There is much thought that goes into any new website, and the larger your site and the more features it has the more planning will be needed to ensure your goals are met. But before we jump into determining your website needs, let’s start with the needs of your customers.
It is important to realize your website is not for you. You are not marketing to yourself – you are marketing to potential customers. You are not trying to sell products and services to yourself – you want THEM to buy from you. To do this you need to know how to appeal to them. What are their needs that you can serve with the products and/or services you offer?
First, let’s ask a few questions regarding your potential customers. Go through the following list of questions and write down as much as you can – also feel free to add your own questions that come to mind or better identify your customers:
- Who? This is the demographic breakdown of your customers – who exactly are they? Are they young or old? What is their educational background? What are their likes and dislikes? The more you know who they are, the better you can target them in your marketing and content copy writing.
- What? What is it that you have that they would buy? Do your product or service offerings match what they are purchasing? What are their expectations?
- Where? Where do they shop? Are they likely to purchase online or offline? Does your marketing take into consideration where they will make a purchase?
- When? Is there a time of day your customers are most actively seeking your products or service? Do you have seasonal customers?
- How? How does your ideal customer shop or make buying decisions? Is it mostly impulse purchases or is there research required? If the former, consider strong calls-to-action on your site for those products. If it is the latter, make sure you have articles, blog posts, or white papers that tap into online research these customers would be doing. How much do they spend?
- Why? Why do they buy? Are there any emotions behind their purchase decision making process? Why do they buy from you over your competitors – or why do they buy from your competitors instead of you!
You can also obtain information from current customers by asking questions and soliciting information from them. Here are a few methods to do this:
- Customer Surveys/Feedback Forms: Ask good questions that encourage feedback. Make surveys/forms easy for current customers to find.
- Social Media Monitoring: Listen to what your customers are saying online.
- Talk to Them – In Person or Phone Call: Old school, but still the best. Dial them up, or if they are local, stop by for an in-person visit. Nothing beats a real conversation.
As you collect data on your customers and potential customers, you will begin to get a clearer profile of them. You may begin to learn their likes and dislikes, their needs, their wants, and what triggers them to make a purchases decision. This is all data you can use to make sure you are mapping out a website that best communicates to them. Instead of just giving information on what you do and/or offer, you can address problems your customers have shared that your product solves. You may learn of frustration with an ordering process on your current site that you can resolve going forward. Possibly you find out that clients for your service business spend a lot of time on LinkedIn but you have a dormant account there that you haven’t touched in months – or years! Gather as much information as you can and use it to your advantage and to meet your customers’ expectations.
The best way to determine your needs for the website is to lay out the following things before you:
- Your goals that you set for your new website
- Your customers’ needs as determined above
- Your target customer profile/market
- An explanation of what you want visitors to your site to do
- A list of your products and/or service offerings
- A clear definition of your intended business model
From this you will be able to better identify features the site needs, types of content pages that are needed, or even what tone of voice to use in how your content is written for the site.
Even with thorough research, sometimes a need is not recognized until you see it listed in front of you. Or, sometimes it’s OK to throw in some wants with your needs, as long as it serves the end goals of the website. Additionally, there just simply may be things your site needs to address regardless of end goals. Therefore, here is a link of common pages types and features that I come across that may help trigger ideas:
- Products (e-commerce pages or informational only pages)
- About Us / Who We Are
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP) / Mission Statement / Company Vision / Our Values
- Key Figures in Business (Staff, Board of Directors, Management Team, etc.)
- History of Company / Historical Information
- Press / Media
- Event Calendar
- Photo Galleries
- Resource Pages (FAQ, Warranty Information, Shipping and Returns, Help Desk, etc.)
- Blog Articles
- Training (seminar or class registrations, online courses, etc.)
- Community Service Involvement
- Search / Content Filtering
- Translation Services
- Photography Services
- Site Map
- User Login Accounts
- Contact Us / Our Location / Map
- Employment Opportunities / Employment Application
- Video Embeds
- Lead Generation Form
- Directories / Catalogs
- Newsletter Sign Up
- Social Media Integration
- Content Management System
- Shopping Cart
Defining the needs for your website can take some time to determine, but it is time well spent as it saves you from confusion in the development process and improves results after launch. Once you have this information together, you can proceed to the next step in the planning process, mapping it all out.
This article is the third in an ongoing series! Be sure to visit us often to catch the rest of our Business Website Success articles.