wall My bedroom looks out onto my backyard. Well, actually, it doesn’t. But it would if the person who designed my 1960 ranch had designed it with me in mind.

You see, if I had been part of the design process, I would have told the architect this:

“I’m a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. I’m passionate about bringing the outdoors in and want large windows that make the yard an extension of the house.

I want French doors in this wall here that open to a deck with a hot tub. I want to sit in it at night and gaze at the stars.”

But I bought the house 40 years after it was built, and since doing a renovation of this magnitude is at the bottom of a long list of things that need to be done first, I live with what I have.

It often works the same way when it comes to websites.

Today small business owners have a plethora of choices with regard to buying pre-built websites. From GoDaddy to Wix and ThemeForest, you can buy a pre-built website for $45 – or less! – on a Friday and have your site up and running by Monday.

Pre-built is fine, especially if you’re on a budget. But here’s the thing: you’re stuck with a “house” that isn’t built with your business or you in mind.

Developing your custom blueprint

Just recently, for example, I met with a new client to discuss her website overhaul. “I want it to have some verve,” she said. She’s interested in doing video and other types of content.

But she also has a number of pretty spiffy assessment tools. And she’s writing a book. And, she has some ideas that set her apart from her peers – and wants to get her name out there.

By knowing this information up front, I’m able to create a custom “blueprint” for a website that will help her achieve her objectives – a website, in other words, that’s built around her business, goals, personality, and client personas.

Determine your website objectives BEFORE you consider design

One of the first questions I ask new clients is, “What do you want your website to do for you?”

As with your house, a website serves many purposes; answering this question, therefore, doesn’t involve one right answer. In fact, it may involve several answers – each with its own objective. Some of the answers I’ve received to this question include:

  • “We want to been seen as a resource of information and that we’re connected in the community. We want people to fill out our assessment form or call us. And, we want to show how our process makes us different.”
  • “We want people to inquire about our services. And, we want to show that we can solve their challenges – even with limited information from them. In fact, we excel at this.”
  • “I want a custom events calendar that shows my speaking engagements so that meeting planners have an easier time knowing when they can book me. And, I want to be able to update it myself. I want people to subscribe to my newsletter. And, I want to integrate my blogs.”
  • “We want our prospects to know we can manage various parts of their businesses – and save them money. We want to show how we’ve done it for other businesses similar to theirs. We want our prospects to know the buck stops with us – and that this is what makes us different from the national companies.”
  • “We want to make it easier to sell our product and educate people on how it can help them solve specific industry challenges as well as save them money and time plus make their clients happier. We want to show how the product is different from other solutions. We want people to sign up for demos.”
  • “I want to better communicate my services and show prospective clients how I can help them raise more money. I want to include a portfolio of work. And, I want to integrate the work I’m doing on other industry websites.”

Once you know the answers to this important question, you can then create a plan – or blueprint – for how your new website will help you achieve your objectives.

Think of each section of your site as a “room.” While each section – Products, Services, Capabilities, Resources, etc. – has its own function and a specific type of content, each should tie back to and support your overall objectives.

Make a list of “nice to haves” and existing assets

Just as it’s much easier to add French doors, a deck and a hot tub as you build a house – vs. going to considerable expense to tear into a wall and existing roof structure after it’s been built – it’s much easier to build a website that includes your “wouldn’t it be nice . . . ?” wishes from the ground up.

While you’re in the planning stages of your website, include everything you’d like to have without considering the cost. Why? Often, it’s a lot less expensive to include your “nice to haves” than you think. So don’t limit yourself. You can make decisions based on budget once you have real numbers.

In addition, make a list of all your existing marketing assets that can be used or repurposed or that need to be integrated, as well as the assets that will need to be created:

  • Video
  • Sales / Marketing presentations
  • Sales contracts (good for verbiage)
  • Social media profiles
  • Checklists / Assessments
  • Brochures / Datasheets
  • Ads
  • Articles
  • Photos
  • Workbooks
  • Images
  • Awards
  • Government ratings
  • White papers / reports
  • Case studies / testimonials
  • Newsletters (print and online)
  • Direct mail letters and mailers

Don’t worry if the material is outdated. Often, it can be updated or repurposed. I’ve created web content from all kinds of stuff, including outdated brochures, sales presentations and even contracts (you’d be amazed at how much great verbiage is in sales contracts).

Once you have your website objectives, “nice to haves,” and assets in hand, you can then begin the process of finding a team of people who can help you bring your website to life.