Planning for your online presence is just as important as planning anything in your business. And just like business planning, it requires tenacity, gumption, loads of introspection and sheer grit. Your company website is your most prized piece of marketing yet it’s rarely treated that way.
Instead, it’s usually a case of: “Let’s get something up and see what happens.” Or, the dreaded, “But I don’t know what to do?!”
Building a beautiful and functional website is much like building your dream home. Let me explain:
Imagine for a moment that you’re building your dream home.
You’ve decided that it must have a walk-in pantry with eye-level widows out to an expansive herb and vegetable garden. A gorgeous ensuite with a claw foot bathtub and a quiet, comfy little nook to get your creative on. Those are your only requirements.
After quite a bit of research, you find a builder who says they can give you this and they set out sourcing the materials for your dream home. A few days into the build, the builder is approached by the local building authorities requiring to see a building permit. Because there isn’t one, work halts until the permit is obtained. This is obviously going to push back the completion date and incur additional costs.
Again the builder gets to work and everything seems to be humming along nicely until, he stumbles on an area of earth that requires reinforcing so your ensuite doesn’t plummet while you’re in that lovely clawfoot tub. Enter earthworks specialists, more delays and of course, additional costs.
The day has finally arrived for you to take up residence of your dream home. You’re ecstatic—as you should be! Sheer delight overcomes you as you sneak a peek of your herb and veggie garden as you meander up the driveway.
Thoughts of how lovely it’s going to be preparing wholesome meals straight from the garden are quickly interrupted by what appears to be a lack of windows. There doesn’t seem to be any other windows apart from the two that look out to your delightful herb and vegetable garden.
It doesn’t take long for you to realize that your dream home consists of exactly what you had asked for. A walk in pantry accessible only from the front door of your home. Actually, it looks more like a short hallway with shelves on the walls to store your food. A cosy nook accessible only through the other end of the walk in pantry. And an ensuite accessible from a door off the nook with nothing but your gorgeous clawfoot bath tub.
No kitchen. No bedroom. No laundry. Nothing except what you asked for.
I know, it’s a ludicrous scenario that would probably seem like a great addition to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events but, it’s usually what happens when you fail to give thorough attention to the planning of your website.
Prevent a series of unfortunate website blunders
When you don’t plan your web presence you ultimately incur extra costs, deadlines get pushed back and you end up with a distorted version of what you “thought” were explicit requirements and common sense.
Whether you’re doing it yourself or you have a web designer at hand, planning is the crux of developing a successful online business.
Most entrepreneurs don’t realize that it takes a whole lot more than buying a domain name and hosting then, glossing up the pages with color, words and images. And it usually takes months before one realizes their website isn’t working and no-one’s banging down their virtual shop door to work with them.
At this point, you’re left with two choices:
Start from scratch and learn from your mistakes
Persevere and try, somehow, to make it work
Either way, there’s one thing that will help you come back from this.
Empathetic planning provides the ultimate reward
Identifying what your users want and need vs. what you think they want and need will help you revive your company website. Putting yourself in the eyes and mind of those you want to help and empathizing with them on every level of rationale, will help you create an experience that feels easy and logical to them.
Careful, empathetic planning leads to smart decisions, focused action and a better result for you and ultimately your website visitors. You create a dialogue and seek to communicate in a way that relates closely to your audiences’ lives.
So then, what’s possible when you actually plan your website from this perspective?
You’ll obviously get what everyone else wants; longer site visits, return visitors, lower bounce rates, more subscribers, more blog comments, increased interaction, more followers on your social channels and of course a larger audience.
But those things seem insignificant to the real possibilities.
How about the possibility of making someone’s life a little more bearable or a whole lot easier? Or what about the chance to help them realize their dreams or simply holding the space for their hopes and fears to be validated. And what about the greatest possibility . . . the chance to transform a life?
These are the real possibilities – the ultimate rewards. When you start with empathy and a real desire to be of service, everything else falls into place.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Theressa Young-Ngoungou is the website and branding babe behind Indie Pixel House. She fly’s solo (and loves it!) helping spirited folks build inspiring brands and online homes with gorgeous web design and courses. She sees her business as one grand adventure and happily shares the up’s and downs of her life of as a solopreneur. Connect with @IndiePixelHouse on Twitter.
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