The one thing all websites have in common is that they never stay the same. You either grow and adapt, or you stagnate and wither.
At each stage of the development of your platform you run in to unique needs that are pretty much the same across board. Beginners usually have the same issues, as do those who’ve already launched, and the platform veterans.
The solutions to those issues may differ, but the needs at each stage are pretty consistent. What you need as a beginner is going to be different than what advanced platform builders need. That much is obvious. But what you need at each of these stages differs and that’s what we’re talking about here.
Just getting started
People who are just lifting off the launch pad have needs that aren’t too complex. At the same time this can be a bit daunting because rookie website owners are not always familiar with what they need.
If you’re just getting started with your website you need the basics. It could be a matter of just getting your site up and running, getting WordPress installed, and in place with the right plugins. This usually isn’t the time that you’re going to need to hire a web designer to create custom design for you.
This is the time when you need a rock solid foundation in place on which you can build your virtual empire. This means getting the right set of plugins in place if you’re using WordPress. It means getting a good theme that you can use that can make your site look awesome without worrying about having to design it.
You need to be focusing on growing, creating content, building your audience, and finding your voice and rhythm as a content creator.
You need to get your hosting in order, choose a domain name, get your theme, and put a content plan together. This is also the time when you can do most things yourself or get quick help. The important thing is to launch and not get buried in the details.
It doesn’t make sense at this point to go down the custom design road for your website. If the basic WordPress themes don’t do enough for you, a third party theme like Studiopress can quickly spruce up your site and give a very professional look that works well.
Your need for extending the functionality of your website are fairly basic too. There really isn’t too much you need in the way of plugins, the basics will work fine.
Experienced Platform Builder
These are people who’ve been doing this for a while and their needs have grown. They’ve got readers, they’ve got subscribers, they’ve got all the technical aspects in place, and are looking to grow.
What worked for you as you were getting off the ground isn’t working for you any longer and it’s time to take it to the next level. It’s reasonable to make the bigger investment that comes with this stage because you should be seeing a return on your investment and the quote you get from the web design company isn’t going to shock you.
These experienced platform builders have different design needs. They’ve established a personal brand, and their site usually starts to look like it. They will likely have a custom logo for their site, and a lot of times they’re using a custom design to get the most control they can over their brand presentation.
At this stage it’s about defining your brand and being more deliberate about your messaging. When you started out your theme and basic logo were enough to get you moving, but now you’re feeling the itch that you need something more. Your hosting is likely still working for you, and your domain name is established and your building authority for your site.
Site speed and performance start to become a much bigger concern now, because it affects the growth of your site.
This is usually the stage when I start to hear from people. They want to take things to the next step and are ready to invest in where they want to go.
You’ll also notice that your need for extended functionality has grown and a lot of the options that you see pop up in your Google search are premium plugins. This is going to be common at this stage because your platform will have grown and the functionality that you need is more complex that it was in the beginning stages.
Platform veterans are seriously established platform builders and are the “A List” bloggers that we all know about. These are people like Pat Flynn, Michael Hyatt, and Neil Patel. The needs of the veteran platform builder are different than both of the previous stages. Many times they’ve outgrown the tools and utilities they were using earlier and need to look at building custom solutions.
This is the time when you need a good developer that you can work with.
Virtually all of these sites at this stage are custom designed sites, and not just at the design level. There is custom programming that powers the different features these sites need.
Veterans have a developer (or developers) on their team, or on retainer, because they need someone who can build the functionality that they need, because their needs are usually precise and unique.
These sites are using custom-created themes, plugins and modules because the other options just aren’t enough to do precisely what they want to do any longer. As an example, Neil Patel mentioned that he had some of his plugins coded directly in to his site to increase his site speed and performance, and Michael Hyatt has used custom solutions on his site to power the features he wants.
These are the entrepreneurs that need serious hosting horsepower, and high-performing websites. The hosting plan they got for $7 per month is a distant memory. They’re using powerful caching utilities, content delivery networks (CDNs), and other tools that make their sites perform at peak efficiency and speed.
This is the big leagues and high performance is absolutely crucial for these powerful, popular sites.
Rinse & Repeat
At each stage of the cycle an essential part to growth is measurement, evaluation, adaptation, and fine-tuning.
It makes sense too. At first when you’re first getting started you don’t hardly know what you need to be looking for in your website statistics, but as you grow you start to learn to look at the things that are the most important things for your site.
Same thing applies throughout the entire cycle. Once you’re off the ground and running, it’s a matter of measure, experiment, evaluate and improve. Otherwise you end up stuck, not knowing your numbers.
When you don’t know what your numbers are it’s really – really – hard to improve. From my days in sales, it was something that was ingrained in to you – know your numbers. If you can measure it, you can improve it.
The needs for your website are always evolving and always changing. It’s important to know what you need at each stage in your platform’s growth. Know what you need and when you’re going to need and make plans for what you want to achieve and where you want your site to go.
Make small improvements constantly. Your website is never really done, but if you have a plan and know what you need, you will be prepared for the challenges that come up along the way and able to make your site the success you want it to be.
image by Hannah Swithinbank