You’ve got the perfect idea for a website and its the one you’ve been waiting your whole life to come up with. It’s good and you are going to be a superstar. You know this ever so perfect idea needs a killer website to make it come to life. Not just any website, but a good one that will quickly and beautifully illustrate your concept and why the world must embrace it. You go on the Internet hunting for the perfect WordPress theme and finally find the most amazing multipurpose WordPress theme.
You are off to a great start. You are your new theme are going to do fabulous things together. How could you not? After all, it comes with a bazillion options and the demo looks just perfect. Sadly, it’s not going to be at all successful like you think. Why? Because you’re going backward. You’re jumping way ahead in the process. Jumping ahead, what? I know you think I’m wrong. Do you have to have a theme to start working with right? NO! A WordPress theme is not the starting point. A theme is simply a means by which you can reach your final destination.
First Impressions are Critical
In many website visits, your home page creates the first impression. It immediately begins to tell your story and allows you to connect with visitors. You need to make sure your home page is welcoming, professional looking, builds trust, answers questions, and provides clear direction.
Ok, so what’s the problem? You haven’t defined anything yet. You can’t just jump to design without first thinking through your story, the answers you need to provide, your ability to build trust, and the manner in which you need to provide direction. Defining and designing your home page is the most important thing you can do in website development.
Don’t jump in and rush ahead in a hurry to execute. Executing without proper planning will produce negative results. It will fail to produce what you want and it will create a negative first impression that you cannot eliminate.
Start With a Plan and Answer Some Key Questions
- Who is your target market?
- What problems or issues do they need to solve?
- How can you help them solve these issues?
- What service, product, or content can provide a solution?
- Why should they reach out to you versus someone else?
Once you answer the above questions, you’ll be able to provide some strategy to your process. You’ll be able to plan ahead and make sure your process is in line with your objectives and goals.
Define Your Website Personas and Create a Road Map for Each
We now need to work further and dig deeper. Our next step is to clearly identify and document who comes to your website. If we can group these visitors into segments, we’ll be able to better market to them. We call these groupings website personas.
Here are two examples of personas:
- University – Future students, parents of students, existing students, or future faculty members.
- Shoe Store – Men, women, boys, girls.
Dig out a piece of paper and create website personas by segmenting your target market into individual groups.
Make Navigation Easy
Have you ever walked into a new grocery store or a department store and felt completely lost? That is what website visitors feel like when they visit a website with poor navigation. Now transfer that same ease of use to your website. Your website visitors need the same guidance and direction. If you’re content is persona-based, they want navigation options by persona as well.
Define Focused Call to Actions
Call to actions is one of the first things I like to discuss with any new prospect or customer. In doing so I simply ask the person what constitutes a success website visit. I ask what actions do they want visitors to take before they leave the website. These call to actions could include:
- Signing up for a newsletter
- Posting a comment on a blog post
- Liking a Facebook page
- Viewing a product demo
- Requesting more information via a contact form
- Making a purchase
They can be anything really. The important point to remember is to define these early on in your planning process and then having these front and center when you enter into design. You want your design to include these items and be cohesive with the rest of the elements so they feel natural and look professional.
Write a Brief Overview of Who You Are and What You Do
A home page should have text. Not a ton of text, but enough text to give visitors a quick overview of who you are and what you do. Make this information brief and succinct, while still being informative. The goal in this step is to write a text that is easily digestible by visitors and help them confirm that they are in the right place. This will allow them to pause, look around the home page, and navigate to other areas of the website.
Create a Wireframe
We’ve reviewed a lot of information so far and I’m betting you’re wondering if we are ever going to get to design. Well, we are almost there. Our next step is to create a wireframe, which is a simple outline of your home page. It could be a hand drawn on paper or you could use PowerPoint or an online software package designed specifically for wireframes. It doesn’t matter as long as you take the time to draw out what you need to have on your home page and where you’d like to position it.
Match Your Wireframe to a WordPress Theme
We finally get to look at themes and make a purchase. Woohoo! We’re shopping and we get to finally buy something.
It is important to purchase a stock theme that matches your wireframe and your project objectives. Remember to look past design and check key features like HTML5, schema support, browser compliance, and ongoing support options. You’d be surprised how many stock WordPress themes fail a coding audit or lack a developer who can provide ongoing support.
Populate Your Content
This is the magical part I love so much. It’s when real content goes into the website and the idea becomes reality.
As you populate your content, remember to keep the KISS theory of simplicity in place. People scan a home page, so make the content easy to read and easy to scan.
When you are done populating your content, take a step back and ask yourself how you did. Here are a few questions you can use to validate your work:
- Does the home page adequately address your target market and personas?
- Does it answer the key questions you previously answered?
- Does it provide clear direction and navigation?
- Does it help achieve the goals and objectives originally defined?
If you answered yes to the above questions, then kudos to you. Well done! Celebrate and launch this masterpiece. If your answers are no, then go back through and focus on the items you missed. The extra time you put in now will be paid back ten fold by happy website visitors.