Why Planning Is The Most Important Step In Your Website Design Journey

You would think that getting a website that works would be as easy as finding a designer you like, telling them what you want and badabing badaboom you have a client magnet! Unfortunately that's not the case.

The problem is that most solopreneurs take a "looks" approach when they start their website design.

They pick the colors, they have a vision for ideas that they want to convey with imagery, and they have some ideas for sweet doohickies that will make it all cutting edge... and that's it.

What they're missing is the functionality and strategy that needs to go into their design.

It's kind of like hiring a contractor to build you your dream house. You tell them the colors, the finishes, the number of rooms, and that you really really want a hot tub in the back. He shows you some pictures of what he's going to build, you oooh and ahhh, and tada he builds you a house!

But when you move in, things aren't so ducky. Sure everything looks pretty, but your front door opens into the bedroom, the hallways look more like some kind of maze, and you don't have enough room for any of your furniture.

In short, it's just not functional. When visitors come they'll initially be impressed by the curb appeal, but when they get into the house they won't know what to do with themselves.

Just like a house, your website needs to have a strategic plan behind it before you build.

Creating that strategic plan can be tough for solopreneurs because even though you understand your customers and have great services, you are probably not a web strategy expert (unless that's your specialty). And what you think might be logical (just like your contractor thought), actually doesn't translate into something functional that's going to bring you results.

So how do you create a winning plan for your website?

1. Creating Curb Appeal

The first step to planning your design is deciding how you want visitors to perceive you.

This is really where the looks come in, because while strategy trumps beauty it's still important that the style represents you.

While you will choose colors and imagery that convey your unique style, the most important part of choosing how you want to be perceived is the content that goes on the pages, and this isn't something most website designers help you with.

• You want your voice to come across loud and clear in your written content by taking a conversational tone and sharing your personal stories and insights.

• You want to use the same language to describe the problems you solve and the results you provide that your clients use.

• You want to fully express your personality without holding back because of those scary thoughts that arise.

Whether or not you're being intentional about the conclusions you want them to draw, your website visitors are creating a picture of who you are. So making a conscious choice in how you want to be perceived is important.

2. The Front Door Shouldn't Open Into The Bedroom

Just like planning the flow of a house, you need to plan the flow of your website

. House visitors would find it a bit forward and/or very awkward to walk straight into your bedroom upon entering your house. Likewise, walking right into a list of offerings on your home page can be kind of a turn off to visitors that don't know you yet.

To plan your flow you do need to know what offers you want to make to prospects, and where it's appropriate to make them.

I call this your Sales Highway and we help you plan where the offerings appear on your website, and how each offering can lead into the next so customers work with you over and over again.

So when your visitors enter your home page (your proverbial front door) you want visitors to know immediately that you serve them, that you solve the problem they have, and that you're darned good at it.

The best way to convey that quickly is with a free offer that gets them talking to you so you can start building a relationship. So your free offer (or as we call it, your "opt in offer") needs to be front and center.

You should of course put your offerings on other pages to plant the seed for them to hire you, but most of your sales will come from allowing the prospect to get to know you first and directing them back to those pages later.

3. Your Hallways Shouldn't Turn Into A Maze

This part of planning is still about flow, because flow is very important in a website. But it's a different point I'd like to make and that is that the next step you want visitors to take should always be very clear.

You don't want to give too many options at once because then they'll get lost, or leave because they aren't finding what is relevant to them.

So for each page you create, you want to know what the action is that you want them to take and gear the content on that page toward that action.

The mistake most solopreneurs make is that they try to plan for all of the "what ifs" that the reader could possibly be thinking and giving them all of the options to fit those lines of thought.

For example at the end of a sales page you might be worried that what if:

• They are ready to purchase (woohoo).

• They want to ask you questions first before purchasing.

• They aren't ready but might still be interested in what you have to offer.

So you give 3 calls to action: Sign up now, call me, or sign up for my free offer. And now you just sound wishy washy.

Be confident and choose the action you want them to take before you write the page and make sure you're giving them ample reason to take that action by what you're putting on the page itself.

These are just a few of the steps that go into creating a functional (and beautiful) website. Here is a 3 step approach for your website design journey:

1. Planning the brand perception and strategy for the site.

2. Actually designing the site.

3. Writing the content for the site.

The planning phase is by far the most important, even though it's probably the shortest part of the process it drives everything in steps 2 and 3 and makes everything go much more smoothly.

So if there is anything you take away from this article I hope it's that you understand the value of planning your website strategy and not just getting all googly eyed at how you envision it looking when finished. Though if you choose the right designer googly eyes will still be a factor.