Start Off The Year With A Website Plan

Start Off The Year With A Website Plan
By: Charlene Davisphoto

Before getting wrapped up in complex web design plans with all the bells and whistles, take some time to put together a well-thought out outline that details how your web site should be constructed. A site plan is beneficial for both new and existing web site owners because it helps you to strategize the effectiveness of your web site.

1. Define your audience: Think about who your target audience is (i.e, age, gender, location, socioeconomic status) and their purpose for visiting your site. For example, are you selling products from your web site or using it as an online portfolio or gallery?

2. Structuring your web site: The next step is to determine how many web pages you will need and how they will be linked together. The best way to do this is by organizing a site map that can also be used by visitors. This will make the navigation of your site more pleasurable and less complicated. Also consider what type of interactive features your site needs. Will visitors be able to contact you via email or live chat? Are you going to track browsers who come to your site? If you are selling items from your web site you will also need to decide how you will handle payments such as credit cards and checks.

3. Web site content and design: Providing good content for visitors is critical to your site’s success. Not only do you want to attract visitors by providing relevant information, but you want to entice them to come back by updating the material and offering new incentives. Other elements to consider are having a calendar of events, a guest book, or a shopping cart. With all of the font styles and colors to choose from, keep your wildly artistic side under wraps by making the overall site design simple and attractive by using only two or three of each.

4. Web site maintenance: How often do you plan to update your web site? Daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly? Statistics indicate that web sites are updated most often on a weekly basis, which continually provides visitors with fresh content. The next consideration is whether you have the skills to maintain your site in-house or the funds to outsource it to a professional.

5. Offer credibility: In another column we will talk about how to market your website, but first you should know how to market yourself as someone who is trustworthy and reliable. Each visitor should feel comfortable visiting your site and have the same assurance that a face-to-face visit or phone call would give them. You can offer this type of credibility by providing people with full contact information. This includes your name, business name, address, phone number, and email address. Testimonials from satisfied clientele are another way to inspire confidence in potential customers.

Your web site functions as an online store or catalog and will work for you around the clock. A professional looking site that is user friendly and well maintained gives you numerous marketing opportunities that will be discussed in future columns. Whether you decide to develop your own site or pay someone to do it, you will need to consider the above for optimal success.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.