How To Build A Web Site That Sells
Copyright 2002 Herman Drost 

Have you ever set off in the car to your destination, without a map, naively believing you will find it? Several frustrating hours later, you are either lost or stressed out. Your wife says, “I told you so – you should have brought the map!” 

This is the same situation when you create a web site without planning. The end result will be an unclear purpose, target market goals and structure. Ultimately, you will lose visitors and end up with little or no sales.

Let’s look at each of these points:

Define Your Purpose
Without a clear purpose for your site, you will not know where you are heading. For example, the purpose of my design site, is to help small business owners attain a presence on the web to sell their product or service. Now, write down the statement of purpose for your web site. Go over it a few times to make sure it is crystal clear, otherwise your customers will be trying to figure it out for themselves.

Research Your Target Market
Research the product or service you wish to sell. Find out if it has a good niche (e.g. a product or service nobody else has thought of), or it has a strong demand (many people are searching for it). Do a search on some of the major search engines (e.g. Yahoo, Overture) for keywords and phrases that you think people will be using when looking for your product. Now you can see what kind of demand there is for it.

Realize many others may be competing to sell the same product. Focus on something unique you may have to offer, that stands out from your competitors. If you are setting up an affiliate program, make sure it is a reputable company with a good track record with lots of help available from others involved. Don’t recklessly jump in – you will waste a lot of time and money. This is the number one reason, why many entrepreneurs give up so quickly.

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For a more in-depth look at targeting your market, read my previous article,
“How to Target Your Customers and Put Them in a Buying Mood?” 

Set Your Goals
Create a timeline for the planning, building and marketing of your site. Without doing this, procrastination may take over your goals.
Decide how much money you want to spend to create your site and how much you will invest for its promotion. 

Set a target date for what you want your site to achieve - you can always adjust it if you need to. Make a goal for how many visitors you will attract to your site. What percentage of these will be actual sales? When do you expect to make a profit?

Choose a Domain Name
Look up available domain names for your business, by using Nameboy. ( They will provide a large list to choose from. Keep your domain name as short as possible, so it is easy to remember. Avoid hard to spell words. Also avoid words with hyphens in them, because people won’t remember to add the hyphens and may end up at your competitor’s site.

Mindmapping – How to Sketch Out Your Site
This is the process that allows you to structure ideas on paper in the logical order your brain follows, rather than the linear process normally used when forming ideas. 

Take one sheet of paper, draw a circle in the middle – this is the subject of your homepage. From there, draw branches, which have more ideas about your topic. If any topics are related in a more definitive way, create another branch off the current idea branch. Within minutes, you will see your mindmap develop into a dynamic sketch. You might find that a standard sheet of paper is not enough to contain all your thoughts. Use more paper, create more branches, and keep the ideas flowing.

With a clear purpose, definite target market, targeted goals, a domain name and a clear structure, you are now ready to begin building the pages for your successful web site. 

In my next article, I will discuss how to structure your web pages, so they will be easy to read and navigate. This will attract visitors to your site, and ultimately make more sales.
Herman Drost is a Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) 
owner and author of 
Web Site Design and Low Cost Hosting

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