How to make a website plan

by Selwyn Bergman of BMSC-Online

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Brainstorm with pen and paperBrainstorm with pen and paper. Actually you can brainstorm with anything - just as long as you keep a copy somewhere that you can refer to at a later date. The reason I say 'pen and paper' is because this is usually the most comfortable way to record your ideas. Brainstorming is actually a fun thing to do, because you get to write down your ideas in a way thats most comfortable to you. It's important because it'll guide you through the rest of your Planning phase with a clear picture on "why each thing needs to be done".

... the reasons why you want a website.

Start your brainstorming by jotting down a few reasons as to why you want a website - list a few things such as:

  • "My competitors all have websites, and I don't."
  • "I waste too much time answering the same queries over and over again, and I can put my time to better use if I had a website that answers basic queries without my intervention"
  • "I need a cheap advertising method to showcase my services to potential clients"
  • "I want people to know who I am and where I come from"
  • "I need to reinforce my branding", and so on.

After a bit of scribbling, you'll have a list of things that show why you want a website. This list is important because it shows the reasons why got started in the first place. Be honest with yourself. If the only reason you want a website is because you thought it would be a cool thing to have, then say so - it'll steer your decisions to make your website cooler at the end of the day.

What do the visitors want?

Getting ideasMost people can intuitively draw up the abovementioned list, and sadly, the completion of it marks the end of "Brainstorming" for most. An arguably more important question to ask of yourself is:
What do my clients / potential clients / visitors to my website want from my website?
This question is a lot more difficult to answer and involves quite a bit of thinking. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the people who need something that you offer. If you've ever done some searching on the internet, ask the questions that would apply to your business. Write down things like:

  • looking for a specific product, who's the cheapest supplier in the market?
  • looking for a company that provides a specific service with a list of references so I can see what they've done
  • want to know how to do some task by myself
  • looking for a SMME supplier of specific goods in a particular area
  • How much does some specific product cost
  • need more information about a product pertaining to cost, quality, availability, maintainability etc.
  • I want to buy something from a specific company, how do I make a purchase? ...and so on.

... put yourself in the shoes of the people who need something you offer.

After you draw up the second list, you would have a better guess at the needs that your website users have, which your website must provide to them. Together, these two short exercises will make managing the technical aspect of developing a website, a lot easier. This is dealt with next.

Previous: Planning a website | Next: Planning the Technical Stuff
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