Why Your Website Needs a Floor Plan
Despite the glamour of that old Kohler commercial, where a sophisticated couple asks their architect to design a house around their new faucet, houses are best built with a plan in mind. First, you decide on the location based on a good school system or where your friends or family live. Then, you decide on the must-haves and develop a floor plan. Do you want one level or two? How many bedrooms do you need? Do you like open spaces and vaulted ceilings?
Once your builder is hard at work, then you can turn your attention to the finishes. This makes sense, because if you try to pick out a couch before you even know how big the living room is going to be, you’ll wind up with something too big, too brown, or too poofy.
Building a website is much like building a house. Planning makes all the difference, and developing it around a pretty image or a disorganized laundry list of content will likely mean the site is “too poofy” and is missing a refrigerator. So before you start shopping for the perfect photos, consider using conversation-starters, like those below to guide you toward the perfect site plan.
Know Your Audience
- Who will be visiting my site?
- Why are they coming to the site?
- What do they want to know? What do I want them to know?
Why it matters: You wouldn’t build a one-bedroom house with white carpets and glass tables if you have three rambunctious kids under 10. Knowing who you are building your site for will guide you in how you organize it, how you speak to them, and what you want those visitors to do once they get there. Take the time to develop at least broad audience profiles (industries, roles, pain points and value props), or better yet, build personas for your ideal visitors. Then consider user testing throughout the development process to make sure your site is resonating with those it’s intended to.
Know Your Content
- What do I want on the site?
- What do other stakeholders want on the site?
- How much of what I and others want will actually be helpful for our visitors?
Why it matters: So many websites become big, bloated, and far off the course of serving as a resource for your visitors because there is no guiding plan for what they should accomplish. Like letting your cousin talk you into adding a three-car garage when the only vehicle you own is a Vespa. Keeping your audience and goals front and center goes a long way toward making smart, customer-focused content decisions. Leverage your personas and consider exercises like card sorting and site mapping to keep you organized and streamlined.
Know Your Tech
- Does the site need to connect to any other tools, like my CRM or email marketing system?
- Who is going to handle managing the site and its content once it’s launched? What are their skill levels?
- Am I going to have videos, interactive tools, or other elements that mean a lot of bandwidth or server power will be needed?
Why it matters: Remember those three rambunctious kids? They probably make a lot of laundry, so you’re going to want a heavy-duty washer and dryer. And if you go with that three-car garage, life will be easier with automatic door openers. With websites, launch is just the beginning – you will want to keep content fresh and also maximize your technology stack so they integrate with each other as best as possible. Talk to your developer about your wish list and must-haves before you start building, not the day before you go live.
The moral of this story? Build your website like you’d build a house. Resist the appeal (and probably pressure) to go live right now and take the time to build that floor plan. Let it serve as your compass for every decision you make and you’re sure to love your new dream home. Especially the perfectly poofy couch.