Building a profitable Web site can seem like a truly daunting task. How do you even start thinking about your Web site project?
In part 1 we discussed domain names, logos and the buy vs. build question.
In part 2 of our 3-Hour Web Site Plan, we'll discuss three major elements of your Web site planning – your design, structure and content.
We're breaking down the 10 essential elements of a Web site plan, and pinpointing the fundamental decisions you'll need to make based on your goals and your resources. The direction you choose for each of these 10 essentials will form the foundation for your Web site and enable you to move on to getting your Web site done with the confidence that you have the right plan in place.
Let us know in the comments which way you chose and other fundamental decisions you've faced in your Web site projects.
4. Design – Don't *overspend* on design. Design is important but you want to spend a significant amount of your time and money on other elements of your site to make sure the site is profitable and meets the goals you've set. Generally avoid a home-grown visual site design if you're not a Web site designer. We find that home grown designs usually leave business owners very unsatisfied and take up an inordinate amount of time so…
The decision: Use a design template? Or get a custom design? Design templates have come a LONG way. Some of them are still terrible but some are fantastic and can be purchased for less than $100. In addition to the price, the benefit of a template is you see exactly what you're getting right from the beginning and you can work with a designer if desired to have the template customized or tweaked. The benefit of a custom design is you have the opportunity for a completely new creation, however it will be more time consuming and a little riskier.
5. Structure – What will your pages be and how will they be organized and linked together? For most service oriented businesses a simple 5-10 page Web site is plenty – especially if you're just starting out. If you plan to sell things online you will probably need a lot more including product categories and policy pages.
Make sure you decide your site sections based on what makes sense to your customers. Build a "Site Map" using PowerPoint to determine what your pages will be and how they'll be connected.
The decision: Basically try to be as clear and straightforward as possible with your site sections/navigation. Look at other Web sites to see what makes them successful or failures in this area and then try to do better!
6. Content – "Content" refers to your site's text and images. A few tried and true content tips:
'¢ Write simple text that's easy to scan. Try not to "lift" text directly from pre-existing brochures without editing it for the Web.
'¢ Focus on text that helps to answer the questions of your potential customer and includes a "call to action" on as many pages as possible.
'¢ Include images in your site to break up the text if you can, but only if they are relevant images.
'¢ Beware of "over-used" stock photos that you see on other Web sites, they usually make your site look generic and unoriginal.
'¢ Using "royalty free images" helps keep costs manageable. A great resource is istockphoto.com.
The decision: Most business owners write copy and find images themselves. Alternately you can hire a designer to find images for you and hire a copywriter to write or edit your text for you. Expect this to add about 10-30 percent to the cost of your project if you hire.
Stay tuned for the 3rd and final part where we discuss construction options, hosting, e-mail, marketing & site maintenance!
In the mean time – get working and tell us what kinds of challenges you've faced making design structure and content decisions.