Website planning and storytelling

Planning your website should not be overwhelming if you approach it from a storytelling point of view.

Thinking of the type of website you want to build, you’ll be able to plan what information will be included. List the specific type of content that you have to work with, be very specific!

Text, Images, Videos, Audio files.. whatever is ready to be added to the website and the things you want to create to complement the content. You probably want to create an introductory video of the company or service you’re offering, a short history of the brand, biographies of all the members, and anything you can come up with that will improve the information delivered to your audience. If we define in advance the type of website we want to create, we can make the list of types of contents beforehand and work on the content before even sketching the layout of the site.

For example, I want to create a website for an online community of knitters, there will be events and tutorials as well as a community area where members can share ideas and ask questions. I can start thinking of the information of those events (the before, during and after), how the tutorials will be announced and how will they be created: are they videos, audio files that they can use as guide while knitting, are they PDFs?

All this information will not only allow me to identify the type of information that I’ll need to gather to complete the website, but it will also give me enough time to reach out to other team members or contractors to get the copy, photos and videos done while building my site. At this stage I can also research with developer how complex these features will be and decide a timeline of implementation for each of the them in case they’re are some more complex tasks to tackle.

What are your website goals? in other words, how does online success looks like?

I’ll start thinking of the scenarios where I believe the website I’m building will be successful: my visitors will grow by the day, my products will be sold in minutes, my services will be book months in advanced and users become brand ambassadors and share it with their circle of friends.  This is a very broad example, but with these in mind, I already have a destination where to take this website and how to craft the experience for my audience.

Defining a sitemap based on the content I want to share.

There are many approaches on creating a sitemap, but one I really work on with my clients is looking at the content and mediums they have and will create and organize it in groups.  Looking at what you have and what you have to create gives you an idea of the pre-production you’ll need to put into launching your website and also how you will deliver this content.

For my example project, my available content might look like this: About/Bio, Meetups for local knitters, Interview of our expert, Basic knitting techniques in text, Contact.

On the other hand, the content that needs to be created might look like this: Tutorials outline,  Community guidelines, Community FAQs, Photos of basic knitting techniques, Videos of basic knitting techniques.

We can start to see where this project is going and how the community and the learning environment around knitting is a big part of the overall experience.  We can also start to group the content and figure out a first draft of our website structure.

It’s all about them, and the priorities we have identified

Having your audience in mind, you’ll be able to set priorities that will help your audience find you and get the value you have created for them in each piece you’ve published.

Brainstorm time: What do you want them to do the first time they visit your website?

Back to the knitting community website, I’ve defined the following priorities: create an account, register for a workshop/tutorial, interact in the community forum, create a personal profile with more information, buy a ticket for a local event, book a seat on a personal hands-on workshop, share on Social Media their feedback, learn more about the expert, contact our expert

Now that we have a clear picture of what type of content we need and what we want our users to do to consider our website successful and growing, we need to start imagining those users, who they are, where they come from and what they expect from our site.

Creating a story for our users and help them reach their goals

Because success will depend on how engaged our community is and how we can bring them the best value possible to keep them coming back, we need to imagine what they need, how they find us and how we can help them achieve that goal… and give them a little plus that they didn’t expect, but will make them love us.

  • How did they find us?
  • What were they looking for?
  • What are we going to offer them next?
  • How will we deliver that extra mile?

We can answer this questions for our current users, new users, partner we might want to invite and any group of people you want to approach with your website.

Slowly the content is starting to give us a better idea of what shape this site will have, and by shape I mean how the content will be structured and how we can create an effective layout for each page based on our users and what we want (and need) them to do when they find us.

How’s your website planning process?

It’s been awesome to share how I go through a first stage of website planning process. How did you plan yours?  Do you have any other way to approach it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.