Site Planner, a collection of focused questions to help you
jump-start the information gathering process. Each section
(Background, Audience, Resources, Competition and Content) asks
several basic questions along with "Next Steps" for detailed
For best results involve as many stakeholders as possible --
business/process owners, marketing and sales staff, IT folks,
content managers, developers and customers.
- Goals. What are your specific goals? Consider:
- company/brand awareness,
- product/services awareness,
- product/services sales,
- community building,
- knowledge sharing, and
- internal communications.
- Promotional Fit. How should your Website fit
with current promotional and marketing strategies and materials?
- Deadlines. What are the schedule or deadline
- Funding. What are the budgetary constraints?
- Measurement. How will you measure the success
of the site?
- Develop a ranked (from most- to least-important) Goals Master
- Create a mission statement for the site.
- Identify how the mission and goals of the site might change
from short-term to long-term, given the direction of your
organization and industry.
- External. Who is your EXTERNAL audience?
- current customers,
- potential customers,
- professional/trade organizations,
- schools/educators, and
- the sight-impaired.
- Internal. Who is your INTERNAL audience?
- all employees,
- operations, and
- Sub-groups. Determine all subgroups within the
audiences identified above.
- Define. Identify the interests, technical
skills and special issues for each audience group and
- Create a ranked Audience Master List.
- Develop an Aligned Master List by matching the Audience Master
List to the Goals Master List.
- Create usage scenarios based on Aligned Master List.
- Project Roles. Who are the resources that will
be responsible for content management and technical support
(include their names, titles, roles, and contact info)?
- Team Skills. What are the technical and
content management skills of each resource?
For each resource, identify any training, software, hardware,
scheduling and budgetary issues.
- Identify Competitors. Identify the sites of
competitors and others that may provide direction for your
- Important Elements. Identify the important
elements of each competitor site:
- functional features,
- technologies used,
- breadth of content and
- Develop a competitive analysis that includes the important
elements of key competitor sites and which of these elements your
site should match, exceed, or avoid.
- On a regular basis, revisit key competitor sites and update
your competitive analysis.
- Functionality. Which functional features
should your site offer? Consider:
- ecommerce/shopping cart,
- site search,
- customer service/support,
- tech support,
- discussion forums,
- order forms,
- feedback form,
- member logon,
- password protected areas, and
- SSL-encrypted areas.
- Information. Which informational elements
should your site contain? Consider:
- About Us page,
- Contact Us page,
- copyright notice, and
- privacy statement.
- Structure. What is your site's hierarchy? For
each of the 4-7 (though you can have more or less) main areas of
the site, identify:
- each main menu item,
- all submenu items, and
- additional content.
Think of a tree-style hierarchy with the home page at the top.
- Describe in detail each functional feature. What exactly will
- Identify the resources required, and any technical and
budgetary issues associated with each functional feature.
- Provide detail for each informational element.
- Assign content responsibilities to the resources identified
Experience shows that questions raised and answered in one
section may engender ideas and issues in other sections. This is a
good thing, and reinforces the fact that the Site Planner can (and
probably should) be used iteratively. In fact, we've found it
useful for periodic reviews of existing Websites.
The more time and effort your organization devotes to this
information gathering process, the more likely you are to build an
effective, customer-driven and well-staffed Web presence.