To have a successful information website, you need to have solid website architecture. You need to consider not only the aesthetics (website design), but also web content planning, web management, as well as the code. And by this I mean you’ve done the following:
- Set clear web site goals
- Defined target audience
- Completed competitor analysis
- Set up processes for website management
- Information architecture
Understanding Your Target Market
If your website is a technology review site, think of an example of a visitor to your site: say, Peter who wants to buy a smartphone but is currently looking at options. Creating a profile of Peter, you may say:
- To choose a smartphone
- To buy a smartphone
- Doesn’t know much about the smartphone products
- Does not know about the differences of smartphone products in terms of features
- How to save money
- How to make the right decision in purchasing
- List of top 25 smartphones in the market
- Product images of smartphone models
- Comparison of features of the common smartphones
- Detailed review of each individual smartphone model
- Communicating with other smart phone buyers
- Reviews from owners and buyers of specific smartphone models
- Product purchase of smartphones (including affiliate links)
- Ads from smartphone vendors
By looking at the goals and problems of your target market, you will be able to define how you will solve it through the types of content that you will offer. How will you help Peter choose a smartphone? You do so by offering comparison of the top smartphones, listing of the top smartphones today, putting in your technical review and buyers’ reviews on the site, and establishing a community of buyers and product users that Peter can consult. To help Peter buy a smartphone, you put ads of relevant vendors offering smartphones, and link to affiliate websites selling smartphones (where you get a commission for every sale generated).
Web site goals are very important. What it is that your website wants to achieve? What problems do you want to address? Read the article 7 Steps to Successful Web Site Development for tips on setting your website goals.
How will you know if your website is successful? You need to have a clear set of what you want your website to achieve, and what you want visitors to your website will do.
Do you want your website visitors to?
- Subscribe to your newsletter?
- Sign up for your RSS feeds?
- Share your content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media?
- Read the entire page as opposed to spending only 2 seconds scanning the headline of the page?
- Click on your ads?
- Buy your ebook and other products?
Make a list of your top goals, and order them in terms of priority. Limit the number of your goals as it may be unrealistic to have so many goals at the same time. However, you can have different goals for each pages, and you can create a different page for each goal. If your aim is to generate leads, you can create a lead generation landing page where you give a free ebook to those who will sign up for your newsletter.
Looking at your competitors can give your ideas of what visitors expect from a similar kind of website. Competitor analysis is extremely important because what your website will have (or not have) should answer the questions:
- What can I do to have a better website than my competitors?
- What content don’t my competitors have that I should have to give me an edge?
- What do they offer that I also need to offer if I expect their audiences to come to me instead?
Website Tools and Management
Your content management system or website backend is essential to the management, security and maintenance of your website. You need to make sure that:
- You have tools in place to ensure that your pages load fast, whether a caching software or content delivery or distribution network (CDN)
- Safeguards are in place to prevent malware injections, brute force login attacks, and hacker attempts
- If you are running ads, you have a robust ad server management system in place
You also need to start looking at the tools you need to have to ensure that you are measuring the success (or lack thereof) of your website. Tools could include:
- Web analytics software such as Google Analytics as well as a heat map tracking tool such as Clicktale.
- A/B or multivariate testing tools so you can test out elements of your site and see data to support your hypothesis — e.g. does having an orange Buy Now button get better conversions than a red Buy Now button?
- Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to help you understand how search engines see your site and how you can improve your site’s performance in the search engines
- Email delivery and management tool for lead captures and newsletter distribution
After looking at what your target audience’s needs and wants as well as what competitors offer, you need to come up with a long list of ideas of what your website will have and the content that you will offer.
This is your mind mapping stage, where you list your ideas and divide them into categories. You will now start to decide on the various functional sections of your website, including site features. This whole process will result in your website’s information structure, including your navigation menus.
The design of your website, including the individual web pages, should support the goals that you want your website to achieve.
If you want readers to subscribe to your newsletter, then put a subscription box above the fold that users can immediately see, and/or at the bottom of the page after they have read your content and know that this is the kind of content they regularly want to receive.
Think of how you want your navigation menu to look, your entire header section (which includes your website logo, search form, contact information, and even social media icons), contextual areas or content blocks, and website footer. Get feedback from colleagues and friends about your prototype web design to see if it all makes sense.
Before launching your site, test its elements. Is your website easy to use? Is it user friendly? Are the font sizes just right for your target audiences? Are the links going to the correct places? Have you checked your website for grammar and spelling errors?
Creating a successful information website requires a lot of planning, research and thinking. You need to have a clear idea of what the website is about, why it is better than the rest out there, and why it is able to address your target audiences’ needs. It is also a constant work in progress, as your goals may change, your competitors may change and improve their offerings, and your target audiences’ needs may change as well.
Recommended Books on the Key Elements of a Successful Information Website:
- Insider Secrets for a Successful Website Business: Online Business Income Tips and How-To’s
- Successful Websites: Get Brilliant Results Fast
- Create a Successful Website
- How To Setup And Monetize An Information Website
- Top 10 Ecommerce Mistakes
- How to Set Up Your Website
- Marketing to the Right Audience
- How to Succeed Online with Your Web Business
- Pros and Cons of Financing a Business