Planning and building a website might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! In this ultimate website planning guide, our digital marketing agency will break down the website planning process into eleven easy-to-follow steps. From setting your goals and creating an effective content strategy to incorporating your brand elements during the website design process, you’ll learn various website planning methods required for success. By the end of this guide, you’ll get all the knowledge required to plan a great website properly. So grab your notebook, and let’s start!
Table of Contents:
- Different Approaches To Website Planning
- How Can This Website Planning Guide Help You?
- Website Planning Guide – 11 Steps You Shouldn’t Skip When Planning a Website
- Do you need help turning your website plan into reality?
Different Approaches To Website Planning
While visually attractive web design plays an essential part in the overall success of any website, proper planning goes way beyond your website’s visuals. Website planning is like creating a blueprint for a house before you start building it. It’s essential because it will help you meet your target audience’s specific needs and accomplish your company’s goals. During this process, you determine what website to look like, how it will function, and which goals you want to accomplish.
There are two main approaches to website planning:
- Traditional website project planning: A linear process where you start with a plan, then move on with each project phase. It’s a bit like following a recipe, and it doesn’t leave much room for changes in requirements.
- Agile project planning for websites: It’s much more flexible than traditional project planning. Instead of following a strict plan, you’ll be working in short sprints and adjusting your strategies when you believe it’s necessary.
Both approaches have pros and cons, and your chosen path will ultimately depend on your preferences. That’s why we’ve ensured that the methods described in this website planning guide can be applied to both project planning approaches.
Should Everyone Have a Website Planner?
A general idea of your future website’s content, design, and functionality is necessary. However, whether you should have a website planner or not depends on the purpose of your website and its size.
If you want to build a website for your business, we strongly advise creating a detailed plan and using website planning tools. This will help you keep track of every small step involved in such a complex task and end up with a website that delivers on your company’s expectations. Additionally, if you don’t have the technical skills or resources required for building websites, keeping your ideas organized so you can show them to your developers is a good idea.
On the other hand, if you’re building a four-page website for personal use, applying the website planning methods we will describe in this complete guide may not be necessary. But even then, it’s essential to have a general plan about how you want your website to look and what you want to include.
How Can This Website Planning Guide Help You?
Website planning is a step you shouldn’t miss if you want to create a website that effectively achieves its goal. The complete website planning guide will help you create a clear roadmap for your website creation process. You’ll be able to make thoughtful decisions about your future website’s layout, design, and content and ensure everything will work together to create an enjoyable environment for your potential customers. And by establishing a strong plan for your future website, you’ll ensure that all of your web team members stay on track, work towards the same goal, and don’t get sidetracked.
Website Planning Guide – 11 Steps You Shouldn’t Skip When Planning a Website
Now that we understand why it is vital to establish a firm plan for your future website, we can go into detail. Let’s start exploring 11 steps that make this website planning guide:
Analysis of your Current Marketing and Branding Efforts
Performing market research for web design is a great way to start your website planning process. This way, you’ll better know your target audience’s needs and wants and learn where your brand is positioned within your industry. You’ll also learn more about your competitors and current market trends better. This information will make creating a website that effectively communicates your brand values and appeals to your ideal customers easier.
For example, let’s say you’re a small clothing company. By analyzing your current marketing efforts, you might realize that most of your customers are young, trendy women who love to browse clothing items on their mobile phones. Market research may also help you discover that many similar companies within your industry have websites with bright, bold colors and many images of their products. By getting familiar with your most successful competitors’ unique website features, you’ll be able to satisfy your ideal customers’ needs more accurately.
And during this phase, you should also try to find out what you have been doing right and wrong on your current website. Keeping those marketing efforts that worked and polishing the ones that didn’t will set your brand in the right direction for years to come.
Defining your Business Goals and Purpose of Your Website
If you don’t have well-defined business goals, you won’t be able to create a website that will help you achieve them. It will be easy to get sidetracked and focus on things that are not essential for your business growth.
A good starting point is defining SMART goals for your business. This will help you make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s explore SMART goals in more detail:
- Specific: You need to come up with clear and specific goals, so you can know precisely what you’re working towards. Let’s say you want to increase your website traffic. This is not specific enough, as even a 1% increase is still an increase – yet it’s hard to believe it will benefit your business. But you can make this goal specific by stating that you want to “increase search engine traffic by 40 percent in the next six months”. Can you see the difference? The second one sounds much more powerful.
- Measurable: You’ll never know if you’ve accomplished your goals if you can’t measure them. That’s why you should always define your goals in a way that will allow you to track progress. For example, you can measure website traffic by looking at the number of visitors to your website, but you can’t accurately measure how many people have heard about your brand.
- Attainable: Make your goals realistic in accordance with your budget. Increasing your website traffic by 200% within three months isn’t realistic unless you have a budget for intensive marketing campaigns across various channels. On the other hand, a 40 percent increase is much more realistic and can be achieved by any company with the right efforts.
- Relevant: Ensure your goals are relevant to your business and aligned with your overall business strategy. If you aim to increase sales by 20 percent, driving more traffic to your eCommerce platform will get you closer to achieving your objectives.
- Time-bound: Not many business owners love dealing with close deadlines, but having time-bound goals is crucial during website planning. It will help you stay on the right track and make you invest additional efforts.
By defining SMART goals, you can determine how successful your website is. You should define short-term and long-term goals and ensure everyone from your web design and marketing teams knows them.
It’s equally important to define the purpose of your website. To do so, you should have:
- Clear objective
- Defined target audience
- Unique selling proposition
Now that we understand how to define SMART goals for your business website and determine its purpose, we can move forward with this website planning guide. There’s still a lot to explore.
Website Budget – How Much Are You Willing to Invest?
Before creating a website, many business owners tend to forget about their budgets. Yet, this is one of the most critical aspects of the website planning process, as it directly determines your website’s complexity and features. With a limited budget, you may need to choose a less expensive design or give up on advanced functionalities.
And by knowing your budget, you can avoid overspending. You’ll spend your money on things that are truly necessary for your website rather than getting caught up in all the bells and whistles that might not be essential for your customers.
But it’s equally important to consider costs after the website launch date. You’ll avoid getting caught off guard by unexpected expenses such as maintenance costs, hosting fees, or additional marketing costs.
Domain Names Are More Important Than Most Website Owners Believe – Here’s How to Choose a Perfect One
A good domain name will help people find your site through search engines more easily. It’s important to choose a memorable domain name that’s relevant to your business. But domain names cost, and you should calculate these costs when planning your budget.
At first, it might seem like all attractive domain names are already taken. If that’s the case with the one you wanted to buy, you must get creative. We’re sure that with enough effort, you’ll come up with a perfect alternative. Just make sure it’s highly relevant to your company’s name and easy to pronounce and remember. Once you find the one you like, you’re ready to explore the complete website planning guide further.
Analyzing Your Competitors’ Websites
The internet is a vast space, and no matter the industry you’re operating in, it’s likely that you’ll have to deal with heavy competition. And it’s crucial to take competitors’ websites into your website planning considerations. A comprehensive analysis will allow you to understand their strengths and weaknesses and make better decisions about your website. You might even find some unique ideas for things you’ve never considered.
- Check their visual appeal: You can start by looking at the overall design and layout. Pay attention to the color scheme, font choices, and images they’ve used. Try to catch the emotions these elements evoke in you.
- Analyse content: Next, you should look at their content. What topics do they cover, and which style do they use to connect with an audience? Can you notice any patterns in topic choices or the writing tone? But try to think out of the box, as it’s likely that your competitors have missed many topics that may prove helpful to your target audience.
- Perform SEO analysis: After you’re done analyzing their content, it’s time to find out how your competitors managed to increase search engine traffic. By paying close attention to the technical SEO of successful websites within your niche, you can set your goals more accurately. So check their page speeds and mobile-friendliness and analyze how competitor websites perform in search engines. Many tools can help you with this, such as SEMrush. This powerful software gives you valuable insights into your competition’s SEO efforts.
- Don’t forget about user experience: Finally, don’t forget the user experience. Find out how real customers react to your competitors’ websites. Checking if they have ADA standards accessible design might help you during this step. Ideally, you’ll make your website more pleasant for visitors than other businesses within your niche.
Buyer Research: Planning a Website That Drives Sales
Try to learn as much as possible about your audience’s preferences and behaviors during this stage. With comprehensive buyer research, you’ll learn who your target audience is and what they need from your website. You can increase engagement, conversions, and sales by meeting specific user requirements for a website design.
Here are some of the most effective tips for conducting buyer research:
- Create a buyer persona and clearly define your target audience: Invest effort into understanding what drives your customers’ purchasing decisions. Also, identify the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of the people you want to reach with your website. Find out as much as possible about their internet browsing habits, which types of content they enjoy the most, what makes them prefer one website over another, and much more.
- Conduct surveys and interviews: Good old surveys and interviews are still one of the most powerful website planning methods. These can help you find out answers to many important questions directly from your target audience. Don’t be afraid to ask people about their needs, wants, and pain points, as all these pieces of information will help you make your website more compelling.
- Find out how people interact with your current website: Tools like Google Analytics can help you better understand how people interact with your current website and what pages are the most popular. Make sure to include similar content in your new website plan, and find better solutions for those pages that didn’t perform as expected.
And remember that conducting buyer research is a long-term commitment. You’ll need to keep gathering feedback from your audience even after you launch the website. Today, trends quickly change, and people’s preferences often reflect such changes. You’ll need to adapt if you want to maintain a strong online presence for your brand. Various UX research tools can help you acquire accurate data and make better decisions.
What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?
Your unique selling proposition (USP) essentially sets your business apart from everyone else. Highlighting your USP on your website will help people quickly realize why they should choose your business over competitors. But it will also help you with your website design and content. Once you know what makes you stand out, you can create a website emphasizing those features.
Let’s say you own a coffee shop. There are probably dozens of coffee shops in your neighborhood. But do they all source their beans from small, independent farmers and use organic, fair-trade beans as you do? That can be just one example of your unique selling proposition. You can attract customers passionate about supporting small businesses and sustainable practices by highlighting that information. They won’t put you in the same category as all the other coffee shops anymore. And your website will be much more effective at attracting and retaining customers.
Defining Which Web Team Members Are Crucial For Your Success
Great websites come from great team efforts. When planning your website project, it’s essential to determine which web team members are crucial for its success. Once you understand which content, features, and functionalities you want, you must establish clear roles within your team. Usually, website projects require the following roles:
- Project managers
- Web designers
- Web developers
- Content strategists, writers, and editors
- Cyber security professionals
- Marketing experts
- SEO professionals
Having the right people on board for each role can make or break your website project. For example, without a skilled web designer, you may fail to create a professional-looking website or accessible universal design. Similarly, if you don’t have proficient developers and security experts, your website might end up short of essential functionalities and a strong cyber security plan. And without SEO experts, you’ll struggle to increase search engine traffic.
But how to determine which team members are crucial for the success of your website plan? This will be much easier if you’ve determined your goals by now. You need to distribute roles so everyone can work on their best tasks. You can’t expect content writers to create the best website design the world has witnessed, right? But they’ll be able to create engaging and informative content that draws potential customers into exploring your products and services.
Finding the Right Content Management System (CMS)
When planning a website, choosing a content management system (CMS) early on in the process is crucial. CMS is the backbone of your website, and it will affect how you add and organize content. And it will also impact how the website looks and functions. Again, everything starts with understanding your business goals.
If blog posts play a massive role in your marketing strategy, we advise you to find a CMS that makes adding and organizing such content easy. You can check out WordPress, as it’s the most popular platform for solid reasons. It’s an open-source platform, and you’ll be able to find many valuable tools for managing and optimizing your content for performance in search engines.
But if you’re looking to quickly launch an eCommerce store without having to do much of the customization, then Shopify and similar platforms might be a good choice.
Keys to Planning a Successful Content Strategy
Moving forward with the complete website planning guide, it’s time to discuss your content strategy. This means you’ll need to take the kind of content you want on your website and how you want to organize it for your visitors in planning considerations.
If you’ve followed the steps above, you clearly understand your business goals and audience needs by now. This is a good starting point, but still, content planning requires time. However, if done correctly, you’ll be able to keep visitors engaged and make them explore your content for more extended time sessions.
Many business owners tend to believe that only blog posts or copy count as website content. But the term “content” is much broader than that. It refers to every piece of information visitors can absorb across your website. Here are just some of the content types you can use to engage your audience:
- Blog posts
- Case Studies
- Service pages
Make sure to plan your content before the actual design work starts. Learning how web design impacts content marketing is also a good idea. This will help you plan your website’s layout and structure more effectively and make your content easier to consume.
Perform keyword research and brainstorm topic ideas that your potential customers might like. Then you can assign web team members to create high-quality content around these. But you must also consider the bigger picture when creating your content strategy. Plan to create content that other authoritative websites within your industry will want to share. This way, you’ll earn more backlinks and manage to increase search engine traffic more efficiently.
Also, creating a content inventory is a good idea if you already have lots of content on your current website. This will help you keep track of content SEO performance and ensure that each piece is successfully migrated to the new website. Not to mention that you will require less effort to update content when necessary.
Plan Your Website Structure
When planning the structure of your website, think about the main sections of your site and the pages within those sections. For example, you might want separate website sections for products, services, blog posts, and contact information. But even within those sections, you might need sub-pages for different product types, topics, and similar.
Start planning your website structure by creating a list of the main sections and pages you want to include. Then use flowcharts or other planning tools to visualize how the pages will be linked together and how visitors will navigate your site. You can test your website structure by creating a prototype or wireframe. This way, you can make adjustments before you begin building your website.
By creating a great website structure, you can help users and search engines understand your content and explore your site more easily. This will result in better rankings and more search engine traffic.
Do you need help turning your website plan into reality?
Hopefully, this website planning guide has helped you set your project in the right direction. But if you want professionals to work on creating your website plan and turning it into reality, our web design agency in Chicago can help.
By partnering up with Alpha Efficiency, you can get:
- Tailor-made website for your brand
- SEO-friendly design
- World-class page speeds
- High-quality content that will help you connect with your audience
- 24/7 support upon launching
Are you ready to take your online presence to new heights? Schedule a free call and tell us everything about the website of your dreams. Our experts will then craft the plan and take you to the digital place where dreams meet reality.