When I first meet with clients during a design consult, one of my top priorities is to understand the basic outline of their site.  Starting with a well-defined outline and plan at the beginning will create a well organized, easy to use website and ultimately lead to more sales and contacts. I thought I would share the questions that I walk through with clients when we are creating their website outline.

STEP ONE: WHAT IS YOUR AUDIENCE AND HOW WILL THEY USE THIS SITE?

The first step of your website outline is to define your audience.  Who is going to be visiting your website and what are they looking for?

STEP TWO: WHAT’S THE NUMBER ONE GOAL OF YOUR WEBSITE?

Sure this sounds simple, but often for ambitious and creative business people, allowing themselves to focus on one thing can be hard to do!  Here are the top items you’ll need for this section:

  • Your business can have many parts to it, but what is the ONE goal that you want to accomplish with your site?
  • What do you want your website visitors to DO when they get to your site? Take your website goal and try to distill it down to one word.

For example, you might own a landscaping business.  You want to start a blog to share lawn tips and feature before and after stories.  While your website might have several parts, and they might contribute to your business but they are not all action oriented for your potential customer.  Your main goal is to get new landscaping clients.  Now think about what you want potential clients to do.  You might want them to book a free consultation.  You might know your customers enough to know they come to your website to book your services.

STEP THREE: CREATE THE BARE BONES OF YOUR SITE.

You’ll want to focus on deciding what the top three to five main pages of your content. You’ll probably want something similar to the following pages: Home, About, Services, Testimonials, Blog.  You can also have more sub-pages under each of these main pages, but your main menu (at the top of your screen) should not contain more than five items.  I call these the “bare bones” of your website because these are what your content and subpages “hang” on.

Also, remember pages aren’t set in stone either. You can add, tweak, merge and remove pages as you and your business grows. But when you’re just getting started with a design (and/or redesign) you’ll want to keep it simple. And then just as we decided on a number one goal for your site, you’ll want to get clear on the goal of each page.

Much like your main goal created in step two, decide what action do you want your web visitors to take when they land on each page?

STEP FOUR:   WHAT IS KEY INFORMATION THAT YOUR NEEDS TO KNOW?

Simplifying your site and your web visitors’ experience is vital. They want you to steer them in the right direction. It’s your job to do it strategically.

  • Imagine, if you’re trying to grow your list but you only have one email opt-in form on your site that’s hard to find.
  • Imagine, if you’re trying to book strategy sessions, but web visitors can’t easily access the sign-up form.
  • Imagine, you’re a brick and mortar business it’s difficult to find your physical location.

You want a simplified website that’s simple to navigate and where customers and readers can find all the information they need within a matter of seconds.

Next up, you’ll start working on the content of each of the pages but with your clear goals in mind. Remember this outline will shift and evolve as your business does, so start with something simple and then give it permission to evolve over time.