Three critical things to answer before starting your new website.

Man typing on laptop while viewing website

Starting a new website can be an intimidating task.

However, as long as you do the appropriate planning beforehand, you’ll have a lot less headache down the road. It’ll also give you a better idea of the potential problems you’ll run into as the project moves along, and with that added knowledge, you’ll be in a more flexible position to change your project as needed.

1. Why are you making a new website?

This should be a no-brainer, but first and foremost you have to make sure you identify the why of your project. If you can’t accurately identify why you’re building a new website, then why waste your money? You might just be better off giving your current website a face-lift instead. Perhaps that money might be best spent on some type of ad or social media campaign to increase traffic. Whatever the case, sit down with your company’s decision makers and nail down the top three reasons why you need a new website. That’ll be invaluable to starting a new project for your web team.

They’ll use that information to help decide on the best path moving forward for your future web project, and they’ll dig a little deeper to look into your specific pain points so that both of you can fully understand the problems you’re trying to solve. However, if you don’t at least have some information about those problems then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time on conjecture instead of substantive planning time.

2. Who is your target audience?

After you understand why you’re rebuilding your website, the next step is to fully identify your target audience. On the surface, it sounds like a simple enough task. Your customers, clients, or users are obviously your target audience right? That’s technically correct, but can you accurately describe them? If so, can you then also describe what actually makes them unique to your business? Why do they buy your widgets instead of the other guy’s?

This concept is super important because knowing these details makes it so much easier for your web team to customize your project to your users’ needs. For example, if I know that your typical customer is a millennial then I’m going to design the user experience accordingly. With a younger highly computer literate user base, more emphasis is going to go towards a fluid mobile experience that borrows from current design trends and user interface techniques that are already familiar with them. Elements like simple buttons to access menus, horizontal swiping to show more content, and flat modern looks are going to resonant much more successfully.

On the flip side, if your target audience is older or more generalized, then the design and user experience will probably be a lot more conservative in nature. That means you might have a larger visible navigation system with more traditional drop-down links instead of just catchy icons. Spend the time and money required to know who your users actually are. It’ll prove invaluable to the future direction of your website.

3. How are you going to use the new website to reach your audience?

To understand the process sometimes it’s easier to start at the end goal. If your an e-commerce store then you’ll probably want them to purchase products, and if you’re a doctor’s office, you’ll probably want them to schedule an appointment. Once a measure of success is determined, then you can better decide on the steps required in the user journey for them to reach their intended destination. It’s simply just not enough to throw products on a website, slap a buy button on them, and then sit back and expect money to come pouring in because you “updated your design.”

Instead, you need to decide on how you’ll reach the users you want beforehand. Are you going to be all about high quality SEO content to drive traffic to your site, or maybe looking to heavily integrate social media? Make sure your web team plans for the proper web elements to be included from the start so that whatever your strategy, you’ll have the means to execute it. It’s a lot easier to determine a sales strategy and integrate that into your user funnel (how your website directs customers to your end goal) up front then halfway through the project. Also, remember that your user funnel doesn’t have to be perfect at launch. The idea is to use the data you have to make best guesses in the beginning and then collect more data to iterate on it over time for even more success.