Let’s face it… starting a website project or a redesign can be a monumental task. The days of the brochure website are gone. The Internet is now a wild west of interactive and innovative experiences. These days you have much more to consider if you want to stand out amongst competitors. The following points are suggestions that will hopefully guide you in the planning process.

Take control of your assets

The first conversation I have with business owners is usually about their assets. Web assets include a domain (or multiple domains) and website files. I would recommend that every business owner take the time to purchase or transfer their domain to an account in which they are the administrative contact. This ensures that you have complete control should you ever wish to go with a different host provider or web designer. The process is fairly simple. Just go to a company like iwantmyname.com and request a domain transfer to get the ball rolling.

Choose a project lead

Too many cooks in the kitchen can halt progress in any organization. It is important at the early stages that a person (or small group) of people be chosen to make decisions about the direction that a website project takes. This should be someone within your organization who is “plugged in” with web technologies and has time to devote to research and planning.

Have a defining purpose

Your website should be an extension of your business. Most businesses are built around a central focus or a defining purpose. In order to make your website a conversion engine and a marketing tool, the defining purpose of your business should be front and center on your website. Having a laser focus early on will help with the design process and will also help with user experience on your site.

Get in your customers’ heads

In order to build a site that converts, you must first identify your target audience. What is their demographic? Will they be accessing your site on desktop or mobile? Will they be spending money or trying to connect? You can put a lot of time, money and energy into building a website that doesn’t generate any business if time is not taken to understand your customer from the start.

Research your competitors

If you have competitors, what are they currently doing on the web? Is there anything you can borrow or emulate? Is there anything you can do better? It is also important to think about what makes your business stand out amongst these competitors. You will want to highlight anything that you bring to the table that makes you unique or more attractive than your competition.

Embrace personality

You have probably seen that smiling person in a suit greeting you when you land on a site. These days stock photography is highly overused. Making an impression is not about looking the most polished. Instead impressions are highly related to personality and connection. Don’t be afraid to bring attention to the people that drive your business and service your customers. Use testimonials, use case studies and use a friendly approach. People will always trust a company that they can connect with.

Don’t ignore mobile

The stats are overwhelming. Mobile web browsing is no longer a novelty. It is becoming the norm. In the last couple years we have seen a major shift in how people access the web. They are sitting on the couch browsing on phones and tablets. It is increasingly more important that viewing your site is a pleasant experience regardless of the browser or devise that your potential customer is using.

Launch first then optimize

There is no perfect website. Our philosophy at St.Joe Web has been to create very good products, launch them and then plan on optimizing. Using free analytics tools, you can track how your website is performing and converting. You can also track social media and advertising efforts. Your website should be treated as an iterative process, not as a “one and done” push that you will revisit in several years.

So there you have it, gather your assets, figure out your purpose, launch and optimize.

Nate Arnold

Nate is a custom web development show that specializes in mobile-first, custom Wordpress themes. He has been a developer in one form or fashion for years and is an evangelist for good code and user experience. He lives in St. Joseph with a beautiful wife and four amazing children.