If you’ve ever read a newspaper story, you’re probably familiar with the 5Ws and 1H of reporting: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. This fundamental formula for news writing reminds journalists that they need to cover all the facts and details of a story for the reader to get the point.
Similarly, you should address those same 5Ws and 1H with regard to your website if you want to achieve powerful results.
Who are you trying to reach, and who will typically come to your web site? In other words, who is your customer? The more you know about the people who access your web site, the better you can tailor the information to their needs. Demographic information such as age, gender, buying habits, and so on is valuable to help you build a profile of your typical website visitor. Note that there may be a difference between who you’re trying to reach and who actually shows up at the site. While it’s great to have entertaining features on your web pages, your goal should be to attract and cater to your target customer – the person who will buy or has already bought from you.
Once you’ve defined who, you need to know what that customer is looking for. Are they technical experts looking for information, or are they consumers looking for a good deal? What can you offer on your website to meet that customer’s need? What content is most valuable to them? And what do you want customers to do once they’ve found your website? Be sure you know the actions you want to prompt the customer to take, such as make a purchase or contact you for more information. What does your site do for the customer? Does it provide a place to participate in a community of like-minded individuals, or does it simply provide the answer to an immediate question or problem? Finally, what do customers think about your site? Any feedback you get about the site can be addressed by improvements and enhancements. Errors should be corrected immediately.
When do customers come looking for your web information? Is it before they’ve bought or after the sale? Will your website be most valuable to your customer at the beginning of the relationship, or as the way to maintain a customer relationship over a period of time? When will your visitors expect to see new content? The demand for new or updated information will affect the resources you need to devote to maintaining your website. Have a look at your site statistics. When do you get the most hits? This information can help you refocus your marketing efforts, or change the content on your site to take advantage of periods of peak activity. For example, your financial services site might get the most hits during tax time. That could indicate the need for taxation information during a 3-month window prior to tax filing deadline.
Where do your web site visitors come from? Consider not only their country of origin, but the means by which they find out about your website, such as via search engines or marketing efforts. If you have a significant population of international visitors, you may need to consider providing your website in multiple languages. You will certainly need to provide details on shipping internationally or perhaps supporting products sold globally. The Web has become a standard business tool, so you can expect visitors from anywhere in the world. Whether your website needs to address specific international issues will be determined by your answers to the Who, What and Where questions.
Why do visitors come to your website? Why should they? Why is your site better than or different from that of your competitors? Thinking through your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and your differentiators will help you refine the content on your site to highlight the benefits a visitor can receive from your site. Knowing why someone comes to your site might indicate a need you can meet or a customer problem you can solve. Most people search for information because they have a task to perform, a question, or a problem. Meeting these needs makes your site one they will return to for more solutions.
How do your customers find out about your site? If search engines are the primary means of getting the word out about your website, you may need to consider SEO (Search Engine Optimization), pay-per-click positioning or other strategies to ensure your site is near the top in search results. If print media are a factor in letting people know about your site, you’ll want to ensure you have solid strategies for marketing and advertising that include the URL for your website. How will you handle customers once they get to your site? Make sure you’ve thought through precisely what customers want to do when they get there.
Plan for Success
Your answers to the 5W and 1H questions form the basis of your website development plan. Like any good business plan, your web plan will help you control costs, manage resources, and meet the objectives for an effective business website.
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