EN Podcast #10: How To Plan The Perfect Website

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Ever spent an insane amount of money on a new website only to find out that it’s not bringing you any business? The planning phase of any new website is crucial, as this is where the marketing thought goes in. What does your new website need to do? What are the most important elements that every new website should contain? How should it be structured? What should the design look like?

In this episode, Tim, Lozz and Head of Development at Exposure Ninja Brittany discuss how to plan the perfect website. From the pages to include to the design to use, hear it straight from the people who have built and analysed hundreds of websites in every market. This episode could well save you tens of thousands, and a LOT of stress!

How Do I Know If I Need A New Website?

The clearest signal that a redesign is necessary is that the site looks out of date. Your website is all that people online have to judge the quality of your business by, so if it’s out of date or looks amateur, that affects their perception of your business.

If your website is non-mobile-friendly, then typically you’re not making the most of the 50+% of visitors coming from mobile devices. Either your site will have significantly reduced visibility in search, or its conversion rate will be far too low. Either way, there’s money being left on the table which a responsive redesign could help you pick up.

We hear all the time from companies who have spent a small fortune on their websites but they just aren’t bringing in business. If targeted visitors are hitting your site but not turning into customers, then it’s a clear indication that something about your website is putting them off.

If it’s tough to edit your site, add products, blog posts and edit the text on the pages, this is another signal that you might have outgrown it. To do a good job of SEO and content marketing, you need to be able to add content without having to use a web developer. Any barriers to getting fresh content on your site are to be removed, so if your site is built on an old or proprietary CMS that you don’t have access to, it could be time to ditch that sucker and discover the joys of WordPress.

Basically, if you’re not PROUD to send people to your website, then chances are that it’s not reflecting your business as well as it should be.

How Do I Start Planning My Website?

The first step is to identify your website’s goals. This sounds obvious, but many business owners make the mistake of thinking that their website doesn’t have a direct sales or lead generation goal. The reason this mistake is so deadly is that your goal has to be absolutely central to every page. A website that leaves anyone in any doubt what they are supposed to be is destined to struggle.

Which Pages Do I Need On My Website?

The next step is to plan the structure of your site and the pages that you’ll need. You’ll obviously have a homepage, but where do you go from here?

The best way to think of your website structure is to imagine taking your visitor step-by-step through the decision-making process when they are deciding to do business with you. We usually order a website’s page structure as a bulleted list, which helps to see the order and structure:

  • Homepage
  • Accountancy Services
    • Tax Returns
    • VAT
    • Bookkeeping
  • Testimonials
  • About
  • Blog
  • Contact Us

The first step (the homepage) is there to introduce the business and show your potential customers that you a) cater to their needs and b) are clearly different to your competitors.

The next page in your menu will typically be more detail about the products or services you offer. If you’re a services company, typically you’ll want to have a Services drop down menu which links to each of your individual service pages, with each one optimised to rank and act as a landing page for that service. If you’re an eCommerce company, after your homepage you’ll typically have your top-level product categories. The goal of this page or section in your menu is to show your audience that you have exactly what they need.

So the next step on your site is to reassure visitors that you not only have what they need but that you are the right company to do business with. This typically takes the form of a Testimonials or Case Studies page or section, where you build social proof by showing how other customers of yours have been happy with their choice to use you.

Next, you might have an About page. This is one of the most overrated pages on a website and is typically the one that gets the least traffic. You should be demonstrating credibility and authority throughout your site, making this page somewhat redundant, but if you do choose to include it then don’t fall into the trap of talking about your company endlessly. Remember that the goal of this About page is to sell, just as it is on any other page. So your About page too should be focussed on communicating the benefits of doing business with you, your past successes and what makes you different from your competition.

Your site absolutely needs a blog, and this will often come next.

Once you have confirmed that you are a good fit for your customers, demonstrated credibility, and answered their top questions, what happens next?

Time to ask for the sale. You can do this through your Contact page (which you should always have, even if just to collect softer enquiries from people who aren’t ready to buy right now), but you might also choose to have a dedicated page for your lead generation bait, such as a free consultation page, or an offers page on eCommerce.

website-menu-structure-2

How Should My Website Be Designed?

Design and development are separate because the skillsets are opposite. So if you have found someone who claims to do both, beware. Start with design and have the developers build what it needs to be. Don’t be constrained by development, but find developers who can build your vision.

Although it’s important that your website looks good, it’s primary goal is to maximise sales. Pretty and effective are not always the same thing.

All design should be focused on making it easy for the visitor to complete their goals. Calls to Action should usually be the most visible element on the page (as long as it makes sense in the visitor flow) and should be given a contrasting colour so that they stand out. 

And don’t sacrifice text for big images – particularly if those images aren’t of your product. For every apple.com there are a thousand eCommerce sites that have tried to copy the principles but don’t have the brand currency that Apple needs to pull it off, and are struggling as a result.

We worked on SEO for an award winning site designed by a pure web design agency. It looked stunning. Fantastic animations, sparse layout with text appearing from all angles. Really creative.

The only trouble was that it was a dead loser. People couldn’t figure it out! The menu didn’t look like a menu and the site didn’t use headlines so it wasn’t clear what the pages were about. This was a very traditional and straight-edge business, so not a design company or anyone that would earn merit points for having a fancy website. With a lot of work, we got it ranking but it still struggled to convert. We had to tell the designers to undo a bunch of the fancy stuff that they’d put in and it didn’t go down well. If your site is winning design awards, it’s unlikely to be making you any money.

Basically, if your site is winning design awards, it’s unlikely to be making you any money.

Next Steps

If you’re considering a new website, we’d love to help you plan it out and see if we can help you build and promote it. Request a free marketing review today, and we’ll perform an analysis of your market and make recommendations about what your new site needs to include. If you like the recommendations, we’ll be happy to send some prices and begin to spec out the site.


About the Author

Tim is Head Ninja at Exposure Ninja and Europe's bestselling online marketing author.When he's not Ninja-ing he's playing in his band, going to the gym with his wife or fixing the destruction caused by their three fur babies, Ninja, Samurai and Shinobi.