“Create your own website,” they said.
“It will be easy,” they said.
Well, that depends on what qualifies to you as a proper website.
If you think that hosting your own domain, slapping on a theme, and plugging in some content is all it takes to build a website, then yes — it will definitely be easy. But if you have plans of marketing or even monetizing your website, then it definitely won’t be a walk in the park.
Every single decision you make, even before you start wireframing your website, can have an impact on your goals.
Sounds pretty serious, right?
Don’t worry — I got you covered.
To make sure your website delivers the value you or your client deserves, here are 6 questions you must ask before you work on your website.
1. What Is My Niche?
First and foremost, you must decide what your niche really is once and for all.
It sounds simple, but it’s imperative that you establish what your website is all about as early as possible. Trust me, it’s nigh impossible to develop an effective content strategy or make the right design decisions if your website has an identity crisis.
Here’s a tip. If you’ve been maintaining a blog for a while, then the first step is to look back into your previous posts and identify which topics generate the most engagement.
That’s the niche you should go for. It’s also probably the niche that your existing readership remembers you by.
You wouldn’t want to disappoint your current audience base by switching to a new niche all of the sudden.
If, however, you’re building your website from scratch and aren’t really sure what specific niche to pursue, then perhaps conducting a little keyword research may do the trick.
Why keywords? Because a keyword research tool like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner can help you gauge the demand as well as the competitiveness of specific niches.
2. What are My Goals?
After selecting your niche, it’s time to clarify what your online goals really are.
Do you want to sell an infomercial product? Are you planning to sell premium content on a subscription basis?
It’s all about identifying the specific actions that you want your target audience to take and the experience that reels them in.
What exactly are these actions? In addition to making a purchase, here are some of the examples that you may need on your website to accomplish your goals:
- Downloading an app
- Signing up for an online course
- Subscribing to a newsletter
- Registering for an event
- Clicking on affiliate links
Keep in mind that setting clear goals will help you determine the strategies and tools you need to get the job done, which leads us to the next question:
3. Which Platform Should I Use?
Have you ever tried migrating an entire website to an all-new platform?
No? Then you should try to keep it that way.
Let’s get one thing straight: website migration can be a very time-consuming and stressful task. That’s why, after identifying your online goals, it’s in your best interest to choose a platform that has all the features you’ll need.
For example, if you want to build a website for the sole purpose of selling drop shipped products, then you definitely have to consider Shopify due to its Oberlo integration — a dropshipping platform that lets you add products to your online catalog with ease.
For just about everything else, no content management system comes close to WordPress when it comes to flexibility and usability. Its main advantage is the vast library of plugins that allow you to accomplish website development tasks within minutes, from improving your WordPress site loading speed to incorporating dynamic content in your landing pages.
4. Who’s Your Target Audience?
At the end of the day, your website should be handmade with love for its intended audience, not for you or your client.
As such, it’s your duty to get to know everything about them — where they’re from, what they do, and what makes them tick. For this, you can create a target audience persona that can serve as a reference tool when developing on-page content.
Here are some of the important details you must include when creating your target audience persona:
- Basic Demographics (Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Location, etc.)
- Job Title
- Goals & Challenges
- Hobbies & Interests
5. What is Your Brand’s Personality?
You don’t need to be a professional developer to know that even the subtlest of details on a website can affect a brand’s “personality” in the eyes of the audience.
For instance, everything on the Social Media Examiner aligns with the approachable and humorous brand they’re trying to convey.
If you observe the colors, font choices, logo, header image, and the writing voice, you’ll notice that not a single detail looks out of place.
As a result, Social Media Examiner succeeded in establishing a brand image that users love to engage.
You can also see the humorous approach being utilized by dozens of popular marketers today. Here’s another example from Backlinko.
On the other hand, since The Wall Street Journal would rather preserve their credibility as an information source, they chose to stick with a newspaper-style web layout that you commonly see in other publications, like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
6. Who are Your Competitors?
Last but not least, a web developer needs to pay attention to the competitive climate in any particular niche.
More specifically, they need to keep a close eye on the top competitors for valuable insights, SEO strategies, and content ideas you can “borrow inspiration” from.
Normally, you don’t need to do anything fancy to identify who your top competitors are.
If you don’t know the big name brands that hog up all the attention, then you’re probably in the wrong niche. But for the sake of this guide, let’s just say you really don’t know who they are.
The most straightforward approach is to conduct a quick Google search using a target keyword. You can also take advantage of a tool like SimilarWeb — a market analysis platform that lets you observe ongoing trends in every industry.
Building a profitable website is a challenging process from start to finish.
By answering the questions above, you should be more than prepared for the obstacles that may stand between you and your online goals.
Just remember that, in web development, nothing is assured. The only way to keep your brand afloat is to be observant and learn to adapt on the fly.