Planning is essential for the success of most businesses and organizations. Therefore, structured website planning will give a clear direction for your operation, ensure the new website delivers effectively for the business, and delights users. Whether you are a web designer working with clients or a business owner, this ultimate guide will help you plan properly and lay the groundwork for the coming ones.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is website planning?
- 2 10 Important steps involved in the website planning process
What is website planning?
Website planning is the first phase of the overall website development process. It’s a strategic activity aiming to define and document what kind of and how exactly a website your business wants to build, and why or what the goals are.
Now that you’ve got the basic definition of website planning, you might wonder why the website planning process always comes first. Reasons for this practice lie in the benefits of planning before jumping in the building steps.
- Save time and money
Normally, if you hire a third-party team to have your desired website built, you might want to get a quote for it. With extremely detailed website planning and structure, you can be relieved as there will be little chance of additional fees. Besides, the team can maintain its smooth workflow without having to consult you for any further information. On the contrary, if you provide a loose guide, you could likely be paying handsomely for the additions when the quote doesn’t cover the work. Furthermore, website building could end up being a mess and prolonged process, which is not the desired result for both parties.
If you are using an in-house team to build a website without planning, you might lose opportunity and resources every extra day the project runs over if problems arise.
- Alleviate many design issues
Design, or visual representation, is an essential stage in web projects. This stage is executed with knowledge of the end product, including the content, goals, and functions of each thing being designed.
Without any website planning in advance, the design team is likely to be confused about the overall purpose of the website, the role assigned for each page, and objects within those pages. As a result, without your guidance and clear website planning, many design problems can arise, causing stress on the people in charge.
- Provide better results
Like business planning, you need a roadmap during the journey to target any goals. There is nothing more disappointing than to hear from a client “it’s not what I expected”, “it doesn’t work” or “it doesn’t do what I wanted it to do.” The issue with the lack of a clear and detailed expectation map to your developers can cost you project failure or stage behind your competitors in the long run.
However, detailed website planning can be a savior to help you achieve business goals with better results. For example, if you need quality leads, your website should be able to address the purpose. With a comprehensive website planning and design guide, your website will appeal to customers, increasing the time-on-site, and conversion rate.
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10 Important steps involved in the website planning process
Set your purpose and goals
Once you have decided to create your website, you should already know the purpose of it. Whether your purpose is to set an online presence of your business or just to have a place to share your creativity with the world, a clear goal should be pointed out. On top of that, you should define measurable, specific goals that are in line with your marketing goals.
Below are some examples of goals and purposes you can include in your website planning:
- Increasing profit
- Generating leads
- Informing readers
Once you have decided on your main goals, it’s advisable to break them into smaller pieces, making it easier to execute in a given time frame.
Another way to set your goals and purposes is to opt for the SMART approach. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. These milestones are under your big picture goals, and easy to track at the same time.
To monitor your performance and progress over time, you might need the help of some online tools like Google Analytics or SEO tools,…
Create a budget
Setting a realistic budget is an important part of website planning. When preparing your budget, you should consider not only the costs associated with the process of website creation and launching but also the ongoing costs for the first couple of years running the website.
The costs you may need to estimate and plan in your website planning checklist include:
- Domain and hosting
- Graphic design
- Website design and development
- Marketing research
- Content writing
- Marketing and advertising
- Updates and maintenance
It is a good practice to consult with professionals to ensure you are going on the right track. The reputable and insightful consultant team with thorough working experience is of great importance to your business success in the long run.
In this stage of website planning, you might want to assign roles for your team members. This practice will ensure a stable workflow as anyone is aware of their position and what is expected of them. Thanks to the proper allocation, your human asset can work efficiently, stay up-to-date with deadlines or new developments.
Here are some basic roles involving in a website project:
- Company stakeholders (including the owner, CEO, or anyone representing a primary function of your business)
- Marketing manager
- Web developer
- Content writer and/or editor
- HTML/CSS professional
- Web and graphic designer
Create a content strategy
Every website needs content to show to visitors. Content is not just about blog posts, but anything that contains information, such as videos, images, documents, guides, and how to’s, sales copy, infographics, podcasts, slideshows, etc.
A content strategy is a way that content is displayed on the website over time for a specific purpose. For example, when developing a website project, you might want to post blogs and infographics about your end-product in a proper timely manner to generate leads. At this point, planning is important as it directly affects your marketing effort. This is because the detailed, engaging and categorized content will pay off in traffic and rankings for your website.
Since content is a vital aspect of a website, you should either stay consistent with a wireframe for your self-created content or hire experienced writers. Last but not least, it is a good idea to incorporate some professional looking pictures if your budget allows it.
Finally, you also need to choose a content management system to help you create, manage, and update the content without having to write code. Among conventional options such as WordPress, Wix, Joomla,… Magento with the latest update Magento 2 stands out as the optimal tool for modern businesses. Compared to other CMS, this platform provides valuable information to customers and increases search engine visibility with intuitive features, including:
- Compatible with more popular platform
- Improve the customization process
- Supporting test friendly platform
- Improvements in performance and scalability
- Easier front-end development
- Reduce upgrade costs and efforts
Structure your website
At this stage, the benefits of conducting thorough website planning will be clear to you. Equipped with all information about goals you are aiming to reach, content you might show, the target users/customers from previous steps, structuring a new website layout is completely easier.
A successful website calls for a proper organization, an easy and intuitive transition from one page to another, and a user-friendly interface. To achieve these requirements, you should consider the following:
- The number of pages, proper categories, and subcategories
- The most important pages and/or categories to be put at the main menu
- The features on each page to meet the needs of your business
If you stumble difficulties in putting pages into appropriate categories, you can also conduct a sorting session. In detail, you should write down the names of all the needed pages. Then, from the user perspective, you can start arranging them into groups that make sense to you. The classification you’ve just completed turns out to be the suitable categories and subcategories of your website.
Create a mock-up
A page mock-up, also known as a wireframe, is a must-have section in website planning. It is the first draft of your website usually created in Photoshop. Therefore, there’s no need to put too much detail into this stage. All you need to do is to give your team members an idea or just scratch on the surface of what the website will look like. Then, you can consult their opinions to better modify any feature.
It is no big deal if the design program or app is not available. You can map out a mock-up page with pen and paper to grasp a general feel of what the website will look like. Next, you can send the draft to a designer to better visualize your idea in a professional outlook.
Once you’ve completed the mock-up, it’s time to start designing. Usually, there are two approaches to design your website, which are:
- Using a website builder app/ platform: suitable for projects with a limited budget or people with little coding knowledge.
- Hiring a professional web designer (team): best suit when planning a more complicated website.
The importance of good web design can not be underestimated. An ill-designed website will drive away visitors, thus dumping all your marketing effort. To avoid such a situation, you’d better keep in mind some basic rules as follows:
- Create user-friendly navigation. Research shows that vertical and centered navigation at the top of the page is the optimal choice to engage users.
- Make sure the website fits the screen. You can use responsive design to fit your website to all screen sizes.
- Keep your website light by compressing images for a quick loading process.
- The business logo and tagline should be prominent on the page.
- Keep the text in an easy-to-read font. Styles and colors should also be consistent across the website.
- Ensure clear and concise copy, and put important information and features above the fold.
- Make notes about any changes to be done with the style or features.
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Test it out
Testing is an important step in website planning. This practice can help identify any possible bug or catch details that might have been missed initially. Here is the checklist for testing:
- Make sure the website shows up the exact desired way in all browsers, including computer-based ones such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and mobile-based ones like Safari.
- Test the website on personal digital devices such as cell phones, tablets to check whether your website maintains its consistent appearance regardless of the screen.
- Make sure all of the links perfectly work, that the images are properly sized. See whether all the input fields are working or not.
Maintain your site
Once your website is officially launched, the work isn’t over. A website is an ongoing entity representing your whole business, so maintenance is a continuous task. You always have to monitor your analytics software to see your website’s performance. Some major metrics you should take into consideration could be the number of unique visitors, organic traffic, bounce rate, and the most popular pages of your website. This way, you can propose a more strategic approach to compete against your competitors.
Besides, you might also need to keep an eye on the site security and get feedback from your users/visitors for improvement in the future.
Decide on an SEO strategy
Without an effective marketing strategy, there is a high likelihood that very few people will reach your website. To get rid of the problem, SEO is the first step into promoting your website. Technically, SEO strategy is the process of organizing a website’s content by topic, which helps search engines understand a user’s intent when they search for certain keywords.
A successful SEO strategy can directly impact your online performance and success. To decide on the strategy, there are some tasks to be done along with your website planning:
- Create a list of potential keywords for content creation
- Set up a blog for your website
- Generate high-quality content
- Analyze Google’s first SERPs
- Optimize on-page SEO
- Build links to your website
- Improve and update content
- Measure and keep track of your content’s success
With a detailed SEO plan containing the above aspects, you can build out and execute an efficient SEO strategy. This way, you can easily recognize your success as well as identify areas of opportunity or shortcomings for further plans.
Spending your time on website planning in advance is a great investment to success in business. Now that you are equipped with all the necessary knowledge about website planning, it’s time to get started to build a real one.
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