The most successful websites all have one thing in common, they all started with a well thought-out plan. The creators of these websites took the time to fully understand what they wanted to accomplish and their extra effort was rewarded with loads of traffic, high ranking in search engines, and transactions that drove the bottom line. It doesn’t matter if your project is a 100 page complex website or just 5 simple pages, putting together the right information into a project plan can help success come knocking on your digital door.Let’s take a look at the 6 essentials of a successful website project plan:
1. Have identified goals as to what is to be accomplished
This one should be obvious, but the years of people hearing “You just have to have a website” have taken their toll. Many websites do not have any more purpose than to merely state the same message that can be found in their other marketing literature. This is a horrible approach. You have so much more power in what you can do through the web that to do nothing more than state who you are and what you do is like a salesman walking up to a prospect and saying, “Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a salesman.” and then walk away. Defining what you want your website to accomplish in the form of goals is what should control every aspect of how the website is constructed and those goals require something to be done. What are they?
To help identify the goals for your website, simply answer questions like these:
- What do I want the website to do? Why?
- What do I want visitors to be able to do on my website? Why?
- What do I want my customers to be able to do on my website? Why?
- What do I want media outlets to be able to on my website? Why?
- What do I want my partners to be able to do on my website? Why?
2. Outline a targeted audience instead of just being a blanket website
Again, this would seem obvious as it’s simply marketing basics, however, many websites are built without a specific audience in mind. They end up so generic that a visitor only gets enough information to know you exist and that you do something, but often times not how to engage you and why they should. Learn about your audience. Discover how they use the web to research products and services like yours. What words or phrases do they look for? Are there visuals they would expect to see on your website? Do they need more in-depth explanations of how things work or would they prefer simple answers? What do they need to know to make a decision? With all the answers, create a “customer profile” to include in your project plan. A good web development firm can translate that data into a layout and structure that would present strongly to that profile.
3. Include conversion processes that are simple to follow and easy to implement
A conversion process is a series of steps a person would follow on your website to complete some form of transaction. This transaction could be purchasing a product or service, signing up for a demonstration or appointment, registering for an event, or subscribing to your newsletter. Each of these require something to be given for something to be received, thus a transaction. When a person completes the transaction, they’ve now converted from merely a visitor looking at your information to a true prospect who has now engaged your business in some fashion. You need to think about how a prospect would complete this transaction by thinking about where they would begin and what they would have to do to reach the end. These transactions will be key in bringing more opportunities for business and must be strategically planned.
4. Include a list of supporting projects or initiatives to market the website
The days of “Build it and they will come” are long since over. Today, you need to always be promoting your website in order to keep driving traffic to it. Think about what other projects or initiatives could aid in accomplishing this. For instance, will you use social media to help push the press releases on your website? Will you include your website address on all your physical advertisements and collateral? Do you have a radio ad that drives people to your website? What can you do to tell people how to find you on the web? Submitting your website to be listed in search engines alone is no longer enough.
5. Define metrics to track in order to monitor the performance of your website
If you have established goals that you want your website to accomplish, then you also need to think about what has to be tracked and measured in order to determine if you’re successful in reaching those goals. Web statistics software can give you the basics and can even be configured to track more advanced actions, but it needs to know what it is supposed to capture. Without knowing what your metrics are, it will be difficult to know what needs improvement. Without improving your website, it could take longer and thus more expensive to reach your goals. Determine your pathways to success through your website and define metrics from those pathways to monitor.
6. Define your review and improvement process
Once you know what goals you want to accomplish and the metrics that will tell you if you’re reaching them or not, you now need to plan how you will review, analyze, and improve your website. Think about a time line of when you should review your data, how it should be analyzed, and the process that identified opportunities will follow to develop and implement a solution. Never stop analyzing the performance of your website. Just like your product or service, you get more out of them when they’re improved!
What else would you include?
While these six items are what we think are essential to creating a successful website project plan, we know they’re not the end all be all. We’d love to hear if you think anything should be added. Post your additions in the comments below!