Strategic Website Planning
Table of contents
- What is strategic web planning?
- The goal of strategic planning
- The benefits of a strategic approach
- Satisfying your clients first
- What is a strategically designed website?
- Traditional advertising vs websites
- What your users want and don’t want
- What do your particular customers want?
- What does a strategic Website look like?
- Traditional advertising vs websites
- What your users want and don’t want
- The importance of keeping it simple
- How can a strategically built website help your clients?
- The process of discovery
- Helping clients with their specific concerns
- Benefits of going through this level of planning
- Does your website project need a strategic plan?
A lot of the time, when a website is put together, the content and what needs to be said seem quite obvious: information about the company, picture of the boss, facts, figures, testimonials, pretty pictures in a nice design and you’re done…
Actually, what if there was a bit more to it than that?
What is strategic web planning?
A single website can serve many purposes. Different people using the website want different things from it.
The people who made the website also want something out it – and it’s not necessarily the same as what the users want.
If you combine the needs of the business and the needs of the users into a coherent plan – that’s strategic website planning – and the outcome will be a strategically designed website.
The goal of strategic planning
The goal is to make sure the website is aligned with your business objectives and maximizes its return on investment.
A strategically built website is more likely to improve sales and aid business efficiency.
It does this by ensuring the customer gets what they want.
In other words, the goal of strategic web planning is to maximize online profitability by helping customers get what they want.
The benefits of a strategic approach
Businesses that invest in a Strategic Website will increase customer loyalty and significantly improve the rate at which site visitors take an interest in your business/organization.
Satisfying your clients first
No matter your line of business, your primary goal is to satisfy your clients because without clients you don’t have a business.
99% of the time, your website is viewed by existing clients or potential clients and not the general public at large. Your average visitor is not just ‘passing through’ but is visiting with intent to satisfy a need.
Therefore, it follows, that your website should not be seen as extension of your marketing campaign but an extension of your “shop ﬂoor” where you use a range of tactics to entice diﬀerent types of clients with varying needs in varying circumstances.
To do this you need a plan or a strategy that will take all of this into account and allow you to maximize the eﬀectiveness of your business online
Rather than a general marketing plan, you need to implement a specific set of business tactics that are particular to your business and your business situation.
This is what a strategic plan aims to do.
What is a strategically designed website?
A strategically designed website aims to satisfy your various types of clients with specific business tactics in order to maximize the eﬀectiveness of your business.
A strategic website is an extremely well-thought-out website. It makes sure that there is a tangible business benefit to every element in the website.
They tend to look sparse but that’s because they are no-nonsense, clear and easy to use.
Strategic design looks at the needs of the user and the business from many angles and draws out a detailed plan to meet the goals of the business as well as meeting the needs of the users.
Traditional advertising vs websites
Traditional advertising like billboards, brochures, television ads and radio comes to the user. They are loud, catchy, and evocative to catch your attention.
Unlike traditional advertising, you can’t force someone to see your website. They go because they want to. They go because they have a need they want satisfied. Websites are visited on purpose.
People visit websites to resolve personal concerns and you need to satisfy their concerns in order to drive them towards your business.
In that respect, websites are more like extensions of your business premises, rather than a form of marketing.
Imagine what would happen if you went to the premises of a web design company and you were greeted by a loud salesman who didn’t listen to your needs but instead started to tell you about how wonderful his company was and then quoted you a price without knowing what it was you needed.
You’d run out of the door, thinking ‘what an annoying idiot’. More importantly, you wouldn’t know if that business was able to help you or not.
It’s the same online and it’s the same for your business. If a client goes to your site and you’re giving them the hard sell or generic information about your company or catchy messages or typical marketing ﬂuﬀ, you’re actually impeding them from doing business with you.
What your users want and don’t want
You cannot force a user to do business with you; you can’t convince them that you’re the best with pretty pictures and clever taglines. You have to prove yourself by being helpful, by answering their queries and educating them on the benefits of doing business with you, even if you’re selling ﬂowers.
You must be courteous and not waste their time. You must inform them simply and plainly and let them get on with their lives as quickly as possible, having learnt something that brings them closer to their goals which will in turn (hopefully) drive them closer to your business.
They want to go about their business quickly, with the least amount of fuss. They want their particular needs to be resolved, they want to be treated with respect and as individuals.
They don’t want to be bombarded with confusing messages. They don’t want to think and they want to read the least amount possible whilst absorbing the most amount of benefit. They don’t care about your business, they want to know what your business can do for them.
What do your particular customers want?
That’s the ultimate question but it’s one that you shouldn’t assume you know the answer to. It depends on who they are, who you are and what their ultimate goal is, amongst other things.
It’s 1000 diﬀerent things and some concerns are more important than others. Hence the need for all that strategic planning. To really know what your users want, you have to profile them, which is all part of the strategic process.
What does a strategic Website look like?
A typical website says “Hey, take a look at my amazing business”, a strategic website says “These are the ways in which we can help you”.
All websites are just words and images, so at first glance, strategic websites look similar to other modern websites. However, there are tell-tale signs that you can see upon closer examination.
Signs of a strategic website
- They look plain and simple since they have been trimmed down for clarity.
- Less functionality, less moving parts.
- The design has a sense of balance and proportion
- Navigation may be segmented, so that it’s easy to find the most important information easily.
- Strategic websites follow design conventions, they don’t try to be diﬀerent.
- Information is easier to find.
- The value of the website to the user is appreciable.
- Diﬀerent texts for people on the go and people wishing to do in-depth research.
- You understand what the company does, even if you don’t know who they are.
- The business that the website represents seems credible
- You understand what makes the company special, even if it’s doing something quite normal.
- You feel a sense of trust because there is a sense of honesty rather than they are trying to sell you something.
Signs of a non-strategic website
- Over use of keywords and jargon
- Chunks of text that seem to be used to fill space on a page because they leave you feeling empty.
- Unnecessary or blind usage of web trends and technology
- Overly prominent social media links
- More use of the word “We” rather than “You”
- News and blog entries that sounds more like thinly covered marketing.
- You feel a sense of ‘confusion’ and ‘mistrust’ as if they are only telling you what you want to hear.
- Irrelevant, cheesy or space-filling images.
- More talk of features than benefits.
- Lots of sentences that don’t add to your knowledge.
- Lots of jargon or marketing words like “excellence”, “we’re passionate”, “award-winning”
- Lots of talk about mission and vision and other internally focused communications.
- Unnecessary graphics that distract rather than communicate.
The importance of keeping it simple
A key feature of strategic websites is keeping things simple. Keeping something simple means sacrifice, thought, editing. It’s harder and it takes more time but it’s worth it: In the same way that describing something in 5 choice words is harder than describing something in 5 sentences. Making a simple website is harder and more time consuming than creating a large, complicated looking site.
Most websites suﬀer from the thoughtless implementation of technology and design, where technology is applied without regard to its ultimate benefit.
For example, how does social media really help your business? Why have a private login area?
How does this benefit your clients?
Often the added choices bring confusion.
Strategic Design resolves this wastage by consciously tracing every website element back to the benefit it will bring the user or the business.
Benefits of keeping things simple:
- Less to build, less budget, faster delivery time.
- Less to maintain, less that can go wrong.
- Easier to use website
- Less choices means faster and easier choices
- Less to read, better experience
How can a strategically built website help your clients?
Most websites portray things from the point of view of the business. They leave it up to the viewer to translate the information into something relevant to them, which invariably, they don’t. This leaves your viewers thinking, “so what”?
A strategic website makes life easier for everyone by trying to put things in a way that is immediately relevant to the user. Quite a difficult task considering there are so many types of viewers!
The process of discovery
The strategic design process involves understanding in detail what the various types of people that will be coming to visit your website are, why they are coming and what can be done to help them.
Only once you know who they are can you create a website that weaves together all their needs into a coherent and relevant picture of your business.
Helping clients with their specific concerns
The price canvasser
How will you handle pricing? Will you show your prices, give a price range or make them contact you?
The person who may be looking for something but isn’t sure what that is. Why is he browsing? What can we interest him with?
What do you want to indirectly say to your nearest competitor?
Where do referrals come from? What is it that they want to see?
The Job Seeker
How much importance will you give to job seeker on your website?
The decision maker
How will you help the person in charge make that final choice?
The business partner
How can you aid your business relationships with your website?
This person requires in depth knowledge in order to make the next move forward. What will be the next step for a researcher? Can we give him a PDF?
Benefits of going through this level of planning
- Immediately understand how you can help them.
- You get to help more people, meaning you have a more efficient customer service process.
- No feeling of frustration towards your company/brand.
- Clarity means people can make informed decisions
- They can move their decision process to the next stage easily
- Understanding your service means they are more likely to use it.
Does your website project need a strategic plan?
This really depends on how sure you want to be, that your website will meet your needs and the needs of your users.
It’s not always necessary to think about things in such detail before a project start, but if you do, you might save yourself a lot of time and effort in the long run.
On the other hand no one can predict how users are going to react – so there is something to be said for “going with it” and fixing along the way.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger or more complex company is, the more you should strategize before designing your website.