No matter what type of company you have or work for, planning and building a website that converts is a must in our modern age.
If you’re starting from scratch, or need to do a full-on overhaul, this comprehensive guide will help keep your blood pressure down and your productivity up.
A website may have many different purposes, and defining them is exactly where you want to start. Unfortunately, the process of defining is not such an easy task either.
But fear not!
This article will help keep you from spiraling into that black hole of confusion and potential options. By the end, you’ll be able to build a website that has passion, purpose, clarity, character, and above all, conversion potential!
Take some deep breaths and read on.
How to Plan a High-Converting Website
There are a ton of considerations that go into the planning and creation of a killer website that converts. Starting with a well thought out outline can help to simplify the process and cultivate clarity from the beginning.
It’s likely that different members of your team will be involved in order to bring this all to life. Make your life easier with a project management tool like Trello to keep everyone on the same page, in clear communication, and keep the project on track.
Here is our proven 7-step outline.
A strong foundation is the key to building anything lasting and stable, and a website is no different. And at the end, you’ll have everything you need to launch your website.
Step 1: Define the Goal of the Website
A website can do a lot of things. This is sometimes the hardest place to start, but it’s also the most important. What exactly do you want your website to do for your company? Here are some options to help you narrow down the purpose of your website.
Do you want it to:
- Sell products?
- Collect email addresses?
- Drive traffic to articles?
- Advertise business?
- Grow an audience?
With these ideas, you can plant the seeds of a successful website. This in turn can help define the goals of your website and help you see the bigger picture of your business to comprehend the impact your website can have. Your website is intrinsically connected to the growth and goals of your company.
Now you can begin to design the strategy to fulfill the purpose of your website and reach these goals. This starts with the structure your website needs to reach that purpose; the bones, if you will. The bones will begin to take shape as you fill in the blanks and stitch everything together. This includes the funnel you’ll create to get people to your website and the ultimate conversion: the action you most desire them to take (sales, emails, readers, downloads, etc). You do this in part by identifying who these people will be, and designing for the experience you want them to have.
Step 2: Define Target Audience & Ideal Customer
Understanding the who of your website is crucial if you want your website to “work”. This user identification step is incredibly important to complete in the beginning! Build your website specifically for your ideal customer and target audience. If you build it for yourself, be prepared to be your only customer.
While you may want anyone and everyone to come to your website and take action, you’re inevitably going to attract some very distinct people. By being able to define these pillar people, also known as your ideal customer, you’ll have a much better idea of how to design a website that fulfills their needs. Listen to the people and give them what they want!
If your direction is vague and your branding is weak, then you’ll attract the wrong customer (or no one at all). You won’t be able to talk to your customers and their needs, brand loyalty and customer affinity will be low. You’ll blend in with your competition. Your “targeted advertising” will be no better than screaming into a black hole.
Your branding is going to be your money maker—there’s three main steps to that. And while that also needs to reflect you and the company as a whole, it also needs to appeal to your target audience to encourage them to convert and take action. This is directly connected to your goal.
So how do you figure out who these people are? You do a brand discovery and drill down on at least three ideal customer profiles (a.k.a. user profiles or avatars). This is more than making up an idea of who these people will be. You may think you know your customers, but it’s always important to confirm that through:
- Competitive research
- Generally testing things out
Once you collect this information, you’ll be able to confidently define your ideal customer.
Create a ideal customer persona around the following:
- Family situation
- Annual income
- Job title
- Company size
- What are his/her professional goals?
- Personality traits
- Subconscious and conscious beliefs
- Favorite blogs/websites
- Magazines/books they read
- Thought leaders they follow
Beliefs / Goals
- What does he/she believe strongly in?
- Characteristics of his/her personality?
- What are his/her personal goals?
- What keeps him/her up at night?
- What are his/her pain points?
- The challenges he/she is facing?
- What is his/her role in the purchase process?
- How does he/she regularly buy?
- What are his/her objections to purchasing?
Make these details as real as possible so you can truly and deeply understand your customer. If you’re looking for more structure, check out this nifty user profiling course we offer!
Step 3: Craft a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
With the bones of your website creating the structure for success, now it’s time to create a marketing and sales plan that is reflective of your unique selling proposition. What is a unique selling proposition (USP)? This is what sets you and your products, etc, apart from the competition—the thing that is uniquely you. You want people to choose you over all others.
As yourself and your team these questions to develop your USP:
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- Why does that difference make an impact/matter to your customers?
- What specific benefit(s) do you offer your customers and why does it matter?
The deeper you go on this, the better. And if there isn’t an obvious and impactful answer for one of the questions, this is an opportunity to develop an extra edge for your company as a while. Go slow here and stay curious.
If you’re realizing your company isn’t as competitive as you thought or want, here are some ways you can create that:
- Think about the core values of your customer and how you can satisfy them
- Solve the problems of your customer (no relationship problems, but practical problem)
- Apply the unique strengths of your brand to the above
- Give your people what they want—this could even be developing products specifically for their needs/problems
At the end of the day, your company needs to be reflecting your brand and values AND speaking directly to your customers’ problems and needs.
When your brand can simultaneously speak to needs and offer solutions, you’ve got a winning formula.
Step 4: Pick Domain Name & Hosting
Before you start designing and get deep into the fun of the website creation process, you need to be accessible to people online with a hosted domain name. Your domain name is the way people will find you and associate everything with your brand.
Your domain name (url) is your address and the hosting is the foundation that is beneath. You have to have both to have a website that is online and searchable.
There are many ways you can purchase your domain name and have it hosted.
How to Choose a Domain Name
Domain names are usually extremely affordable, ranging from $2-$20 per year. The hosting is going to cost you more and comes with a range of benefits and ways to upgrade for more features.
The world has progressed beyond the standard .com, .net, .org, and .co. Getting creative with your domain is fun, but remember to be clear and direct.
You want your domain name something easy to remember, spell, type, and find. If your brand’s name is available as a url, that is ideal. Connecting it as much as possible directly to your company name is going to help people take action and convert online.
When you purchase a domain name, you don’t own it forever. You have to renew yearly or every two years, and if you forget, your entire site can go down and potentially be lost forever. Stay on top of this with automatic reminders.
We recommend WP-Engine as our preferred web hosting provider for professional WordPress websites because it gives you a free domain registration plus includes an SSL certificate and other crucial services required for running successful websites all for one affordable price.
Step 5: Choose a Website Builder
Choosing your website builder can be as involved or “hands off” as you like.
Here are your options in building a website:
1.) Use a Website Builder: This drag-and-drop model that companies like GoDaddy, Wix, SquareSpace, and Wordspress and many others offer is super easy and minimally customizable. You can drag-and-drop things like
- Photos and videos
- Call to action (CTA)
There’s a lot of options out there, so if you’re overwhelmed about choosing a web builder, check out this article.
2.) WordPress: Offering a more customizable experience, WordPress can still be used with templates but it also allows for tons of custom coding. This provides ease of use and scalability. And if you don’t have the time or skills to use all the features, you can easily hire someone on a freelance basis to do the more technical side of things.
3.) Write the code or hire a designer: This will be the most customizable and unique route to take, but will also be the most expensive. Depending on the needs of your website, this may not be necessary. But if you’re really trying to set yourself apart from the crowd, then working with a designer will definitely be worth it in the long run.
Once you have a website builder chosen, you can begin to think about the pages and elements you’ll need:
- Sell products
- Make appointments
- Accept electronic payments
- Collect information or emails
- Track inventory and shipping, etc
Defining these elements will empower you with the knowledge of exactly what you need and, most importantly, why.
Step 6: Design Elements
Your strategy is set, you’re on your way to making your website, and now you need to make it (and your brand) look good. The design elements of your site are an incredible opportunity to express your uniqueness and creativity. Your design elements will not only tie into your branding, but will also help you expand upon the look and feel that you want to portray to customers and users.
Brand identification design elements include:
- Image style and lifestyle photos
A great way to get clear on what you want, is to look at websites you use consistently. Why do you go to that website(s) over and over? What about that website(s) draws you in and makes you feel like you’re connecting with the brand? How does using this website(s) make you feel? Do you feel brand loyalty? Would you recommend it to others?
There is a lot of psychology involved in planning a website that converts, and looking first at your own reasons why will help you better understand the needs and reasons of others.
The design elements will be tied into your theme, if you choose a preset theme in your website design. Or this can be conveyed to a web designer through a storyboard. There are many sites you can get images from that are a bit beyond your typical stock sites, or you can create your own photography.
You’ll definitely want photos of yourself and your lifestyle if your website is more along the lines of a blog or a personal brand. Conversely, you’ll want killer product photos of your products, or an easy and attention-grabbing way to showcase your services.
You can work with graphic designers on this, or DIY in platforms like Canva. Whatever you do, keep things consistent and go easy on your graphic designer if you choose to work with one —they’re people too.
Step 7: Content Creation
Words are the keys that will unlock the minds of your customers. Weaving in your messaging and branding with a call to action (CTA) that is deliberate and direct, yet inviting. This messaging will need to be on your core pages that includes your home page, about page, contact page, any sales pages with products, and testimonials or reviews.
The content on your website is one of the first experiences your customer will have with your brand. Make an impression with a lasting experience.
You can, of course, have pages outside of this core. This is where you’ll want to ensure your messaging is consistent with thoughtful strategy. If you don’t have a strategy and don’t know where to begin, check out our Content Strategy Course.
The home page is where it all begins, and where the bulk of your traffic will likely land. This is your opportunity to convey your mission, values, and how you can help prospective customers. The layout and flow of your home page is incredibly important as you want it to feel organic while you answer the main questions people may have about your brand off the bat.
Here are some elements you’ll want to create content around:
- Put information about the brand first. This will include the logo, tagline, and anything that represents the brand as whole.
- Explain how you can help and what problems you’re solving for your customer. Speak to their “pain points” or needs and concisely explain why your brand is the solution. If appropropriate, this can also be done in a video, with the key points taken out and made into copy to direct people to not only watch, but read.
- Present your unique value propositions that you defined at the start of your website plan so that you’re establishing them right off the bat. This is what sets you apart from the competition.
- Add CTAs so your customer can take action. You’ll want to have this layed out in a flow that gives information, asks questions, proposes value, and then asks the customer to take action. By the time they get to your CTA, they should have all the necessary information to take action confidently.
This is an obvious one, but also a very important page. Your about page is where you share your story, get personal, and show the human side of the brand. People connect with brands, but they are always looking to see who is behind the curtain. Brand loyalty is multifaceted, and the people aspect is just as important as the brand aspect.
- How and why the brand came to life
- Mission statement and values
- What sets the brand apart
- Team members and their roles
- Link to contact page
Next to your home page, your about page will probably the second most visited on your site.
This short, clear, concise page will be how people get in contact with you if they have questions, or want to take advantage of your services, schedule an appointment, etc. You can have a form here or just an email address. Keep it simple and clear.
Whether you’re selling products or services, you’ll have a main landing page to direct people to. This can then be divided into categories to differentiate between your offerings. This page is an opportunity to showcase your products and bring life to your offerings. You want to assure customers that your products/services are reliable, and motivate them to take action.
The product descriptions you apply to each product or service will also be important content that you’ll want to make as descriptive as possible. Give as much information as you can that answers any questions a customer may have. If something is missing, the customer will either abandon your website entirely or have to reach out for more information.
Testimonials or Reviews
People want to know what others have to say about their experience with your brand. This is how you build trust, reach a new audience, and help people choose the right product or service for their needs.
You can have photos and testimonials/reviews that you’ve collected for customers, video testimonials, or keep everything anonymous. To gather these from customers, you’ll always want to follow up via email after a purchase to ask for a review/testimonial. This can direct people back to the product to review right on your sales page, or this can be gathered by a member of your team and organized on this page.
How to Write the Content
If you’re not a writer, don’t worry. There are a lot of ways you can create the necessary content for your website:
- Hire a freelance writer: The expertise of a freelance writer is invaluable when you’re creating content for your website. Find someone experienced in the type of content you need for your industry. They can help you set the tone and follow your branding voice and culture.
- Write the content yourself: If you are a relatively good, or great, writer, give it a shot yourself. Here are some unusual tips to create killer content yourself. Your content will likely be best coming from someone within the brand because it will be more authentic. Look at your competitors, read article on best practices, and take a writing course online if needed.
Bring Your Website to Life
Now the planning is done, you have all the pieces needed to launching your website! That’s wasn’t so bad, was it? This outline will make it easier to plug information where it’s needed so that you can build and create as you go. With this easy-to-follow guide, you’ll keep yourself out of the loony bin and on course to converting potential customers into a loyal community.
And when you’re ready to launch your website to the world, don’t make these marketing mistakes!
If you need more help than this guide provides or simply want to talk to a seasoned professional (and human), get in touch with us at Vitals!
And as a final send off, here’s our Ultimate Pre-Launch Checklist for Wordpress Websites, totally free to download!