The first step of the 5 step process for building a website is Discovery.
If you have never built a website before, you might neglect this step which would be a huge mistake.
Before you ever start designing or coding anything for a website, you have to understand why this website is even going to exist. Without knowing why, how can you begin to know what to do?
The discovery process is often more of a business development exercise than it is a ‘website’ exercise. As a website consultant, the discovery process is where I get to learn everything about your business. Who you are, why you are doing this, who you target market is, why they should be interested in your product or service, and what your goals are for this website.
Once we have a clear understanding of your business, we can then start implementing design and strategy that will allow your voice to permeate your market online, and reach your goals.
The most important thing a technology professional can do is ask Why? – R. Gordon
One of my mentors recently opened up our conversation with this question…
“Bret, why are you in the web development business?”
I told him it was to build websites that help cool companies get their message across.
So he asked me again, “but why do you want to do that?”
I thought for a second longer and said something along the lines of “so I can utilize my natural skill set to make money and pay my rent”.
Of course I want that, everyone wants that. “Why else are you in this business?”
This continued on for several minutes while I dug myself into a deeper hole, eventually coming to the conclusion that I’m in this business because I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and in order to feel fulfilled in my life I need to run my own company that makes enough money for me to invest in many other ideas and dreams that I have.
This is not a perfect answer, but it’s a lot closer to the true reason I spent countless hours helping other people with their businesses.
He told me that before I could really set my business in motion for ultimate success, I would have to hone that in and figure out how to get my team and my customers to also realize this. Once that is in alignment, the rest is easy.
That’s great Bret, but how does this help me?
Whatever business you are in has a purpose. Both for you as an individual, and your customers. If you are not extremely clear on what that purpose is, it’s going to be a lot harder for you to get your message out to your target market. You may not even realize that you have a target market. “Everyone” is NOT a target market.
The Discovery Process is where I am able to help you figure out your Why, and then how we can get that message onto a website and in front of your target market.
This is a lot easier to help other people with than it is to help ourselves with. Looking into a business from the outside, it’s often easy to see the holes and find solutions to fix them. Looking into our own businesses can be extremely challenging because we live it day in and day out, most of the time just trying to stay a float.
What is your problem?
A website can do many things for your business, including solve some of your problems in your business. It can collect leads through email newsletters, contact forms, etc.
Need a way for your customers to book your time or services? We can build that.
It can sell products using ecommerce solutions making it easy for you to add new ones, track inventory, take payments. You don’t need a huge staff and expensive software to manage all of this anymore, it can all be done right on your website.
You can also do some really complex things like build membership sites, host forums for conversations, or build web applications.
Have any of you use Dropbox? What about Quickbooks Online? These are technically ‘websites’, but more realistically they are web applications. If you have the ideas, the web can really help you automate and simplify your business, while reaching a bigger audience.
During the discovery process, our goal is to identify the problems in your business and figure out ways to use technology to fix them.
The Website Worksheet
One of the most efficient ways I’ve found to help you tackle these big questions and get the ball rolling is with my Website Worksheet.
On this worksheet I ask questions like:
- What does your company do?
- What are the products and services you offer?
- What are we doing?
- Who are we doing this for?
Whenever someone comes to me and says “I need a website”, I immediately send them to the worksheet. 9 out of 10 times they will not fill it out and I’ll never hear from them again. This is because they’ve never actually thought about the answers to these questions. Instead of taking the time to work through it, they go about their business, destined to fail in the long run because they do not intimately know their own business.
What are we doing?
This section is my favorite and completely changed the game when I found it.
Here I ask you to give me your main reasons for needing a new website.
We want to set set smart, realistic goals as it keeps all of us on the same page trying to reach the same place. Smart goals are are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
Examples we use are:
- 20% increase in sales in 6 months
- 30% increase in membership this year
- reduce admin costs by 15% in 3 months
So what are the top 5 business needs of your new website?
Who are we doing this for?
There is an exercise you can and should do to help identify your target customer. If you are a restaurant and you say something like “our customer is anyone who is hungry” you are lying to yourself.
Who are they really?
- How old are they?
- What gender are they?
- Do they like premium service and higher cost food?
- Are they on the go and need a cheap, fast, but healthy meal?
- Where do they hang out online?
- What are their interests?
By drawing an exact picture of your target customer, it becomes easier to talk their language and get your ‘voice’ in front of them because you know where to find them.
So now what?
There are a TON of books available that will help you discover more about your business, yourself, and why you are doing what you are doing.
I would like to recommend Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I can’t tell you how many times this book was recommended to me or how powerful it really is.
Review my Website Worksheet and fill it out. You don’t even have to submit it, but going through the questions will help you identify where you need more ‘discovery’ before you start building a website.
Lastly, just know that this piece of the website puzzle is the VITAL first step. If this part isn’t done correctly, you can easily waste a lot of time and money, and not get what you were looking for.
I hope this was helpful! Stay tuned for the next article on the Design step of the process.