One of the reasons why WordPress is so awesome is because it makes building powerful websites pretty easy. Pick a theme, add some content, hit Publish and there you have it. Lack of technical know-how is no longer a barrier, and the array of shiny, sexy themes that are available along with the inexpensivenss of it all can make it dangerously easy to under-think the process of building a website. But while WordPress and its eco-system have made many parts of the process simple and taken the grunt work out of making a site, the one thing that YOU still have to do, is the analytical thinking and planning behind your site.
For your site to be an effective business tool, it must reflect the core goals and missions of your company. Whereas many of us start the planning of a site by looking at the available WordPress themes and letting those designs sway our decisions, we really need to be starting from a more strategic point of view and making decisions about themes, plugins etc, based on the bigger picture.
So before you put pixel to screen, or start buying themes, consider the following.
1) What are the values and overall mission of your company?
For your website to ‘feel’ right at a fundamental level it must be a reflection of the driving force behind your business. What are the values that you want to convey? What is it about your business that keeps you motivated to run it every day? What is it about your business that your customers connect with?
2) What are the business goals of the company?
This is a key point that should influence everything from site development to marketing strategy . Get clear on what the specific goals of your company are. Sure, everyone wants to increase sales and profits but perhaps there are specific areas of your business that you are trying to grow, or areas you are moving away from. Your goals may change over time, so it’s good to review them periodically and make sure your site is still in alignment with your business goals.
3) Who is your desired clientele?
Do not try to be all things to everyone. Just because you CAN provide a certain service or make a certain product doesn’t mean you should prioritize it on your site if it’s not what you ultimately want to do. So focus on catering to the customers you really want to attract to ensure you are building a business that will serve you financially and emotionally.
4) If your site was an employee, what would its job description be?
In order for you to know whether your site is successful, it has to have a clear purpose with defined outcomes. How will you know if your site is working for you? What would the results be? More product sales? More leads? More email subscribers? etc Outlining clear goals and benchmarks will help craft the site and provide focus for design, content and tracking results.
5) What do you want visitors to do at your site – what are the actions that count?
Considering points 1 – 4 above should have brought you clarity on the purpose of your site, and therefore what steps you actually want your visitors to take upon arriving at your site. Your website should always be guiding your visitor toward what you want them to do next. Knowing what actions you would consider to be significant and tracking them, will help you understand if your site is effective or if it needs tweaking.
6) Your homepage is only one page, not the entire site.
Your website is more than just your homepage. Your homepage should provide guidance for those who land there, but it is not the be all and end all of your site. Not everyone will come to your site through your homepage – internal pages will act as landing pages for search engine visitors, so make sure that no matter what page people land on, you are providing the appropriate message and information for that visitor to take the next step.
Once you are clear on these points, the theme, graphics and text that you use will end up serving your purposes precisely. The more clear your sense of direction, the better result you will get out of your site.
*header image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluekdesign/4890727263/