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Planning a Website

We've created a simple guide to planning a website. You'll learn how to set up your site structure in the most efficient way possible, successfully integrate a blog, brand yourself effectively, and more... all in a step-by-step way.

This tutorial assumes you'll be using a Web publishing platform (otherwise known as a website builder or content management system [i.e. CMS]) to develop your new site. If you have yet to choose one for this project, get our personal recommendation for the best website platform, it's free!

Important Questions to Address

Prior to beginning a new website, we need to ask ourselves two important questions. They are:

  1. Is my current publishing platform future proof (meaning modern and up to date with the latest Web standards)?
  2. Will I eventually move my website over to another platform? The answer, by the way, is yes.

Pondering these questions will help bring awareness to the need for great software in building our site, and openness to (and preparation for) eventually moving our site when the platform it's built on becomes obsolete - trumped by a simpler, more powerful, and generally better platform.

Our only two pieces of advice in this area are to seek out the CMS that closest meets your needs at any given time, and when migrating over to another platform, re-publish (and re-map your domain name) only when all content and digital assets (eg: PDFs, images, etc) have been copied and transferred... naturally implementing whatever existing and new functionality you might need (eg: e-commerce [without forgetting to adjust inventory], blogging engine, etc) as well.

Migrating a website takes time; If it consists of thousands of pages, it could takes months. This is why it's vital to your online success to establish a workflow (i.e. method of working) that simplifies the process of creating, organizing, and delivering content. With that said, keep in mind that, just like your site, nothing will be set in stone (and so, you don't have to be perfect in your pursuits [nor would this even be possible]); You can continue to change and refine your system for getting stuff done as you please as you move forward. In fact, it's suggested.

Stage 1: Your Idea

Your idea is the basis for your website. It is the foundation for your site's main theme, it determines whether or not you'll be blogging (and/or adding other content types), and it rounds up all elements related to branding, marketing, and e-commerce. It's the purpose of your online creation.

For many, it's to market an existing business. For others, it's to create a thriving community tied to an organization they believe in. For you, it might simply be a topic of interest or something you'd like to share with the world. Either way, you need to know what your site will be about.

Stage 2: Monetization

This is where planning a website gets tough; Tough because the initial excitement sparked by thoughts of generating income on the Internet quickly dissolve, and all that's left is making hard decisions related to your online business, many of which will be lackluster. The key in the long run is to make more good choices relative to bad choices, considering, of course, the caveat that you may still be profitable in the opposite scenario (as the sum of their parts ultimately determines net earnings).

Monetization should be on your mind from the get-go, contrary to the beliefs of many online marketers, most of which are complete beginners. The only instance where monetizing a website upon launch won't be an issue is if your intention is to tailor profit-based offerings from feedback received by your audience over a period of time (through the conducting of surveys, analysis of blog comments, etc). Either way, at least some brainstorming should be done prior to setting up your site.

Non-profits also need to generate income, whether it be by acquiring donations on a regular basis or selling products or services related to their general offering; For them, if we could provide an example, receiving used goods to re-distribute to those in need won't be enough. It seems that the only model that truly works in a market-driven economy is selling something in exchange for money, more specifically something of higher value than what we are getting paid - because that is the nature of our current state (and has been for years) virtually worldwide. It is embedded in our economic consciousness, and although possible, is extremely difficult to break apart from.

If a resource-based (or partially-resource-based) economy becomes the norm some day, more options will be opened up to us... but for now, competition is the name of the game. Just to be clear, this does not mean that you need to give up your creativity; On the contrary, it is original companies powered by innovative individuals that are prospering today. We'll demonstrate how in much of the content that makes up this section.

Stage 3: Action and Marketing

It's true that too much thought often leads to procrastination (and for some utter stagnation), but taking action on a whim won't get you results either, at least not in the long-term. Likewise, inspired action without calculating the factors involved can prove to be unfruitful; An example of this and one that's rampant across the webosphere is the person who wants to profit from their passion, but doesn't properly assess the niche thev'e selected. In other words, it's nice to do what you love and there will be lucrative benefits to this, but it's crucial to test the market out regularly for demand of the products and services you envision selling and/or promoting. Why? Because in the end, if your business is not scalable and somewhat measurable, that drive you had at the start may be used up.

Once you've acquired a good enough sense of the market you originally and enthusiastically intended to delve into {This encompasses ideal/target visitors and/or clients, demand and supply (i.e. competition), product/service costs versus revenue along with projected number of sales (applied only to product and service vendors/advertisers), among several other components}, then, you can begin to take the necessary actions to concretize your offerings & overall marketing strategy as well the Web technologies that tie them all together.