Planning a website? Here are the 4 key questions you need to ask

Updated October 4, 2022

Planning is SO important for mapping out where you want your business to go. Similarly, it’s essential for designing your website. I’ve seen people completely skip this step, but planning a website is what you should do first before you even think about fonts or colors and everything else that makes your website look pretty!

We recently had a strategy session for a website redesign for a client. We had designed her first website 5 years ago and it was time for an update. So many things have changed in the last five years, technology has changed, what people are looking for in a website has changed and more importantly, her business model has changed.

She’s now serving a much different audience than she was serving five years ago. In anticipation of the meeting, she sent me a list of all the different websites that she really liked and I had them all pulled up and they were all on my screen.

When she came into the conference room, she was all set to jump in and start looking at the sites that she liked and incorporate some of those elements into her new website. But I took her by surprise when I said, “We’re not actually going to do that right now.” Before we even cracked open our laptops, I grabbed a marker and turned our attention to the big dry-erase board in the conference room.

I had four columns on the board:

  • Goals
  • Ideal Customer
  • Functionality
  • Vibe

We spent the next 45 minutes flushing out all of these and only when we exhausted our options did we start looking at the sample websites that she liked. She left our meeting with a clear idea and a detailed PLAN for how we are going to redesign her website so that it attracts and converts her ideal client.

Here’s a sneak peek of the dry-erase board at the end of our session:

Photo of dry erase board with writing from planning session

And you can see, you probably can’t see the words, but you can see that that whiteboard is absolutely filled with brainstorming ideas. And this was before we even looked at her existing website’s look and feel or any of the websites that she liked that she wanted to come in prepared to talk about.

Here is each question in detail:

“What are the goals of your website?”

When I asked her this question, she had to take a step back for a second and really needed to think about what she wanted her website to do, and what she wants it to be. And that really drove the rest of our conversation because the goal of her website today was very different than the goal from five years ago. Five years ago, her website’s goal was primarily just to be an educational portal.

It was a place where people could go and find some information, but there really wasn’t a well-defined goal or vision that she had for her previous website. We really dug in and spent a lot of time flushing out what the goals of her new website would be.  And on that whiteboard, a good quarter of that whiteboard was filled up with all of our ideas of what the goals of the website should be.

“Who is your ideal customer?”

Once we had narrowed down her website goals, the next thing that I asked her was, “Who is your ideal customer?”  I’m sure that you’ve probably heard this terminology before, but it’s super important for you to really get in your mind who that ideal person is.

It’s not even necessarily who your current clients are or your current customers are. Instead, think about a favorite client or customer that you have. The ones that you want more of. That is how I define your ideal customer.

And I want you to really spend some time flushing this out. I want you to think of their age, where they live, what books they like to read, what movies they like to watch, what TV shows they watch, where they go food shopping, where do they go clothes shopping, and what are their interests, what are their hobbies. You need to have some kind of a vision, of a picture in your mind of who it is.

You want to picture that person actually clicking their mouse and coming to your website because that’s going to give you such clarity on what you need to deliver on your website for that ideal customer. You’re going to make sure that when you create content, when you use imagery, everything that you do is going to come back to and speak to that ideal customer.

“What do you need your website to be able to do?”

In my client’s case, she had to have a calendar that didn’t just list upcoming events. She also needed them to be able to register and pay online. Since she wanted to generate leads, we needed to be able to capture names to add to her email list, so we knew that we had to incorporate a free download – also known as a lead magnet – that connected to her email service provider.

We got super specific on the functionality of what we needed her website to be able to do and made a list.  And then we got into what I call the vibe of her website.

“What’s the vibe of your website?”

When your ideal customer visits your site, they need to be able to resonate with it. They need to feel like they’re in a place that’s speaking directly to them, and the “vibe” of your website conveys that. Depending on your ideal customer, you may want to have a very playful vibe. Or maybe it should feel very serene and very soothing. You could have a vibe of being very professional or you could have a vibe of being bold. It’s the feeling that your website evokes.

Once you answer these four questions:  your goals, your ideal customer, your functionality, and your vibe, you’ll have very clear picture of the direction that you need for your website.  After we completed this planning process with our client, we pulled up the list of websites she liked. As we went through each of them and analyzed them with the new information we gathered from planning a website, we realized that much of what she thought she liked no longer fit with her website goals and what her ideal customer needed. 

By the end of our session, I had a very good understanding of where we were going to take her website from there. These are the things that are going to make sure that her website actually attracts the right customer or client and then converts for her. Because that’s ultimately what we all want our websites to do.


Ready for a brand and a website that will connect you to your customers?

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