The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Website

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Website plan

How important is your website design?

93% of users begin their online experience with a search engine. This means planning a website needs to take into account everything from how your site appears in search results to how users will interact with your content to become customers.

If this idea seems daunting, don’t fret. This guide will take you through everything you need to think about in order to make sure your website is ready for search engines and users alike.

Keep reading to make the most out of the planning process to attain a successful website.

Before You Even Get To Planning A Website

Preparing to create your website begins long before you take your business online. In this section, we’ll cover the offline elements of the website planning process, including:

  • Setting a budget
  • Creating a style guide
  • Writing a business plan

Setting A Budget :

Creating a budget for your new website now will keep you from running the bill higher than you can afford. You should split your budget into sub-areas like hiring a designer, hiring a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, content production, photography, and the costs of obtaining a domain name and a host.

Creating A Style Guide :

What colors do you want to use on your website? What fonts do you want to use? These are a couple of questions a style guide can answer.

If you already have branded content, then you might have a style guide already. When this is the case, designing a website may be good cause to ensure your style guide is complete and all-encompassing.

Writing A Business Plan :

If your business is brand new, you’ll want to tackle this step before you put together your website design plans. A business plan will help you identify who your target audience is, who your competitors are, and how you will market your product or service.

Planning Your Website :

Now that you know where your business is headed, it’s time to figure out how this tool–your website–will serve your target audience. Remember: your website is not about your needs, but about theirs. In this section, we’ll talk about:

  • Identifying website goals
  • Identifying how your site will function
  • Identifying aesthetics
  • Identifying the user path

Website Goals :

This is where understanding your target audience comes in handy. In this stage of the planning process, you’ll lay out what the tone of your website will be. You’ll also figure out what content your website needs in order to meet your goals. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you building a website?
  • Who will be responsible for each type of content?
  • What message do you want to send with your text and multimedia?

Consider content for example. You wouldn’t use the same content for a law office website that you would for an e-commerce website.

How Your Site Will Function :

This is the step where you decide what features your website needs to have in order to get the job done. Maybe your site needs a blog in order to answer customer questions and keep fresh content on your domain. If you’re selling products, you’ll need a shopping cart.

If you’re a photographer, architect, artist, or interior designer, a portfolio will be an important function for you. And for sites that are going to showcase your professional services, a testimonials section may be a helpful feature.

These features fulfill what are known as front-end functions. But in this planning step, you’ll also figure out back-end functions necessary to your site. For example, if you have a shopping cart, you’ll probably also want to employ SSL for security.

Aesthetics :

How your site looks will matter–trust us. Take mobile responsiveness, for example. This aesthetic feature ensures your site is easy to use on any kind of device.

Now that more than 80% of users access the web on a mobile device, this type of aesthetic can’t be ignored.

But, the aesthetics of website development isn’t just about mobile responsiveness. You should also consider what colors you want to use. This is also a great time to look at how your competitors’ sites look.

Planning The User’s Path :

This is the step most people think of when they think of how to make a site plan. This is where you map out the navigation of your website and the hierarchy of pages on your website.

We’re calling it the user’s path because we want you to really focus on how your website will serve your audience. A great way to map out this journey is to use a flow diagram. A flow diagram allows you to visually show the hierarchies of your website content as well as how a user will move through your site, all the way to conversion.

You can also use wireframes to draw out how each page on your website will appear. This allows you to communicate clearly with your designer to best fulfill your vision.

Conclusion: What Happens If You Don’t Plan?

If you skip the website planner steps, you run the risk of unexpected delays and costs. The problems can compound from there. Specifically, the problems that could arise without sufficient planning include:

  • Communication with your designer takes much longer than it needs to
  • Your designer is forced to make assumptions
  • Delays could lead to missed deadlines, which may affect your launch plans
  • Your website design might end up costing much more than you wanted
  • You might be confused during the process, or ultimately disappointed

So before you choose your domain name, before you register your domain, and before you choose a hosting company, taking time in planning a website can ensure that you’re satisfied with the end result. More than that, proper planning can ensure that users and search engines are pleased with the result, driving visitors to your site and guiding them to conversion.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below with your website planning tips and experiences. Add a reply to share your story or to ask questions about the website planning process.

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