In a previous blog post, The Process of Making a Website, I outlined the steps we go through to make a website. This was more of an overview to give people a feel for what’s involved in making a website, and to help people see the process we go through. By way of review, the steps we go through to make a website are:
- Identify Goals
- Layout and Functionality
I thought it might be good to so through these steps in a little more detail. So in this post I want to shed some like on the first step- identifying goals.
Identifying goals is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP in the whole process because it lays the foundation for everything else that follows. It’s amazing that so many people don’t spend more time identifying goals, or even identifying goals at all! A lot of people just want a website, period. They want one just because they should, or their competitors have one. But they don’t think through what the website should DO, specifically. So I’d like to talk about some goals a website could have. These might not be the same goals you have, but they’re a good starting point to think through what a website can accomplish.
One our your goals could be to make more money! Yes, that’s a goal. Opening up new revenue streams for your business is a very practical goal a website can help you with. If this is your goal there are a lot of ways to go about it. Perhaps the most obvious is to setup an online store and sell directly to visitors. You can do this via a subscription (e.g. Big Commerce, Shopify, etc.) or we can setup a store on your own website. In the long run setting up your own store is cheaper and more flexible. But maybe you already have an online store (e.g. Amazon, Etsy, etc.) and you just need to send people there. There are many different ways to accomplish this. If this is your goal it pays to think through your options.
Another goal could be education. Perhaps you want to tell people ABOUT YOURSELF or your product/service. A website is a great place to introduce yourself. With so many people browsing the internet on their mobile phones these days, giving the curious something to read about yourself is a very good goal. Responsive websites make this a snap- your content looks great on the big screen, but then scales down nicely to phone size. So tell your story. It’ll look great.
Another website goal could be communication. You can use a website as a way to communicate with your customers. So many people use Facebook, Instagram, etc. to communicate. A social networks strength is in facilitating conversation. A website can bring these conversation right to your doorstep. You can grab the conversations happening on various social networks and bring them under one roof. From there visitors can Like/Share/Talk about your products from the convenience of your website. Conversation is good, but a website also offers other ways to communicate too- like forums, comments, live chat. And don’t forget mailing lists and newsletters. People can leave comments on your website, or ask questions, or signup for an event. All of these are a way to reach out to your customers and communicate with them. A website can be a powerful communication device.
There are more subtle ways to communicate too. By listing your phone and contact info you are saying you want to be contacted. By putting a form on your website you make that even easier. You also communicate by appearance. This is where good design comes in. You communicate a lot about your business by the way it appears on the web. This is where a website can really shine. The appearance of your company is limited on social networks. Yes, you can add a banner, or some photos, or a logo, etc. But you have so much more CREATIVE CONTROL with a website. The sky’s the limit. You project WHO YOU ARE and what you believe by appearance. This is why it’s so important to get design right. It gives people a strong impression of who you are, and what they can expect. Communication is huge, and there are obvious and subtle ways to do this.
One thing to keep in mind is that a goal doesn’t live in isolation. You can have multiple goals for your website. Maybe you want to sell stuff AND create discussion around your product. Maybe you want to educate people on your company AND project a certain image (design). While I think it’s important to establish a primary goal, you can have secondary goals too.
So we’ve covered a few goals you could have for your website. There are probably lots more. But as I’ve said, establishing goals is the most important step in the whole web design process. The more time you spend up front talking about these things, the more successful your website, and your company will be in the long run. Don’t feel overwhelmed by goals. Goal setting is simply a way to establish what you’re really trying to achieve. One of my favorite quotes is:
In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high. – Henry David Thoreau
I think that applies here. If you want to hit a target you have to aim carefully, and aim high! Website goals give you a target to shoot for.