A structured process to help you build an efficient and successful website.
There were more than 1.3 billion websites in the world at the beginning of 2020. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Baidu, and Bing index all these websites, match the keywords a user enters on their platform and deliver the information the user needs.
The web is easily the most democratic—and global—medium to exchange ideas. It gives almost everyone on the planet the opportunity and space to share their work, projects, feelings, and thoughts with the world. It has also revolutionized the way we communicate and do business. Whether we're ordering coffee, sharing news, or selling goods and services, websites are the portals via which businesses and individuals create a space for exchanging their ideas and connecting with the ideal customers.
Until a few years ago, creating a website meant writing pages of code. If you weren't a coder yourself, this usually costs money. Tools like Dreamweaver eventually made it a little easier, but the real revolution came when building a website turned into a more visual, what you see is what you get process. Web design tools like our own Zoho Sites focused on the website building process primarily from a design perspective. Such tools were created to be used by anyone—coders, business owners, or hobbyists. This was truly a revolutionary moment for the internet—the ability for you to create a business website with ease, security, speed, and cost-effectiveness.
Now it's time to bring this revolution to everyone. This series intends to help you build your own website without necessarily needing the deep technical knowledge required to build one from scratch. In this series, we'll help you figure out how to identify, plan, build, and execute your online strategy. In the end, you should be able to build, publish, and maintain your own website. Let's begin by thinking about our goals.
Identifying the goals of our website
Website design needs to go beyond just aesthetics, so we'll try to define the why behind our new website clearly. Business goals and user needs are key factors that will guide planning, design, and content.
Let's start by asking the following questions:
Who is our audience?
What does our audience expect from us?
What value do we wish to deliver to our audience?
What meaningful action do we want the audience to take?
The answers to these questions will help decide what we want to write on the website and how we want the user to react to the information we're presenting (i.e., the goals of the website).
- Value: Ideas and strategies to plan for a long-term, effective PR campaign to build a sustainable business.
- Action: Visitors should read our ideas and strategies and subscribe to a newsletter so our brand is top of mind when they are ready to purchase our services.
Setting goals for our website
Some of the most common goals to consider for a website are:
Making sure your goals are actionable is important. In his book Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt explains how to set SMART goals:
Specific – Goals should be clear and focus on a particular activity. For example, "I want to get 200 unique visitors per day to my website."
Measurable – You should be able to measure how much of your goal was achieved because you took action. For example, if your goal is to measure the impact of an online campaign, a survey can quantify the levels of awareness before and after the campaign is run.
Actionable – Your goals should be achievable by action. This also means that each action needs to be quantifiable. This way we can measure and see how many of the goals set were achieved over a period of time.
Realistic – Your goals should be reasonable and attainable. You should also be able to identify if more resources are needed for you to achieve your target.
Time-bound – A goal without a deadline is meaningless. Something as simple as writing a date down against your stated goal can change the effort and urgency and ultimately drive you to do better.
To dive deeper into this topic, read this guide to setting smart goals.
Understanding the customer
A good starting point is to remember that potential customers might only be a low percentage of the website's traffic. Targeting an audience is a difficult aspect of marketing, and even when done diligently, most businesses achieve only partial success in driving relevant traffic to their website. Analyzing the age group, region, gender, and other such information will help you determine whether the traffic you drive is relevant to your business.
At this stage, focusing a little more on these questions will help:
What should the user be taking away from our website?
What action does the user need to take to indicate interest?
What design will most influence our target audience to take action?
The primary website user
A website needs to be designed for its primary users. They're the reason we're making our website, and everyone else who happens to use it is secondary user. Understanding the main objectives of this primary audience will guide us in choosing elements such as templates, images, words, and colors.
Defining a website's target audience
Let's start with defining the attributes of our primary audience. The first step is to define demographic details—age range, gender, race, household income, and more.
Next, define the psychographics—their preferred ways to spend time, preferred product attributes, and service preferences. From this information, you can develop a fictional archetype (or persona) of your primary user's key traits. It's best to focus on serving one segment well and not fuss over the secondary audience as of now.
Let's look at an example. Man Crates is a personalized gifting service that sells gifts for men. Often boxed in intentionally hard-to-open crates, the company recommends using the stereotypical male one-size-fits-all approach to anything perceived as difficult: try harder. The help page comes with the perfect "instruction manual," one that lives up to its novelty appeal and caters to its niche audience. This is a good example of defining an audience by a website and catering to them.
Defining the Call to Action
When defining the action we want users to take on the website, we need to focus on the objective that best serves the business well in the long term. Whether it's signing up for a free trial, capturing an email address, or adding to a cart, identifying the call to action (CTA) will influence the website's design significantly.
On The North Face's ecommerce website, they position the CTA right under important product information. This creates a natural progression for the visitor to learn about the product, look through the images and customer reviews, and then choose the color and size before adding the product to their cart.
Defining the website's value proposition
To convince the visitor (primary user) to take the desired action (CTA), we'll need to convey the value of our product/service to the customer and articulate the reason the visitor should trust us on this visit.
One way to do this is to highlight our uniqueness over our competition (aka unique selling proposition, USP). Saddleback Leather talks about how their products stand out in quality and emphasizes their 100-year warranty. The tagline, They'll fight over it when you're dead, simultaneously highlights the durability and desirability of their products. The uniqueness of the claim, and the confidence of their workmanship and quality materials, is their USP.
Planning the website structure
Having understood the basics, let's start with creating a structure for our website. The idea is to engage the primary users who visit your website and convince them to take the desired action (website CTA).
Start with the very top of the homepage—what information do we want the visitor to see? Next, on the first scroll (or section), what is the substantive information to your claim? And so on till we've exhausted the possibilities.
We also need to think of actions (CTA) for each of the scrolls or sections. Depending on the nature of the business, the visitor will learn about the business and the value proposition, understand the product or service in detail, perhaps a comparison with competition, way to make a quick purchase, offer to join a community (if that exists), watch a video, reading a testimonial. This is the universe of information we have to work with. Once we've got this charted out, it becomes easy to move to actually execute a wireframe—or final structure—for the website.
Websites show who you are, what you do, and what you offer to the world. Having a website that aligns with what you do is essential to making an online presence. Also, your website is your branding space so it should have your essence etched into it.
End of chapter 1: Building a website is easy
In the first chapter of the series, we discussed the evolution of the process of building websites. When building a website, the first step is to define and set the goals of the website, as well as to understand its primary user. Next, we need to create a value proposition for the user, and present it as a Call To Action button (CTA). Finally, we can start defining the of the website. This was important to get us on the same page about the objective of our exercise: focusing on getting business results.
In the next chapter, we'll create a wireframe and sitemap to arrange the information we need to communicate with the user. In later chapters, we'll figure out how to communicate well with visitors using research and design as our tools of choice.
This is a series of blogs being developed at Zoho Sites. Eventually, the information will be available to you in the form of an ebook. Follow us as we publish more of these blogs!
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