Building a website can be a daunting experience. There are so many things to consider that many people stop before they even begin. I’ve seen this happen countless times, so I developed a set of exercises that will prepare you to build your own website without any stress.
When someone starts a business, the first thing that they do is create a business plan. This is a document that describes their goals, research, and plans of action for making their endeavor a success. Creating a website should be treated in a similar fashion. Putting a bit of effort in before you start will make your project run much more smoothly and save you time and money.
This will be the first of four posts that will prepare you to build your website.
- Part 1: Identify Your Audience
- Part 2: Tailor Your Message
- Part 3: Create Your Site Plan
- Part 4: Gather Your Assets
Audience, audience, audience
It is important to take a step back and remember that a website is a new channel of communication for you. There is a message and a receiver—that is, your content and its intended audience. We’ll discuss the message portion in the next post, but first it is very helpful to identify the people you want to communicate with.
Understanding your audience and their perspective is one of the best things you can do when preparing to create your website. Start by examining your existing customers or clients. Who are they? What defines them? How do you interact with them? How do they want to interact with you?
You will want to tailor the tone of both the images and words on your website to fit your audience. In particular, the words you choose are going to vary greatly depending on your audience. For instance, you would speak with a group of teenage girls very differently than a crowd of military veterans or academic researchers.
As an example, let’s say you have a store that sells dresses. You want to make a website to show off your latest designs and sell them online. Are these prom dresses or fashion for senior citizens? Are they affordable or expensive? Are they professional attire or evening wear?
Identifying your target audience can be a very difficult exercise. Many people fall into the trap of thinking too broadly. If you find yourself getting stuck or worrying that you might be missing out on potential customers, remember the 80/20 rule: A select portion of your audience is more valuable than others, and they are the ones you should focus on.
One technique that I have used with clients in the past to make this exercise more digestible is to consider the 5 W’s. Take some time to work through this list and start making notes that you can reference when you are ready to start building your website.
Who is the site for? Existing customers, potential customers, or both? Who do you want to visit your site? Members of the press? Members of your community?
What are they looking for when they come to your site? What is their technological skill level and what do they do online? What are their budgets and spending habits? What age are they? What colors, styles, fonts, and phrasing will appeal to them?
When would a potential visitor seek out your site? Would they come to your site before becoming a client or is it a group filled with existing customers looking for support?
Where are your visitors going to be located? Are they in your geographic region? Are they all across the United States or from all over the world?
Why are these people coming to your site? Why should they come to your site instead of your competitor’s website?
After working through the 5 W’s you will have a decent idea of who your audience is. These are the people who you should craft your message for. Whenever possible, try to find friends, coworkers, relatives, or acquaintances who fit your target audience and use them as sounding boards to test out your ideas. Being able to reach these people with a message they want to hear and in a format they will be receptive to is the key to effective website communication.
Do you have other methods of identifying your audience and potential customers? Are there any good tricks for helping to put yourself in your customer’s shoes? Please leave me a comment to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions. Also, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter or RSS feed so you will be alerted when we post part two of the Preparing to Build Your Website series.
Read part two: Preparing to Build Your Website: Tailor Your Message
He currently serves as the Multi-talento in Jimdo's San Francisco office, solving problems, educating users, and helping to grow awareness about Jimdo, the easiest website builder on the web.