11 Tips for Your Initial Website Build

initial_website_build

 

The idea of developing a website can seem complicated, overwhelming, and stressful…but it doesn’t need to be! Whether you’re a new company designing your first website, or a company who is ready for a redesign, read on. Here are 11 tips for your initial website build.

 

1. Leave your idea of traditional web design in the past.

 

Chances are, everything you thought you knew about the web design process is now wrong. If you’ve done a website in the past, it was likely filled with risk and frustration…we’ve all been there. Traditional web design is expensive, a huge time and resource commitment, and rarely does it launch on time and under budget, not to mention, if things go wrong you’re likely the one who looks bad.

 

With traditional web design, there’s no guarantee the new site will bring in the results you want it to. You spend months putting it together and then just hope it performs well. That’s just not right! There shouldn’t be any guessing when it comes to your website’s potential performance.

 

2. Get on board with growth-driven design.

 

It’s time you take a new approach to the web design process; one that doesn’t give you the frustrations of your traditional web design, but instead, provides results and ROI through an agile process referred to as growth driven design (GDD). This approach shortens launch time and focuses on learning and constant improvement of your site. GDD mixes web design with marketing and focuses on website iterations rather than doing everything to your site all at once (unlike traditional web design where sites are typically updated every few years). GDD focuses on making improvements to your site more frequently based off testing, research, and continuous learning based off visitor behavior. GDD is closely tied to sales and marketing objectives. Its agile model allows you to make site updates as sales and marketing plans change. Here’s how to get started.

 

3. Set goals and have a vision.

 

Before you get started, you have to know where you’re going and you needs to establish SMART goals, meaning goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. What are your performance goals you’re trying to achieve with the website? Where do you need improvement? These are just a couple of the many questions you should be asking yourself to put your vision together.

 

4. Develop your buyer persona(s).

 

persona

 

GDD centers around the user, so you want to ensure you are providing the information your visitors want and need. To do this, you needs to develop buyer personas. HubSpot defines buyer personas as a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” In a nutshell, your persona is who you want to attract to your website. You need to know their challenges and goals. The more you know about your visitors, the more you can make educated improvements to your site to assist them. Understanding your personas should be the foundation of your website. Personas will help you make informed decisions about offers to develop, information to include on your site, what devices your personas use to view your site, and so on.

 

5. Conduct an audit of your current site (if you have one).

 

If you already have a site, it’s important to set up benchmark analytics that you can compare against once you launch your new site. Additionally, you need to do this analysis to see where the gaps are within your current site so that you can address those as you develop your new site.

 

6. Develop a wishlist.

 

wish_list

 

This is the fun part! Now that you’ve done some background research, take what you’ve learned and brainstorm ideas with your team of what you’d like to include on your site. Get creative, think of what you would want to have on your site if money, time and development skills weren’t an issue. Ask yourselves what you’d want the design to look like, what tools and content you’d like to have, what the functionality of the site should be, ideal pages and sections you should include, and so on. Note, you will not add all of these to the initial site launch, but it’s good to keep all of these ideas in your back pocket.

 

This list should evolve and be added to over time as you prioritize your efforts. You will likely only use 20% of this list for your initial launch.

 

7. Develop your must-have list.

 

As mentioned, you will only use about a fifth of your wishlist to launch the site, and this will be a list of your must-haves. Take a look at your wishlist and decide which 20% of the list will provide 80% of the value for your visitors (known as the 80/20 analysis).

 

To truly be effective, for each item on your must-have list you should be able to answer the following questions:

 
 
    • What is the expected impact of this item?
 
    • How much effort will it take to get this done? What needs to be done to this item to consider this it complete?
 
    • How will you measure the success of this item?
 
 

8. Don’t forget about SEO.

 

Optimizing your site for search is critical if you want to increase your odds of getting found through organic efforts. A few things to keep in mind for the SEO of your site include:

 
 
    • Mapping redirects (if this is for a redesign and not your first site)
 
    • Submitting a sitemap
 
    • Telling search engines you’ve left domains (use Change of Address tool in Google Webmaster Tools)
 
    • Using content formats that search engines can easily crawl (allow search engines to crawl your site but don’t let them crawl internal or staging pages)
 
    • Implement keyword research and optimization
 
    • Make it easy for people to share your content
 
 

9. Follow a development process.

 

Before you begin development, have a clear map for the site as a whole as well as your individual pages. The strategies involved shouldn’t just include design and architecture basics, but also a distinct plan of how each page will address your personas and help you to achieve your goals. To ensure you complete every step of the website process, I’ve listed the must-do reminders below:

 
 
    • Messaging & Content (remember to include keyword research and SEO strategies as you develop the copy)
 
    • User Experience (UX) & Site Architecture
 
    • Inbound Marketing Strategy Alignment
 
    • Wireframes
 
    • Designs
 
    • Development
 
    • Quality Assurance and Testing
 
 

Additionally, don’t forget to set up qualitative and quantitative data before launching the site that surround your goals, assumptions and hypotheses around each of your must-haves. This will be important knowledge to have about your visitors once the site is live.

 

10. Launch the first phase of your site!

 

Traditionally, the launch of a website is the final phase of the site, but the opposite is true for growth-driven design. The initial launch of GDD is referred to as the “Launch Pad Website,” and it is where your efforts will kick off.

 

Note to all of you perfectionists out there…this launch will not be perfect, and it’s not supposed to be. It is meant to launch quickly and serve as a starting point that you can improve upon over time.

 

11. Improve your site continuously.

 

cycle

 

Your continuous improvements should follow a cycle that includes four phases, all of which should revolve around your personas and how to provide value for those personas. These phases include:

 
 
    1. Plan: In this phase you’ll identify the most impactful items at the moment and will implement them. This phase includes a review of:
       
       
        1. Your website’s performance vs. your goals for the website to help identify opportunities
       
        1. Data and research to help identify new items to add to your wishlist
       
        1. Marketing and sales outreach to gain insight from these teams on performance since the last cycle
       
       
 
    1. Develop: Once your new “must-haves” are defined, you and your team will begin implementing them one by one. Each of these items will be an experiment to see how it impacts the performance of your website. This should be done in association with a marketing campaign so that you can drive traffic to these items and get the data you need to analyze them.
 
    1. Learn: Once your experiments have had time to run, it’s time to analyze their performance. During this step, it’s important to document your findings with the team of what’s working and what’s not as key learnings you can move forward with.
 
    1. Transfer: Once the experiments have run and the results have been gathered, it’s important to share that knowledge across other areas of your organization.
 
 

Once the cycle is complete, repeat it! The more you repeat the cycle, the more of an impact your website will have on its visitors.

 

Have you applied the growth-driven design process to your site? What tips have worked for you that you would add to this list?

 

Seven Skills That Will Help Anyone Achieve Their Financial Goals

Financial goals are never a short-term thing. People don’t simply wake up one day and decide that, yes, today they’re going to be financially independent or today they’re going to be debt free.

 

The truth: people who achieve financial goals are people who consistently apply a number of skills over time. They get up in the morning and go through a normal day just like anyone else. The only real difference is that they apply a few skills throughout their day to shape the choices they make.

 

This is completely true in my life. I’m far away from achieving my biggest goals, but I know that in order to get there, I have to apply some real skills today. I say no to a lot of temptations. I remind myself to not give up on things that don’t have immediate results. I focus on the task at hand. I add and subtract a lot of figures quickly. I think about the long-term future and I make plans to get from where I’m at now to where I want to be. I do things myself, recognizing that my success in life is virtually entirely up to me.

 

If I don’t do those things today, I’m not going to achieve my goals tomorrow.

 

So, how do those skills actually break down? Here are seven specific skills that I apply every day on my financial journey. I believe these skills are vital to anyone who is working on their own financial journey, wherever it may lead.

 

Skill 1 – Willpower

 

The ability to simply say “no” to a temptation when it doesn’t have a long term net benefit

 

I’m tempted to buy things all the time. I’ll see tasty things at the grocery store. I’ll see fun things at the hobby store. I’ll see countless things online. On a very surface level, I’ll want those things and, if I’m not being thoughtful about it, I’ll add those things to my cart and spend money that I shouldn’t.

 

I’m also tempted to spend time in less than useful ways all the time. I’ll think about an interesting website or an interesting computer game and then find myself dropping half an hour on those things.

 

I can talk about all kinds of little tips and tricks that I use to keep those temptations at bay, but they really all boil down to one thing: willpower.

 

Willpower simply means that I’m able to make the internal choice to spend my money and my time in a way that’s not the most pleasurable in the short term. Willpower means that I don’t eat the tasty but less healthy food. Willpower means I don’t buy that thing that I want right now but will forget in a few days. Willpower means I turn off that fun game and get back to work.

 

What comes from willpower? Less money spent on silly things means more money in the bank. Less time spent on unnecessary things means better produced work and more genuine free time. Less unhealthy food eaten means a healthier body.

 

The best way to build willpower is through practice and mindfulness. Try to focus on one particular thing that you’re trying to resist in the coming days and weeks. Keep that sense of resistance in your mind as much as possible and then when choices present themselves, resist the bad options.

 

Along with that, try to avoid constantly putting yourself in situations where you might be tempted. Stop visiting websites that trigger your urges to spend. Avoid stores that cause similar responses. Cut back on your media intake, particularly from publications and websites that do little but inform you of the latest and greatest things.

 

Skill 2 – Patience

 

The ability to not give up when the desired outcome doesn’t appear immediately

 

I’ve been working on improving my financial state for almost a decade. That seems like a very long time, particularly when you consider I haven’t reached my big goal yet. Without a healthy dose of patience, I simply wouldn’t have made it this far.

 

I have a big impatient voice in my head that’s constantly telling me to stop bothering with financial progress, that I’ll never make it, that I should just “enjoy life right now” – as though “enjoying life” comes from throwing money at things that have no lasting positive impact on my life.

 

That voice shouts at me that I’ve been patient and I still haven’t reached my goals. I’ve worked and worked and worked at it, but what do I really have to show for it? Why not enjoy life now?

 

When I listen to that voice, I virtually always end up regretting it. It almost always amounts to a step or two back from my goals rather than steady progress toward my goal.

 

The problem is that the voice is completely wrong. If I compare my life now to my life in 2006, the difference is like night and day. I was in debt up to my ears back then. Today I’m debt free. Back then, I had basically nothing in the bank. Today, I have a lot in the bank – maybe not enough to walk away from work, but more than enough to support me and my family through a lot of trials.

 

For me, a big part of patience is to simply be mindful of the great progress you’ve already made, even if it doesn’t mean you’ve achieved your final goal. I find that when I reflect on the progress I’ve already made toward the goals I have in life, I recognize how much progress I’ve actually made and this redoubles my patience toward the unachieved goals I still have.

 

Another big part of developing and maintaining patience comes from stopping before I make any financial move and thinking about it for a moment or two. Is this purchase really bringing anything of value into my life? Does it take away from the big things that I desire? Isn’t my life already pretty good without this purchase? Most of the time, that thought process convinces me to put that item right back on the shelf

 

Skill 3 – Focus

 

The ability to finish a task with quality results without being easily distracted

 

It’s impossible to make financial progress without a healthy income. If you’re not earning good money, it’s pretty hard to spend significantly less than you earn.

 

The question, then, is what strategies a person can use to earn a good income. I’ve found, more than anything else, that being able to focus and bear down on a particular task to completion is perhaps the most valuable skill anyone can have when it comes to earning money.

 

That skill isn’t as easy or as obvious as it seems. Many people can push through minimal completion of their job tasks, even through lots of distractions, so they don’t see focus on important tasks as a big deal.

 

However, being able to bear down on important tasks and finish them in a quality way brings several benefits to the table.

 

First, it condenses the time spent on a task. If you bear down and focus singlemindedly on the task at hand, you’re going to get it done much faster than if you constantly interrupt yourself for other things.

 

Second, it increases the quality of the result. When you really focus on something, you’re much more likely to see ways to improve what you’re doing, bringing about better results which reflect well on you.

 

Third, it leaves larger blocks of free time for other tasks. If you finish a project more quickly, you now have a larger block of uninterrupted time to actually do something worthwhile. If you have a five hour project in front of you, for example, you might spread it out across eight hours with distractions, or you might bear down and complete it in five hours, giving you a three hour block of freedom.

 

Finally, it allows you to take on bigger tasks than before. If you’re able to effectively focus, tasks that seemed out of reach in the past suddenly become possible. This obviously translates into being more effective and more valuable at work.

 

If you want one magical ingredient for being successful in your career, try building focus. I find that the Pomodoro technique is a really powerful way to build focus in the modern age, as it revolves around alternating periods of focus (25 minutes long) with periods where you’re free to be distracted.

 

Skill 4 – Basic Mathematics

 

The ability to calculate and understand percentages and dollar figures

 

Eventually, if you’re serious about your finances, you’re going to need to be able to do some number crunching. The ability to add numbers, subtract numbers, multiply numbers, divide numbers, and use percentages with confidence and precision is almost a requirement when it comes to really understanding your financial state.

 

Are you comfortable adding up a column of numbers? Are you comfortable calculating a percentage, or the dollar amount that is a certain percentage of another dollar amount? Can you handle figuring up simple examples of compound interest? If you’re not fully comfortable, do you know how to use tools to handle all of these things?

 

If you can’t answer “yes” to a lot of those questions, understanding your financial state is simply going to elude you. You’re going to find yourself simply trusting others when it comes to your financial situation and, to put it lightly, there are a lot of sharks in the water when it comes to your money.

 

In order to be able to assess whether, say, an insurance package is a good deal for you or a car loan is a good deal, you need to be able to run the numbers on your own, whether on scratch paper or with an electronic tool of some kind.

 

Yes, this is a skill that many people pick up and master in school, but not everyone does. Natural aptitude is part of it, but so is quality instruction, something that not everyone receives.

 

How do you master this skill if you don’t already have it? After reviewing a lot of different online tools, I found that the math section at LearnFree.org does a great job of teaching the basics, while the tutorials at BetterMoneyHabits.com offer a very gentle introduction to the math behind personal finance.

 

Skill 5 – Planning

 

The ability to come up with an ordered series of steps taking you from where you are now to where you want to be

 

You know where you’re at. You know where you want to go. But how do you go from here to there?

 

Most people can generate some kind of a plan to move their life to where they want to be, but it takes a lot of time and thinking to come up with a good plan, one that’s realistic and actionable and yet actually moves you toward that goal at a healthy pace. It means coming up with things to do each day. It means coming up with milestones to achieve so that the destination doesn’t feel too far away. It means knowing how to handle it if things don’t go according to plan.

 

That’s a lot harder. It’s something that I struggle with myself. Yet, I’ve seen over and over again that having a good plan is key, following that plan is also vital, and knowing how to revise that plan to keep it all realistic is also really important.

 

Like many skills, your planning skills grow stronger the more you use them. The more you plan, the more natural planning becomes and the easier it becomes to execute the plans you create, too.

 

I recommend starting by making plans for some of your larger tasks in your day-to-day life. What’s your plan for that big project you have in your head that might take a day or two but you’ve been putting off? Can you break it down into small pieces that are easy to do one at a time? Can you perhaps do the first step tonight?

 

Once you start addressing goals in this fashion, it becomes easier and more natural to address other life goals in this way. You’ll soon start seeing your entire life through this kind of lens.

 

Skill 6 – Future-thinking

 

The ability to consistently choose actions that are beneficial over the long term over those that have only short term benefits

 

A lot of the choices we make on a daily basis wind up essentially being a choice between the short term and the long term. Buying a bottle of soda is a short-term (that’d be tasty) versus a long-term (it’s unhealthy and kind of a waste of money) decision. Focusing hard on a task at work is a short-term (it’d be more fun right now to look at a website) versus a long-term (focusing now makes a better end product and impresses my boss) choice. Almost everything is a short-term versus a long-term choice.

 

Every short term choice you make will bump the quality of your life at this moment, but is neutral or negative down the road. Every long term choice you make improves the status of your life down the road, but is neutral or negative right now. Make enough long term choices and your life will simply become better over the long term.

 

One of the most powerful skills you can learn is the simple ability to think about the long term benefits of each choice in the moment. Often, the short-term benefits are obvious enough and tempting enough to simply shout out the long-term benefits of other choices. Don’t let that happen. Intentionally think about the long term.

 

For a long time, I found it useful to ask myself, in the heat of the moment when making a decision, which option will put me in a better place a year from now, or five years from now. When you ask yourself that question sincerely, many choices quickly fade away because it’s obvious that they have no positive impact – and often a negative impact – at that time scale. Almost all buying decisions become clearly in favor of spending less, for example.

 

That’s not to say that you always need to make the long term choice, but when you’re mindful of the differences and benefits of both the short term and the long term and then nudge yourself even a little toward the long term side, you’ll start really seeing the benefits over time.

 

Skill 7 – Independence

 

The ability to do things for yourself as often as you can without relying on others

 

As independent as we all like to think that we are, we do often rely on others for the basis for our decisions. We rely on our life partners. We rely on our parents. We rely on insurance salespeople or car salespeople. We rely on television programs, on websites, on magazines. Rather than making a decision on our own, we hand control over to those things and allow them to make choices for us.

 

Often, that’s the easy way to go. It absolves us from having to actually think about, come up with a choice, and then stand by that choice. It gives us an excuse if something goes wrong, too.

 

The problem is that much of the time, the things to which we hand over control aren’t necessarily making choices that are in your best interest. Instead, those things often make choices that are in their best interest, which may or may not overlap with your own.

 

Independence simply means standing up for what is in your best interests, especially when that doesn’t necessarily align with what a parent or an insurance salesperson or a car salesperson is telling you. It means more work, yes, but it also means that when a decision is made that impacts your life, your life is a primary consideration in that decision.

 

You can practice this skill by simply stepping away from those other influences and making a decision based on what is best for your life and then standing up for that choice. It can be hard to do this, but it’s one of those things that, once you do it once, it becomes easier and easier to become an advocate for yourself.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Taken as a whole, these skills provide a powerful underlying basis for financial success in anyone’s life. They help to ensure that you’re in control of your own destiny, that you’re making choices that benefit your future, and that you understand why you’re making those choices. Those elements are key elements for financial success – and, frankly, any kind of success in life.

 

None of these skills are particularly challenging on their own. Mostly, they just require that a person be mindful of what they’re doing in the moment and willing to consider the outcomes of the choices that are on the table in front of them. The more mindful you are of those choices and the real impact they’ll have on your life, both now and later, the better off you’re going to be.

 

Be mindful of these skills. Strengthen these skills. Understand these skills, and know when to use them. Your whole life will benefit.

 

Good luck.

 

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