So, why do you have a website? No, this isn't a trick question. 

Many small business websites have been created "because I have to have a website". Unfortunately this is a pretty good guarantee your website won't meet its goals. How do I know this? Because the website doesn't have any goals.

Why do I need a purpose statement?

Small business websites are often plagued with either too little information, or way too much. This can cost you a lot in frustrated customers, administration overhead, increased support calls and loss of reputation.

But when a website has a purpose statement that defines its overall goals, there's a clear way to decide what content you really need and how much you should have. Whether you're auditing existing pages or creating new ones, the purpose statement will help guide what those pages should contain or even if they should exist at all.

Knowing the "why" of your website really makes a difference that your customers will see and feel.

Giving your website purpose

Creating the purpose statement for your website doesn't need to be onerous, and the outline and questionnaire below will help draw out and order your thoughts. Don't overthink them or get stuck in details, just sketch out some rough ideas. Sometimes the ideas that fall straight out of your brain and onto the page are the best. And don't feel you have to do this alone—try brainstorming with other staff, friends or family.

Then, once those ideas are out in the open, pick your favourite parts and string the answers together into a concise paragraph that describes exactly why you have a website and what you want it to achieve. This is your purpose statement.

Again, don’t do this to death. The website purpose statement should be a “living document” that’s updated over time and evolves in response to changes in your business, your customers’ needs and the overall marketplace within which you operate.

Website purpose questionnaire

The set of questions I use are set out in the next section, or you can download my free worksheet using the link below if you find this helpful. It’s an interactive PDF into which you can type your answers using Adobe Reader (you might need to download Adobe Reader) or just print it out, grab a pen and scribble on the page the traditional way.

  • Download free website purpose worksheet
    (Note: You can edit the worksheet in a browser but most browsers don't allow you to save what you have entered—use Adobe Reader if you want to save your information.)

As you write your answers, notice that all the questions are about people. It's people we create websites for so our goals and purpose need to revolve around your customers. Don't just think about what your website does now—extend your focus to what you would like it to do in the future too.

I've included my own answers for curlygeek.com as a guide.

What does your business do for people?

Example:

I educate people in how to do common website tasks. I offer automated tools to help people assess various aspects of the their website. I provide online courses in IT related areas.

What sort of people would you like to attract to the website?

Example:

I would like to attract small business owners and their staff. I have a special interest in empowering women to do their own web development.

What impression would you like people to have when they first see the website?

Example:

I would like people to think they have found a friendly and relaxed environment.

What would you like people to do when they visit?

Example:

I would like people to read my blog posts.
I would like people to use my tools.
I would like people to make a small donation.
I would like people to subscribe to my mailing list.

How would you like people to feel about your business when they leave the website?

Example:

I would like people to feel excited about what they have learned.
I would like people to have developed trust in the content.
I would like people to feel they want to recommend my site to others.

Creating the website purpose statement

Now have a look at your answers. Have you found yourself repeating anything? Is there any kind of theme? Make a note of any thing you notice about your answers and highlight any words or phrases you particularly like.

Take at least one section from each answer you've written and combine it into a paragraph. Start removing all the fluff and anything that doesn’t flow nicely together. Try and incorporate your favourite answers.

This is what I created for curlygeek.com using the same process:

Curlygeek.com provides education and tools to empower small businesses to do their own web development. The website is a warm, friendly and trustworthy environment that aims to get people excited about learning web related skills. Our customers are given tools and techniques at no cost to reduce barriers and allow them to own the direction their web presence takes. 

The purpose statement as a guide

Hopefully you now have at least a basic statement constructed. So get out the laminator and display your new website purpose statement proudly on the wall!

As we progress through this series you’ll refer back to this statement to guide your content strategy. Just remember that you can come back and edit or extend it at any time as you work through the search engine optimisation (SEO) process. In fact, you should expect to, because it’s highly likely you’ll come up with additional ideas along the way.

What's next?

Coming up next in the series we will delve into the minds of the people who use our website by creating website personas. Combined with the website purpose statement, personas will help you gain some powerful insights into what users are really looking for, how your website can meet this need and ultimately convince Google you’re the best people to provide it for them.

Other articles in this series: