Listen up, readers. I’m about to share the secret to building a successful website. Are you listening? Good. Here it is.

A well-thought-out detailed project plan.

I know what you’re thinking. Jeez, that was a letdown. Any good businessperson knows you can’t start a project without a plan. But trust me, you would be surprised how many don’t start with a plan or start with a very weak plan. So today I’m going to walk you through planning for the plan and everything you need to consider.

Discovery Phase

The most important part of the plan is the discovery phase. It’s so important we’re dedicating an entire blog post to it. If you don’t set the stage correctly and establish an agreed upon action plan, it affects the rest of the project. It is during this phase that you identify exactly what your business problem is and how a website will help fill your business needs and reach your objectives.

I’m going to let you in on another secret. “My company needs a website,” is not a problem. “My competitors have started to sell their products online and I need to start an ecommerce website to keep up.” Or, “my competitors have begun using paid search advertising to gain more leads, I’d like to start but I can’t send people to my website because it looks like it belongs in the 90s.” Now those are problems.

Questions to Consider

It is key to identify exactly why you need a website. You need to ask yourself – who is this website going to serve? And how do you want them to use it? Really think through your ideal target customer’s journey throughout your website.

Do you want them to purchase products? Then you need to consider a robust platform that can handle an ecommerce website.

Do you want them to contact you? Well, you’re going to need some strong call-to-actions and a way to capture leads.

Do you want to be a findable and knowledgeable resource? Then you need to work SEO into the plan so they can find and share your content. What kind of content will you write about? Who will write it? What is the ideal content schedule for your target audience?

Do you plan on attracting visitors to your site by implementing an email marketing strategy? What email program will you use? Will it work with your website platform?

Do you know the percentage of desktop visitors compared to mobile visitors? Does it make sense to design for mobile first?

I could go on, but you get the point. Once you’ve figured out the business needs, then you need to consider the logistics. Think through the project constraints – budget, deadline, staff capabilities for maintenance, content creation, etc. During this phase you will prioritize your website features. But if you haven’t thought everything through, you might not realize that you should have a mobile first design until code has already been written. Then you’ve wasted time and money on a big mistake that could’ve been avoided had you created a detailed project plan. Before you can move forward, you need to have clearly defined the purpose the website will serve and what it will take to make it a reality. And don’t forget the documentation! Make sure all the great ideas that come from the discovery phase are written down and mapped out before you move onto to the design.

Develop Personas

Who is your target audience? Have you taken the time to think through their demographics, motivators, pain points, barriers/objections, and what’s in it for me questions? If not, this is a key exercise to do in order to develop content and call to actions that make sense for your business goals.

Conduct Interviews and Research

If you have the budget and time to go the extra discovery mile and continue to refine your personas and back up your initial findings with interviews and focus groups with clients, prospects, and internal stakeholders, by all means, do it. If you don’t, our recommendation is that you create an online survey. It can be done fairly inexpensively and easily. However, at minimum, you should develop personas mentioned above.

Once you have concluded the discovery phase, you are more prepared for the design, development and launch phases. Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Easiest Way to Ruin a Web Development Project (And How to Avoid It).We’ll even provide some project plan samples.

Until next time!