A website plan is a detailed blueprint that provides a strategy for accomplishing the pre-determined purpose of the website. Every website should have a plan as it will bring focus to the building process and hasten the completion date.
To bring practicality to this process, we will be writing a website plan for a fictional cleaning service named Nature’s Best Lawn (NBL), a lawn maintenance company. This company specializes in providing lawn care services to residential and business clients.
While the steps listed are easy, they will take some time to complete. Take your time, and if you can’t think of an answer, it is ok to set it aside and come back later.
Identify Your Target Audience
Your target audience is the most crucial factor when building a website as they are the reason the site will exist. Whenever you make a decision, ask yourself, “Is this decision the best for the target audience?” If the answer is anything but “yes,” then the decision needs to be reevaluated.
Make a list of the groups of people that you are desire to reach with your website. This list might include potential new clients, new clients, existing clients, men, women, etc.
To keep things simple, pick only one group on the list as your target audience. You can serve multiple audiences, but the strategy becomes more complex, and you run the risk of alienating the audience you are trying to reach. If you want to cater to multiple audiences, be clear about who you are addressing within the content.
For our example, NBL will focus on potential new clients. While existing clients may use the website, they already have an existing relationship with the company and are more likely to send an email or call to get information. Potential new clients are more likely to browse a website to gain information about a company and its offerings before picking up the phone.
Create an Outline
Additional pages that might be useful for business websites would include services and pricing pages. The purpose of a website is to provide information, and if the primary information that people are seeking is missing, they are more likely to leave than get in contact.
The hierarchy of the outline will be similar to your site navigation menu.
For most businesses, the homepage will be the most visited page and the first page most people will see. It is your first impression page, and every other page extends from here.
There are many reasons why someone may need to contact you, the most important reason being they are interested in your services.
The “about” page provides an opportunity for you to connect with your potential client. I enjoy it when I go to a mom and pop restaurant, and there is a history of how the restaurant came to be on the menu. It can help humanize a business.
As I mentioned above, this page provides an opportunity to build relationships and credibility with their clients. Using our example, NBL might create a series of articles focusing on how to prepare a lawn for spring or how to prevent fungus growth. These can be part of the service they offer, but that doesn’t matter. These articles will help establish the company as experts in their field.
Finish the Rest of the Outline
Finish building your website outline by thinking of the types of information potential new clients might desire. Some possible pages might include getting started, services, pricing, events, and careers.
If you are using a site builder like
- Primary Navigation
- Get Started
- Legal Navigation
- Additional Templates
- Blog Archive
- Blog Loop
- Blog Single
Create a Mockup for Each Page
How you create a mockup will depend on the tools you use to build the website. As you work through this process, you may find the need to add or remove pages from your outline.
The most generic method is to take a notepad and draw out each page and template on your outline. It doesn’t need to be perfect or heavily detailed; you are just trying to get a general idea as to how each page should look.
For western audiences, the page information should flow from right to left, top to bottom, moving from the most to the least important information.
Other site and page builders might have a different workflow.
Make a List of Information to Collect
As you create your mockup, you will discover that you will need more information to complete your pages. Make a bullet list of pages and subdivide the page into sections with the data necessary to finish the page.
The homepage for our example might look like this:
- Unique Value Proposition
- Call to Action wording (Schedule an Estimate Today!)
- Background image: Manicured lawn, sunny
- Block grid of services with one-sentence description and “Learn More” link to service page.
- Latest Blog Posts (4 posts)
This list is now your to-do list for each page and helps not miss vital details.
Estimate your Hosting Needs
Hosting is a curious and complicated topic. Ambiguous terminologies like CPUs, unmetered traffic, monthly visits, managed, and more can make the process of choosing a reliable host overwhelming.
If you are just interested in a recommendation, I recommend SiteGround for a simple business website. They provide a reasonably simple setup process, a free SSL certificate, free email addresses, and have decent support.
For everyone else, I will summarize the features that I look for when recommending a host to a client.
SaaS vs. Managed vs. Traditional
I avoid using Software as a Service (SaaS) providers. These are companies like Wix and Squarespace and are software unto themselves and are not cross-compatible with standalone software solutions. These solutions are the most limiting. You can’t change your provider and take your website with you, and you are limited to their approved solutions.
Managed hosting is a blend between Saas and Traditional. Most managed hosting solutions utilized WordPress software but might lock down the ability to change files, upload plugins or themes, or remove features within the WordPress dashboard.
Traditional hosting is the best option for customizability and flexibility. This solution offers the most flexibility if you need to increase storage or traffic bandwidth, export your site, create custom solutions, or change anything on your website.
I have clients on managed hosting that needed something custom, and the only way to make it happen was to migrate their site to traditional hosting. It didn’t affect the user experience and allowed my client to have the functionality they needed.
An SSL Certificate is responsible for encrypting the connection between the people who view your site and your site; it protects their data from prying eyes.
This feature is one step shy of being mandatory for a website. Any website that transfers confidential data like login credentials (WordPress does) or credit card information needs to have an SSL certificate installed to help prevent security breaches. Thankfully, most hosts provide an included SSL certificate.
Digital storage, just like physical storage, is the amount of space available to put your items. For a simple website, 10GB is more than sufficient.
If your work is in something like photography or videography, and plan on keeping that work on the website, you will find that 10GB is not enough storage. If you need more space, the quickest option is to upgrade your website plan.
Bandwidth, also known as traffic, is one of those ambiguous areas. While unmetered is preferred, there are usually some rules in place that will throttle traffic if it poses a potential threat to the system. Other hosts will refer to bandwidth in terms of the amount of data transferred in a month.
In terms of traffic, ~10,000 monthly visits or 1TB bandwidth should fit your basic needs. If you find that it is not enough, move up to the next tier.
Processing power is the most questionable metric as it is a subjective metric that changes from host to host. GoDaddy refers to this as performance, processing power, and speed. Media Temple uses GPUs or Grid Performance Unit. SiteGround avoids the topic entirely.
Simply, if you have 500MB of data and transfer it from your website to the viewer, moving it over 20 seconds is better than 60 seconds — the more processing power, the faster the transfer, potentially.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard unit of measure. Processing power and related terms are just creative marketing jargon with no meaning.
You will want a host that provides access to email boxes with your domain at no additional cost. Email addresses with your domain address build credibility and trust.
Take Your Next Steps
Now that you have a plan, you can begin building your website. Have you created a website plan before? What have you found to be helpful? Let us know in the comments!