How to plan a website and set goals the SMART way

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Whether you plan to build your first website or you want to refresh and revamp your existing one, to succeed you need a plan. And measurable goals.
Otherwise how would you know that what you’ve built delivers on what you wanted to accomplish?

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
-Henry Ford

And let’s be realistic right away. Don’t expect your website to be perfect. Like ever. It’s a continuous effort and improvement. Never an ‘I’m finally done and can now sit back and relax’ feeling.

So how do you start planning a website?
And what to do to stay on track?
Not to mention what are SMART website goals anyway?

I’ll break it down here in this post.

Are you ready?
Then let’s dive in, starting with…

How to plan a website?

Building a website can take from a few weeks up to months and sometimes years. Yes, you heard me right. It can take years. But yours doesn’t have to take this long.

The crucial question is this.
How eager are you to go live and start earning money with your small business website?

The biggest mistake many first time website builders (and DIY website designers) commit is not setting a deadline by when they want their website up and running.

If you don’t pencil it in your calendar, chances are high there’ll be always something ‘important’ coming up that gets priority. And then it just goes on for ages.
Or even worse, you never even launch your website.

The below article lists all the steps involved in building a website whether you do it on your own or hire an expert.

Once you’re well informed and know what’s involved, do the following:

Set a specific date by when you want the website go live.

  • Be realistic.
  • Review your typical work schedule and activities.
  • It really depends on whether you do it as a side project next to your full time job or if you have more free time that you can dedicate to the project.

 

Break down the project into digestible steps and assign to each step a deadline.

  • Even if you’re doing everything alone (copywriting, photography, design and development) life happens. Usually when you expect it the least, things can go sideways.
  • Think about carefully what you can achieve, what progress you can make during an hour, a day, a week.

 

This earlier blog post shows you the essential steps how to turn your vague idea to a real website.

But it doesn’t need to be all hard work. And panic. Or tears.

Yes, commit yourself to the project. Make it a priority. If you can find an accountability partner. That’s the best. Having someone at your side. Even if only virtually. And cheering you up and asking you regularly about your progress, can boost your productivity.

And while you’re busy at work, don’t forget about this either.

Celebrate your wins

After each milestone that you’ve ticked off from your project list as completed, pause and reflect. You did something great. You learned and applied a new skill. You made a step towards accomplishing your dream. Launching your own website.

That deserves some sort of celebration, my friend!

It doesn’t have to be a big party or a huge expense (though if your budget permits it by all means go ahead):

  • take the afternoon off and go window shopping,
  • explore your city and go to a cafe you haven’t visited before,
  • go to the cinema with your partner/friends,
  • grab a book or spend the rest of the day with playing an online game.

Don't be afraid of asking for help

Designing and building a website may not be that easy if you do it the first time. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind and asking for help.

If you decide to hire a web designer or developer to build your website, you need to know their availability, timelines, budget.

They will need certain inputs from you to be able to

  • write your website copy text,
  • organize a suitable photoshoot location for your branded images,
  • design the necessary web graphics for your brand etc.

 

Bottom line is, before you contact them have your website goals and plan ready. That will speed up the process significantly.

Once your website is up and running, the ultimate goal is to generate traffic and leads. So here comes the exciting part of this post.

How to set SMART website goals?

When defining your business and website goals, it’s important to make sure they’re not too vague. The problem with vague goals is that these can prove difficult to achieve.
And no surprise you’ll struggle to stay motivated.

Setting SMART goals is a proven method that I also recommend.
It stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

 

Phrasing your goals the SMART way has a lot of benefits. And don’t just make a mental note of your goals. Instead write them down. On a paper with pen. It can really help to physically write down your goals, rather than digitally recording them.

Now let’s see some practical examples.

The not so SMART goals

“I want more traffic for my website.”
“I want more returning visitors to my website”.

While these goals express the desired state you want to achieve, with their current wording they don’t give you any means to measure if and when you achieve them.

If you gained one more website visitor, in theory you accomplished both goals.
Because that’s more than what you have.

  • Would you consider it a business success though?
  • Does one visitor make a financial difference?
  • What if you’ve gained this one visitor over the period of 6 months?

 

notepad with marker on table

Now let's SMARTen up those website goals

At the end of [ADD DATE] I want to increase my website’s traffic by [SPECIFY VALUE %] using my allocated budget of [ADD VALUE USD].

OR

In 3 months from now I want to increase the volume of returning users to my website by 5% using free methods.

  • Both SMART goals above have a time component, so you can check on that date if you accomplished your goal. You have a target deadline.
  • They specify that you want to increase traffic/returning visitor volume and your budget for it. You set clear measurable values in %.
  • The goals are relevant to your business and your financial goals. Increased traffic and returning visitors mean more people see your products, offering and on-page ads.
  • To make it attainable you need to define any variables (dates, time frames, budgets, %) realistically.

 

If you’ve started and published your website recently, it may not be attainable to generate millions of visitors within a few weeks. I’m not saying it’s impossible. But then you definitely need the right monetary means to support such an ambitious goal.

To give you some context:
If you had 146 users in August, and 7 came back in September, that means that 4.79% of your users returned to your site.

Now that you have set your SMART goals, break them further down.
Think about what steps you need to take to get more website traffic and to get more returning visitors. Evaluate your options and choices based on your budget.

To name a few this could include:

  • paid advertisement,
  • hiring an SEO expert,
  • posting quality blog content,
  • setting up push notifications on your website.

 

Blog post featured image photo credit: MOYO studio (referral link)

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