Websites need purpose. Purpose needs a plan. Plans need a strategy. By focusing your time and energy on why your website is, you will lay a solid foundation onto of which you can build your website.

There are three basic things you need to learn about and understand to develop a good website strategy:

  • your site
  • your users
  • your goals

To start, try to answer the following questions. Your answers should bring some clarity and focus to your website. If you don’t already have a website just skip any that don’t apply.

  • What problem does your website solve for visitors / customers?
  • What do you love about your website?
  • What do you hate about you website?
  • How do you think your users feel about your website?
  • What would your website ideally do for your business?
  • How would you define and measure the website’s success?
  • What are some “must have” features?
  • What are some “nice to have” features?

Know your site

Familiarize yourself with the architecture (structure or sitemap) of your site and all of its content. If it’s a new site you should have at least a rough outline of the pages and content your site will have. For existing sites it may not be realistic to read every peice of content, but at the least, you need to know what content exists and where it lives.

Take stock of all other types on content on your site. Inventory all media files such as photos and images, video, PDFs. Make sure you account for other unque types of content like press releases, resources or products.

Know your users

In a perfect world you know exactly who your users are. Perhaps you have a mailing list, customer list, or you personally know some customers. Send a brief survey to these people to get a sense of how they use your site and if it works well for them.

If you lack the contact list there are other options. Hotjar is an analytics tool with a popup survey feature. You may be thinking “popups suck” and I tend to agree with you. Right now though, you need to focus on gathering useful data. A temporary and minor annoyance may be worth it. With this simple tool you can ask real people questions as they use your site. Powerful stuff. Getting some honest feedback from real users is pretty much priceless.

Below is a template email that you are free to use as is, or modify to sound more like you.

Hi Joan,

We are redesigning our website and we need your help! The website is for you and I want to know how it can serve you better. It would mean a lot to me if you could please respond and answer the following questions. Helping me helps ensure the next version of is even better!

  1. What do you love about the website now?
  2. What do you hate about the website now?
  3. What’s the next awesome feature you wish the site had?
  4. Please rate your overall satisfaction of the site on the following scale: very dissatisfied – somewhat dissatisfied – neutral – very satisfied – somewhat satisfied
  5. Please briefly, in 1–3 sentences, describe how you use the site


Know your goals

The third step is to blend what we’ve learned about your site and your users. Compare your responses from the earlier questions to your cusotmers responses. Check your assumptions against them. Specifically, consider how you answered:

  • What problem does your website solve for visitors / customers?
  • What would your website ideally do for your business?
  • How do you think your users feel about your website?

And how your users:

  • Described how they use the site
  • Described the next awesome feature they wish the site had
  • Feel about your site, what they love, hate and overall satisfaction

Next we’re going to consider the results of analytics. Generally, there are only a handful of key metrics we should consider for this high level planning. The terms may vary slightly from provider to provider. The following terms are based on Google Analytics:

  • Sessions – a period of time a user is active on your site
  • Visitors / Users – users that have had at least one session on your site. Often you can break this down to unique, new, and returning users.
  • Pageviews – total number of pages viewed; repeat views of the same page are usually counted
  • Bounce Rate – the percentage of users that leave your site after the page they arrived on; meaning they didn’t look at any other pages
  • Content – often you can see which content gets the most visitors, page views, etc. Identify your popular content
  • Traffic Sources – where the traffic on your site is coming from, such as direct, search engines, links elsewhere on the internet, emails
  • Average Time on Site / Session Duration – the average amount of time a user spends on your site in a single session
  • Average Pages per Session – the average number of pages viewed within a single session

It takes time and practice to learn how to read analytics and derrive meaning. It’s also tough when you don’t really know what an appropriate benchmark is. Data does follow trends among industries. To start off you will generally want to look for reducing bounce rate, increasing traffic, and increasing time on site. By considering your user behaviour and how they responded to your questions you should be able to get a sense of how your site can better serve them.

Try to define concrete goals for site as follows:

  • Business objectives – such as more leads (B2B), more purchases (B2C), or more engagement (Blogs)
  • Site objectives – what can be done and measured on the site to help achieve these business objectives, such as better conversion rates, improved content for higher engagement, etc.

And those are the basics to understanding your site and developing some tangible goals. I want to know if this content is useful. Please add any questions or comments below.