market. This should be supported by the graphics and other functionality, not the other way around. You need to understand the demographic of your audience. You need to know what they are thinking, what their problems are and what solutions they are looking for. Do not be vague about this. Do not cut corners in your fundamental understanding. It’s the bedrock of what you’re doing and you should document it (whether in a business plan or, at an early stage, in a separate note). This doesn’t mean it has to be War and Peace – in fact, it’s better that it isn’t. Short, concise, to the point works for us and for most busy people. Or just those who get bored easily (be honest, ClubBloggers, most of us fall into that category!)
- Know what your branding is or will evolve into. You may have a brand online already or created already through an offline business that you are moving online. Or many of you will be creating a new brand. Brands are all about the feeling your business imparts on those who do business with you, whether your customers, suppliers, etc. If you’re brainstorming this, get as much down on paper (or into your laptop) as you can. Again, don’t underestimate how useful mind mapping can be – it helps your ideas build, grow and connect. It makes those ideas tangible.
- What will your marketing strategy be? If you can’t lead people through your “marketing funnel” towards your product, service or other profit generator, you will struggle financially. This is an area which can have a big impact on how you design your website or someone else does (if the latter, don’t let your designer ‘run away’ with the look and feel without considering this – honestly, this is great advice, from personal experience). Is your website trying to get people to phone you, where you make the sale (this is increasingly unusual, but it works in some markets). Or, is your site supposed to lead users to an email opt-in form to start a follow up process (this can lead to pre-selling)? Alternatively, perhaps you will lead them straight to a point of sale? You should end up with map with ‘one route’, designed by you – know exactly where you want your users to go and how you will get them there. Make it a path of least resistance.
- Match your content to your goals. Decide what your content needs to achieve. Obviously most sites will have the typical common and recommended pages of a website (the home page, “about” page, “contact” page and “help” or FAQ). Note that your visitors will expect to see these pages so be careful deviating too far from the ‘norm’ (this can be an area where creativity is bad!) because it can unsettle users. Beyond these building blocks, however, it’s what your message is that’s key and that message derives from your market and your product. Decide what must go on the ‘basic’ pages (obviously your home page isn’t strictly a basic page, and must be highly focused, but it’s a building block page).
- You may be building a site dedicated to one element of one topic – a mini/micro site. Alternatively, for example, you may be building a product review website through which you sell your own products. If so, you’ll end up with hundreds if not thousands of pages. Obviously large sites need serious structure otherwise they become difficult to use and unattractive.
All of the above applies to blogging in one way or another. Most people nowadays realize that ‘blog’ and ‘site’ may be used interchangeably in most situations. Most of us are trying to achieve similar goals – let’s not over-complicate it by creating unnecessary boundaries!