Many blogs open their first post with an introduction to the author, a statement of purpose, and the invitation for those reading to come back soon for more interesting content. Since Ward on the Web’s primary focus is on building successful websites, however, I thought it would be a more fitting to start with the considerations that went into its own creation. Over the next week, I’ll walk through the steps I took to plan the site’s launch and touch on the standard introductory bits as I go.

The Key Question: Why?

The Question of “Why?”

Why do you want to create a website? Some people plunge into web development without ever considering this simple question. I’ve heard horror stories of company executives spouting, “We need a website,” and individuals proclaiming, “I want to start a blog,” without ever asking, “Why?”

Why is “Why?” so important? Because the answer advises every decision that follows. If your answer is, “Because we need to sell our widgets to the world,” you’re obviously making an e-commerce site. You’ll need a shopping cart, a credit card gateway, a marketing plan, and so forth in order to achieve your site’s purpose of selling widgets. If your answer is, “Because I want to publish my expert reviews of widgets,” you’re probably making a blog. You’ll need a blogging platform, some writing ability, an understanding of the blogosphere, and a lot of widgets to review, among other things. Your answer to “Why?” will naturally affect the requirements, parameters, and success metrics that will come to define your website.

A good answer to “Why?” doesn’t just advise decisions, though; it inspires a grand vision. Which is more inspiring, a site with the purpose of “selling widgets” or one that “caters to the needs of widget aficionados everywhere, with a wide selection of top-quality widgets”? In the same vein, which would you rather read, a “widget review blog” or a “comprehensive source for widget industry news and product reviews”?

The point here is that simply answering “Why?” isn’t enough. A simple, uninspired answer will lead to a simple, uninspired website. Don’t just state your website’s purpose; define the vision to which it will aspire. Paint the picture of an ideal website that fulfills its goal, not just adequately, but exceptionally. Only when you’ve taken those bland statements of intention and refined them into golden statements of purpose should you consider any of the decisions that will follow.

My Answer to “Why?”

I did this exercise when the idea first crossed my mind to create a “professional blog.” Here is what I came up with to serve as Ward on the Web’s statement of purpose:

My new blog will showcase my expertise as a web professional by providing valuable insights on web development, online marketing, search engine optimization, blogging, and other topics related to success on the web.

In my next post, I’ll move on to the second step of launching a successful website, identifying expertise.

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