Having a good website is key to developing a web presence, but it can be hard to know where to start. In this blog series, I'm giving you a sneak peek into Practical Promotion's and Livestock HUB's step-by-step website building process, beginning with Step One: Planning.
Today we're moving on to Step Two: Organization. Remember how I said you'll never regret the time spent devoted to an initial planning session because the information gained would be really helpful later on? Now is the "later on". It's time to take all the information gathered and begin to sort it into a website tree, a very useful tool for organizing information that helps form the framework and structure of the website.
Outline the Information
The first stage of organization is to outline the information gathered in the planning session in step one. We'll use my client website example as an illustration. In our planning session, my client and I pinpointed the purpose, target audience, and goals of the website, then I made an outline:
Purpose: To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events.
Target Audience: 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.
Making an outline really simplifies the information and helps the important information rise to the top.
Build a Website Tree
The next stage of organization is building a website tree. A website tree is a simple tool to help organize the information that will be contained in the website and structure it into a framework that's clear and easy for the target audience to navigate. Important questions to consider when beginning a website tree include:
In our example, my client's clear purpose and goals made building a website tree a snap. Check out the samples of my client's website tree. I've included step-by-step illustrations because I built the tree in stages, starting with the most important information and working my way down through the supporting information and minor details. The most important information became the main pages of the website and the headings featured in the navigation bar (Fig. 1).
After main pages have been determined, I begin filling in the supporting information for each (Fig.2). My client from our website example was very clear about what information he wanted, how he wanted it prioritized, and where the supporting information should go. The majority of my clients need more help with this stage of the website building process, so I ask a lot of questions, such as:
The website now has a basic organizational framework in place. Once I begin designing the physical website, it looks something like this:
The navigation bar items are all lined up at the top of the page. Hovering on a navigation bar item shows the drop down pages that are built in underneath. This example shows what happens when you hover over "Our Work" - you can see there are two child pages in the drop down, "Case Studies" and "Parts Gallery".
Now that the basic organizational layout of the site has been determined, my client and I will move on to content, which is the third step in building a website and the final brick in the base of our website building process. I'll be discussing content in the next blog post, so stay tuned.
Keep on friends!
In this digital age of information and technology, having a web presence is more vital today than ever before. The first step to achieving a solid web presence is a good website. Millions of people take the world wide web with them wherever they go on their phones, tablets and laptops. An attractive, easy-to-use website makes a great first impression, and it’s a place customers and patrons can come back to time and time again for the information they need.
In this series, I'll walk you through the process Practical Promotions and Livestock HUB use to build websites: Planning, Organization, Content, Media, Design, and Functionality. Building websites is a multi-step process with each step building on the previous ones, starting from the ground up. Miss a step, and your website structure is weak. In this post, we'll be covering the first step: Planning.
Step One: Planning
A website is like a house; without proper framework and foundation, it falls apart. It's important to take the time for planning at the beginning of the website building process in order to build a solid framework for a new website. I promise this first step sets you up for a great start on your website, and I promise it will save you so much time and mental energy later!
While in the planning stage, we ask a lot of questions. The following questions’ answers help us begin to structure the website's framework:
What is the Purpose of This Website?
It's a temptation to skip right past this question. You need a website so people can find you online, duh. But why? Why do you want them to find you? What do you want to happen once they do? Make peace with this question. This question is your new best friend. It's not until you determine what you want the main purpose of your website to be that the rest of your planning begins to take shape.
Website example: The website example I'm using for this series is a website redesign for a local company. I designed the original website, but now a second generation is coming on board in this company's management. It's time to go over the website planning steps again. My first question to them, of course, was "What is the purpose of this website?" My client's response:
"To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events."
This answer is a good one. It hits the nail on the head as far as the purpose of the website - to provide the information needed so customers and future customers will consider them for future work. Not only that, his answer touches on what we'll be considering in the next: the target audience and the website goals.
Who is the Target Audience?
This question can seem like a no-brainer. To be honest, most people already have a vision of who they want their website to reach. Even if that is the case and you feel like you already have a good grasp on this topic, I urge you to give the target audience question some extra thought. Here are some points for consideration:
Website example: My website client did an excellent job defining his target audience for me. He hinted at it in his answer to the first question above - his website is targeted at the company's customers and future customers. He then went on to break it down further into three categories, 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.
Now that my client has identified the three specific target audiences for his website, we can begin to define each one's needs and come up with a plan on how to best present his company's solutions to those needs in a relevant, concise, and specific, call-to-action way.
What are the Goals of This Website?
At first glance, it may seem we've already settled this question when we discussed the purpose of the website. Look deeper. The website's purpose is its end game, the what-is-this-website-here-for. The website's goals outline the practical steps you'll take to get there. If the website's purpose is the "what", the goals are the "how". Let's look at our website example to help further explain how this works.
Website example: My client wants a redesigned website that will give his customers and prospective customers (target audiences) the information they need in order to consider his company for future projects (purpose). But how will we do that? By implementing his goals:
Determining the purpose, target audience, and goals of a website is absolutely vital to getting off to a good start on a new website or website redesign. These three questions provide the foundational first brick of website planning, a brick upon which all the other steps will be built on.
Next up: organization. This is where my little orderly brain really starts to churn. In part two of this blog series, "Designing a Website, Part 2: Organization", we'll take all of the information we've gathered from the above three questions, plus much more, and begin to sort it all into tabs and pages. Exciting stuff - well at least it is to me! Until next time, friends!
Good morning friends! Yesterday we talked about accidental learning, and I gave you some tips on how to be more purposeful about looking for and using the things you learn unexpectedly in your day to day lives. Be aware. Be available. Be amenable. You never know when you'll come across something that will become a stepping stone towards something great!
Speaking of great, how great is the graphic above?! I bet you didn't know that fun fact before now. Aren't you glad you know it now? I mean, seriously, life changing! :) For more fun random facts, check out Dr. Cathie Dunal's website. Her fun little cartoons and random facts are making my day!
Before we get started on today's topic, "Leveraging Who You Know to Increase What You Know", I just want to clarify something. I'm not super crazy about the title of this blog post. The word leverage can have kind of a negative connotation. The poor word gets a bad rap! Webster defines leverage as:
"Influence or power used to achieve a desired result"
This definition might seem to imply that I'm saying you should use your influence and power over others to get what you want. No. Just no. I will never, ever encourage anyone to use power or influence over another. I will always, always encourage people to work together in community to accomplish goals. In the case of this blog post, I'm using the word leverage in a slightly different way. Think of it like a formula:
Their influence and power + my respectful request for information = together achieving a desired result
Boom. Glad we got that settled.
Learning by Association
No one person can know everything, but we all have a unique set of knowledge and skills. Working together, we can boost each other up. Everyone wins!
When you're in that place where you're ready to take that next step and launch out into the unknown, look at the people around you, those in your family, circle of friends, community. Consider what they know. Do they have skills you'd like to learn? Have they had experience that would benefit your new venture in some way? Can they offer lessons and information that would help you avoid any pitfalls and setbacks?
You can learn from these people. You need to learn from these people. But how? It's not as if you can hook up a cable and download information directly from their brain into yours. (Oh my goodness, if someone has figured that out, please let me know. I've got some super smart peeps I'd love to borrow from!) I'm going to give you three tips on how you can get started leveraging that information they have, the influence and power they possess. And yes, they all start with the letter "A". Because alliteration.
I also thought about my professional circles. Were there people I had helped
in the past who might be willing to return the favor? What do they know or
have experience with that might be key for me? Again, write the questions
down. Then get ready for step three.
People respond very favorably to an honest seeker. If they say no, just move on down the line. They may reconsider later. One thing is for certain though - if you don't ask, you will never get a yes.
Don't force yourself to reinvent the wheel when there's someone who's been where you are who can help. You can do this!
Have a great Friday!
We have all heard this phrase before. It looks great on a Pinterest board or a Facebook wall with a scenic photo as a background and a few well-placed, hand drawn leaves and flower embellishments. It rolls easily off the tongue when we're presented with something new or novel that we didn't know before. But is it true? Do we really learn something new every day?
I think we do. I think we can.
I think we must. The dreams and goals for our businesses and personal lives depend on it.
The thought can be intimidating. After all, information flies at us at what seems like warp speed. Our lives are already chock full of busyness. Learning takes time. Learning can be expensive. Learning hurts my brain. I know what you're thinking. Are you kidding me? I cannot possibly add one more thing to my day.
Do not panic. We can do this.
When I took on my first website building project, it was not the only project I had going at the time. I knew there were things I was going to be doing that I didn't yet know how to do. Learning them was going to take an investment of time and physical and mental energy, but I wasn't willing to let this opportunity pass me by. The chance for growth for my business was right in front of me. I was grabbing it and running with it! But there were moments - oh there were moments - when I asked myself, What am I doing?
As I look back on that whole learning process, there were things I could have done better. There were also things I could have done worse. I'm going to share with you what I'll call The Three A's of Leveraging Your Learning. These three keys will help you jump start the learning process by helping you recognize the learning resources and opportunities already available to you. Today we'll talk about
(Sidenote: I'm a huge fan of words. Alliteration makes me happy. So yes, the three keys all start with the letter A. You're welcome.)
The Three A's of Leveraging Your Learning
1. Accidental Learning
We learn new things all the time without even trying. Stumbling upon information that will be valuable to your dreams or business later happens more often than you think. The challenge is recognizing accidental learning when it happens, then putting it into use.
Not sure what I mean by accidental learning? Accidental learning can include anything you come across in your day-to-day that you haven't purposefully sought out. A magazine article at the dentist's office. A radio program you catch while waiting in traffic.
Leverage it. Use it. Take advantage of these free gifts when they come. How?
I had such great intentions of posting the third article in my current blog series on taking risks in business, "Diving Deep: Learning New Skills" by now. See, I even have a catchy title. But you know what? Sometimes life happens, and this week, life has definitely happened.
Here are some of the diversions that have kept me from pounding out the blog. I bet you can relate to some of them:
"Mom, can you braid my hair?"
"Mom, what are we doing today?"
"Mom, are we going anywhere today?"
"Mom, what's for lunch?"
"Mom, where's my softball t-shirt?"
"Mom, do you want to play Lego battles?"
I love them so much. I also cannot hear myself think.
I tried going into another room. They followed me. I tried looking really
busy so they'd know I didn't want to be interrupted. They watched what I was doing over my shoulder. I tried hiding in my room with my laptop. They found me. Welcome to summer, folks.
So those were fun diversions from the norm. Then there were the distractions - the things that you don't necessarily have to deal with right this minute. For me, once the diversions get me off track, the distractions seem a lot more attractive. Things like:
Do you know what I mean? Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to.
It's not all bad though. Sometimes I think our brains just need a break. We need the comfort of the mundane, the normal, the day-to-day. Last week was super stressful. I can't handle that kind of stress all the time, and my brain knows it.
I'd love to hear what you do to decompress after a rough week, or the ways you get off on a rabbit trail when you need to be focused. Rest assured you're not alone.
Now excuse me while I go clean out my purse . . . .
Thank you. To the men and women who never made it home, thank you. To the families who have lost brave soldiers on the battle field and in conflicts, thank you. We will not forget you. We remember. Happy Memorial Day. God bless.
See the little guy over left, paddling away with his eyes wide-eyed and wild? I can relate. In my previous post here, I described how I jumped in with both feet and was hired to do my first website. Now it was time to sink or swim.
Have you ever seen a dog paddle? I have. When we were newly married, we got this black lab mix. She was more of a mutt, really. Her dad was a purebred black lab. Her mom was, well, something that resembled a calico cat with three legs. Yes, her mother only had three legs, but she managed to give birth to a litter of 11 puppies. Just wow. But I digress. We got this puppy, and thankfully she took after her father in the looks department. She was pitch black, and in the Iowa hot, summer sun, she was miserable.
We would take her to the farm pond down the road to cool off. And you know what? That dog lived to swim. No hesitation. No backward glance. In she'd go, and the dog paddle would commence. It didn't matter how deep the water was, or how far out she got, she just kept steadily, methodically pumping those legs up and down, up and down, her head calmly above water as if she didn't have a care in the world.
It didn't matter that before we took her to the pond she had never been in water deeper than a bathtub. She just drew on what she knew already knew about what her body could do and the trusting relationship she had with us, her owners, and she went for it. She knew she could swim, so she did.
Those same concepts are what enabled me to move out of my comfort zone and jump into something new professionally: the skills I already possessed and the trusting working relationships I was a part of.
The Skills I Already Possessed
I didn't start from ground zero. There were several skills I already possessed that kept me paddling away:
Good Working Relationships
When I approached my client with the new website idea, I had been working with them for years. We'd had time to develop a very solid working relationship, and there was a lot of trust there on both sides.
Now It's Your Turn
Are you considering trying something new in your business? Maybe you've already made the jump and you're paddling away right now on something new. (You can read the first post in this series about my decision to jump into web design here. It's a good time, I promise. I talk about hairy men jumping into frigid Lake Superior. No I'm not kidding.) Is your head is above water, but you're not sure when you're going to reach the shore? Don't give up. You're closer than you think. You can do this! Here are a couple tips on what you can do to help keep yourself doggedly paddling away:
Take inventory of your skills. You have a skill set full of talents and abilities. They are the platform that have brought you this far and will carry you through, even when things get hard. If it helps, sit down and write a list. Ask yourself:
Tap into those working relationships. You've worked so hard on developing those trusting working relationships. Those will pay off. Again, make the list. Writing it down helps solidfy it in your brain. Ask yourself:
Light Idea: There's one thing I haven't mentioned yet, so here it is: I don't believe that web design was an out-of-the-blue whim for me. There's another reason I was willing to step out into the unknown and begin building websites, and it has nothing to do with my skills, abilities or working relationships. I jumped when the opportunity presented itself was because I believe that's where God led me. I trust the One I follow. All I have comes from Him, and He is good.
Coming up next - Digging Deep: Moving Beyond the Dog Paddle.
You guys are the bestest. XO.
There's a place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, way up where the land juts out deep into Lake Superior, called Presque Isle Park. Presque Isle Park, although not as well-known as picturesque, take-me-back-in-time Mackinaw Island, boasts its fair share of hiking trails and scenic overlooks, but so do many of the area's state parks. Yet scores of people flock there every summer. So what's the draw?
Cliff jumping at Black Rocks.
My husband is an adrenaline junkie. I'm more of a safety first, plan it out, fasten your seat belt thank you type of gal. It works for us. Opposites attract, and that's how I often find myself on the camera end of fun adventures like hurtling your body into the frigid waters of Lake Superior in mid-July.
I didn't jump that day. He did, but I didn't. I'm not a great swimmer, and jumping into water that had had ice floating on it just two weeks prior . . . no thank you very much. I watched, I took pictures, and I took note of the way grown men with serious chest hair and tattoos jumped in with their game faces on and reappeared breathless in shock, mouths gaping, unable to form a single word. They knew it would be cold, but there's no way to prepare yourself for THAT kind of cold.
No, I didn't jump that day. But I know how it feels to gather up everything you have, ready or not, and launch into freefall. I know how it feels to take the leap, even while aware there's no way you can be fully prepared for it.
This business? It was my cliff.
Practical Promotions started out as a fledgling, partially-hatched idea. We took what we knew, what we already did - layout and design of various publications and advertising - and formed Practical Promotions around that. We put our feet under us and built a platform, piece by piece and rock by rock. It was a good platform. It was a safe platform. We grew.
And then, one day, almost in a surprise to myself, I jumped.
When we first started out, I worked mainly for one client on their promotional materials. I dearly love this client. They took a chance on me when I was just a 21-year-old college graduate with only a three-month internship of professional experience under my belt. One day, while I was working on one of their print projects, I went to their website to check some information. I had been to their website before, but for some reason on this particular visit, I just. Could. Not.
This client, who has customers all over the Midwest and beyond, had a two-page website that hadn't been updated in awhile. A long while. I couldn't find the information I needed, and there was so much more to this company than the website showed. I thought to myself, These people, who have treated me so well, who serve so many customers and clients with a high level of excellence and dedication, deserve better than this. We can do better than this.
My wheels started turning, so I called my professional mentor. The conversation went something like this:
"They need a new website. Badly."
"Yes, they do," she said.
"I can build them a website. I can build them a really good website."
"Do it," she said. Do it.
So I jumped. I met with them. I convinced them that their website could be so much more. I showed them how a functioning, attractive, and organized website would up their business's exposure, benefit and serve their clients and customers, and provide a cost-effective way for them to get information out to the public.
My next project for them: build them a new website.
Here's the part that left me gasping for air in frigid water: I had never build a website before. No I am not kidding. It's not super profound, but honestly, I had never build a website until I decided to build one.
No, I mean it, stop.
I built that website. When it was done and the positive reviews started to come, I built another for someone else. And then another one. You get the idea.
It took a lot of research, willingness to learn new things and commitment to the task. I also drew heavily on professional skills I already possessed and the trusting work relationship I had with this client. In the next post, I'll tell you how I used the skills I already had as a springboard into new professional territory and discuss the importance of client relationships. But for now, just know this:
You can jump off the cliff. If I did it, you can too. I'm petrified of heights. I don't like getting my hair wet. I'm allergic to goosebumps (not really, but it could be a thing). Yet when I saw the potential of what could be staring me in the face, I didn't let any of the rest stop me. I jumped.
What's over the edge of your cliff? What potential is staring you in the face right now? I'm telling you, you can do it. You're not alone, and you can do it.
Hi, I'm Christa, founder of HUB Creative Media, an Iowa-based business specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!