The Importance of Setting Goals in Website Design

Written by Wholegrain Team - May 18, 2015

Running a business without setting goals is a little like jumping in a car and driving to an unknown location without a map. Of course, you may find a little gem at the end of the road, but the process is rather hit and miss, and you could just end up aimlessly drifting along without actually arriving at any particular destination.

So you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the same rings true when you’re working on a new design for your website. It’s not enough to say you want an excellent website that will give your visitors a good user experience. If you want to design a website that achieves results, you must first sit down and establish some goals.

Why Website Goals Matter

When setting out to design a new website, or revamp an existing one, you’ll probably have an overall concept in mind. Something that reflects your brand, highlights the quality of your products and services, and is easy for your users to navigate.

But before you start thinking about colour schemes and site content, you need to get to the nitty-gritty of what you want your site to achieve. Which is where website goals really help.

It’s worth baring in mind that your goals for your website, and the goals of your users are likely to differ. Yours will involve conversation rates, email sign-ups or downloads, while your users will probably be more interested in finding a specific piece of information. The trick is to find a middle ground that entices your users into a particular action, and helps your business to develop and grow.

Your goals will be instrumental in helping you decide on the design and build of your site, and they will provide you with a way to measure its success. Goals for your website should be an extension of your business goals – of course, if your business is purely online, it’s likely they’ll be pretty similar.

Setting website goals will help you to establish the following things:

1. Who Your Target Audience Are

If you walk into a Spanish tapas bar, it’s unlikely you’re looking for a Thai curry. The same is true for your website. By designing your website to appeal to the desires and likes of your target audience you will achieve much better results.

Spend some time working out who your target audience are, what challenges they are likely to be facing, and what they deem important and unimportant in their lives.

Think about why they’ve landed on your website – most of your visitors will be looking for something specific. Think about what that is and ensure it’s easy to locate.

2. How to Craft Effective Content

Once you’ve worked out who your target audience are, spend some time creating some online personas. There’s an important distinction here – your target audience will be decided on geographic and demographic data, such as gender, income and location, whereas your online personas will look into behaviours, including the challenges they face and the issue they wish to solve.

For example, visitors to a women’s clothing website could be women wishing to purchase clothes for herself, women wishing to purchase clothes for a friend, or men looking to buy clothes for the woman in their lives.

By creating online personas, and knowing your overall goals for the website, you can create compelling content that will appeal to your target audience, and have the impact you desire.

3. How to Organise Your Website

By defining your goals – what actions you want your users to take upon arriving at your site – and the goals of your uses, you have the necessary tools to organise and prioritise your website content for maximum effectiveness.

Make sure you clearly define the action you’re looking for – for example, sign up to our newsletter here – and ensure that all the content leading up to that moment supports it. A call to action is only effective if it’s accompanied with a compelling argument for why you should take that action.

Then test your site organisation by taking a hypothetical navigation in the guise of your online personas – consider what brought them to your site, and what the ideal navigation path would be for them to reach the information they’re looking for.

4. How to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Site

Finally, by setting your goals and tracking them, you have the means to measure the effectiveness of your website and the extent that it’s helping your business. By measuring the success of your goals at pre-determined intervals, you can see whether you’ve met your goals, underachieved, or surpassed your expectations.

Setting Website Goals

Website goals will differ between different websites, in the same way that business goals differ depending on the nature of your business. However, when setting your website goals, you should ensure that they’re SMART:

  • Specific: ‘Increase website traffic’ is not a specific goal and is unhelpful in helping you to figure out how you’re going to achieve it. But ‘increase website traffic by 50% in the next 6 months’ will help you to figure out how you’re going to achieve it and enable you to accurately measure your goal.
  • Measureable: The only way to track the progress of your goals is to make them measureable. You can measure the number of clicks to see how a client is engaging with your site, or the number of new sign-ups to your newsletter. Specify how much/many and when you want the goal to be accomplished by, for example ‘achieve 2,000 new sign-ups to the newsletter in 12 months’.
  • Attainable: A goal needs to be attainable, otherwise it will feel like a never-ending task and you’ll be tempted to give up before you’ve even started. However, that doesn’t mean it should be easy. A goal needs to stretch you and challenge you to develop your abilities and skillset. If your goal is huge, consider breaking it down into more manageable chunks.
  • Relevant: Your goals should be relevant to the growth of your business and for their use – your goals for your homepage are likely to be different to the goals for your products and services pages. Ensure that your goals match the priorities of your business – this will help to drive you, your team and your business to achieve them.
  • Time-Based: Finally, you need to establish a timescale for your goal – increase sales of X by 20% over the next month – so you can accurately track it. It should be achievable within a specific timescale, be it weeks, months or years.

It’s important to remember there are no hard-and-fast rules to establishing the goals for your website – each site will have different goals and only you, the business owner, can determine the right goals for your website and what success means for you. But without establishing goals, your website may still look cool, but it won’t be effective for your business.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – have you established goals for your website? How did you find the process and what are the benefits for your business? Tell us below…