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The Complete Website Planning Guide:
From Concept to Design

By Jim Traister
Table of Contents
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Website Planning Guide for Your Design Project


Key Takeaways from this article:

  1. Clear Vision, Successful Outcome: Start your website design project with a well-defined vision and goals. Knowing what you want to achieve with your website is the first step toward a successful project.
  2. User-Centric Design: Prioritize the needs and preferences of your target audience when planning your website. A user-friendly design leads to better engagement and conversions.
  3. Responsive Design Matters: Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive. In today’s digital landscape, many users access websites on mobile devices, so a responsive design is essential.
  4. Plan for Maintenance: Don’t forget about implementing a website care plan.

Regular updates, security checks, and content refreshing are crucial for a healthy, effective website.

Introduction

Imagine you’re embarking on a journey to create a website from scratch, but you have no idea where to begin.

Fear not, for the Ultimate Guide to Website Planning is here to help.

In this comprehensive blog, you’ll discover the key elements and step-by-step directions to effectively plan a website.

From defining your target audience to mapping out your site structure, this guide will equip you with all the essential knowledge needed to bring your website vision to life. So, grab your pen and paper and get ready to dive into the exciting world of website planning!

Defining the Purpose and Your Website Goals

Identifying the target audience

When planning a website, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is. Consider factors such as age, gender, location, interests, and online behaviors.

By identifying your target audience, you can tailor your website’s content and design to meet their specific needs and preferences.

It is always the starting point when we start off the design process with a new client.

Setting specific and measurable goals

To ensure the success of your website, it is essential to set specific and measurable goals.

These goals could include increasing website traffic, generating leads, increasing conversions, or improving user engagement.

However, sometimes we find clients just need a website to confirm credibility to their own prospects.

By setting clear goals, you can track your progress and make necessary adjustments to achieve them.

Determining the website's primary purpose

Every website has a primary purpose, whether it is to sell products, provide information, or showcase a portfolio.

Defining the primary purpose will help guide the overall design and functionality of the website. It will also ensure that your website aligns with your business objectives and meets the needs of your target audience.

Defining the desired user actions

When a user visits your website, what do you want them to do?

Whether it’s making a purchase, filling out a contact form, or subscribing to a newsletter, defining the desired user actions is crucial.

By understanding the actions you want users to take, you can design your website with clear calls-to-action and optimize the user experience to encourage those actions.

Conducting Market Research

Understanding the competitive landscape

Before designing a website, it is important to research your competitors.

Analyze their websites to see what works well and identify areas for improvement.

By understanding the competitive landscape, you can develop a website that sets you apart and provides a unique value proposition to your target audience.

By understanding what others in your industry are doing, we can identify opportunities, learn from their successes, and stand out in the online crowd.

Think of it as a compass that guides us on this exciting website design journey.

For example, if you’re in the e-commerce world, we’ll explore what makes your top competitors’ websites shine – from user-friendly product catalogs to seamless checkout processes.

We’ll take those insights and apply our creative magic to ensure your website not only matches but surpasses the competition.

Analyzing industry trends

Stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your industry. Analyze industry websites, blogs, and social media channels to identify emerging trends and best practices.

Incorporating these trends into your website can help you stay relevant and meet the expectations of your target audience.

Identifying customer needs and preferences

Understanding the needs and preferences of your target audience is crucial for the success of your website.

Conduct surveys, interviews, or user testing to gather insights into what your customers want and expect from your website.

By aligning your design and content with their needs, you can create a website that resonates with your audience and drives engagement.

Conducting keyword research for SEO

To improve your website’s visibility on search engines, it is important to conduct keyword research.

Identify the key terms and phrases that your target audience is searching for.

Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keywords and incorporate them into your website’s content and metadata.

A supplemental tool to research the competition and more for SEO Optimization. You will find some very informative guides there and in the SEO Journal.

Creating a Sitemap

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When it comes to building a successful website, one of the essential steps is creating a sitemap. Now, don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the term; we’re here to guide you through it.

This is a very different job then what you hire a Website Designer to do.

Think of a sitemap as the GPS for your website, helping both your visitors and search engines navigate your online space with ease.

In this section, we’ll break down what a sitemap is, why it’s crucial, and how we can work together to create one that ensures a smooth and enjoyable browsing experience for your audience.

Understanding the importance of a sitemap

A sitemap is a crucial part of website planning, as it helps organize and structure your website’s content.

It provides a clear overview of all the pages and sections that will be included on your website.

A sitemap makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site, improving its visibility and accessibility.

Defining the website's main sections for your website content

When creating a sitemap, start by defining the main sections of your website. These sections could include homepage, about us, services, products, blog, contact, and more.

Consider the goals of your website and what information or functionality each section should provide to your visitors.

Organizing content hierarchy of design project

Once you have defined the main sections of your website, it’s important to organize the content hierarchy within each section. Determine the most important information or actions that visitors should see first and structure the content accordingly.

This will create a logical flow and help users navigate your website more easily.

Creating a visual representation of the sitemap

To make the sitemap more tangible, create a visual representation using diagrams or flowcharts.

This visual representation will help you communicate your website’s structure to your team members, stakeholders, and web developers.

It will also serve as a reference during the development process.

Website Planning Templates

There are many resources that you can find out on the web. One of the best places to start would be with a website planning template. They will help you provide an easy-to-use visual for your website structure.

Developing User Personas

Defining user personas

User personas are fictional representations of your target audience based on research and data. They help you understand the different types of users that visit your website and their motivations, goals, and behaviors.

By creating user personas, you can design your website to cater to the specific needs and preferences of each persona.

Researching user behaviors and preferences

To create accurate user personas, conduct research to understand the behaviors and preferences of your target audience.

This can be done through surveys, interviews, or analytics data. Gather insights on how users interact with websites, what features they prefer, and what content they find valuable.

Creating fictional profiles for different user types

Using the data collected, create fictional profiles for each user persona. Include information such as their demographics, job title, goals, challenges, and preferred communication styles.

These profiles will serve as a reference throughout the website planning process to ensure your design and content align with the needs of each persona.

Using personas to inform website design and content

User personas should guide every aspect of website planning, from design to content creation.

Consider how each persona will navigate your website, what information they need, and what actions they are likely to take.

Use this insight to tailor the user experience, content, and calls-to-action to meet the needs of each persona.

Content Planning and Strategy

Identifying key messages and value propositions

Clearly define your key messages and value propositions that you want to convey through your website.

These are the unique selling points of your business or organization that set you apart from your competitors. Incorporate these messages throughout your website to communicate the value you provide to your target audience.

Planning website content structure

Determine the structure and organization of your website’s content.

Create a hierarchy of pages and categories that effectively communicate your key messages, guide users through your site, and make information easy to find

Consider how your target audience will search for information and ensure the content is organized intuitively.

Creating a content calendar

A content calendar is a useful tool for planning and organizing your website’s content.

It allows you to schedule content creation, publication, and promotion to ensure a consistent and timely delivery.

Plan ahead for blog posts, product updates, and any other content you will be sharing on your website.

Determining content types (text, images, videos, etc.)

Consider the different types of content that will be most effective in communicating your key messages and engaging your target audience.

This can include text, images, videos, infographics, or interactive elements. Determine the best format for each piece of content based on its purpose and the preferences of your audience.

Choosing the Right Technology and Platform

Understanding different website technologies

There are many different website technologies available, from content management systems (CMS) to e-commerce platforms.

Consider the features and capabilities you need for your website and research the technologies that can support those requirements.

Compare the pros and cons of each technology to make an informed decision.

Weighing the pros and cons of various platforms to support the purpose of your website

When choosing a platform for your website, consider factors such as scalability, ease of use, customization options, and support.

Look at popular platforms like WordPress, Shopify, or Squarespace and weigh their pros and cons based on your specific needs.

Make sure the chosen platform aligns with your goals and future requirements.

Ensure that you recognize that many platforms are very cheap and quick to get up and running. However, a common downside is the lack of freedom with your design for your goals. In addition, most of them are user-friendly for the masses but are not optimized for your business.

For example, most of them do not have the required website maintenance care plans that are necessary after you finish your design.

Considering scalability and future requirements

As your business grows, your website should be able to scale and adapt to new requirements. Consider the future needs of your website, such as integrating third-party tools, expanding product offerings, or supporting high traffic volumes.

Choose a technology and platform that can accommodate these future requirements without significant redevelopment.

A common mistake is to purchase the cheapest hosting platform. If you intend to scale and be secure, we would 100% advise spending some money to prevent losing your site and also your clients with a premium web hosting and maintenance agency.

Ensuring compatibility with desired features

Make a list of the desired features and functionalities that you want on your website. Ensure that the chosen technology and platform can support these features either through built-in capabilities or through third-party integrations.

Compatibility with desired features is essential to provide the best experience for your website visitors.

Designing the User Interface

Defining the overall visual style and branding

The design of your website should reflect your brand identity and create a cohesive experience for your target audience.

Define the overall visual style, including colors, typography, icons, and imagery.

Consistency in design elements will help create a visually appealing and memorable user interface.

Creating wireframes and mockups

Before diving into the actual design process, create wireframes and mockups to outline the structure and layout of your website.

Wireframes are simple, black and white sketches that focus on layout and functionality, while mockups show the visual design elements, colors, and images.

These visual representations will serve as a guide during the design process.

If you are not overly technical, it is important that you have an ongoing website maintenance care plan. You can select choose a website management package and see they include web hosting and maintenance.

Designing a user-friendly navigation system

A user-friendly navigation system is essential for helping users find the information they need quickly and easily.

Design a clear and intuitive navigation menu that is consistent across all pages of your website.

Consider using visual cues, such as dropdown menus or breadcrumbs, to guide users and improve the overall user experience.

Ensuring responsive design for mobile devices of your website design project

With a growing number of users accessing websites on mobile devices, it is essential to design for responsiveness.

Responsive design ensures that your website looks and functions well across different screen sizes and devices.

Test your website on various devices to ensure that it is accessible and user-friendly for all users.

Optimizing for Search Engines

Understanding the basics of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving your website’s visibility and ranking on search engines.

Understand the basics of SEO, including keywords, meta tags, headers, and content optimization.

By implementing SEO best practices, you can increase organic traffic to your website and improve its chances of being discovered by your target audience.

Conducting on-page optimization in your website content and more

On-page optimization refers to optimizing individual pages on your website.

This includes incorporating relevant keywords into your content, meta descriptions, and headers.

Structure your content using headings and subheadings and ensure it is well-organized and easy to read.

On-page optimization helps search engines understand the purpose and relevance of your content.

The above is something we provide for every new client’s website maintenance plan to meet the standards of Google and to protect your business from many issues.

Implementing proper meta tags and headers

Meta tags and headers play a crucial role in telling search engines what your website is about.

Optimize your title tags, meta descriptions, and headers with relevant keywords and compelling descriptions.

These elements not only improve your search engine visibility but also attract users to click on your website in search results.

Optimizing website speed and performance

Website speed and performance are critical factors for both users and search engines.

Optimize your website’s loading speed by compressing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript files, and using caching techniques.

Regularly monitor and optimize your website’s performance to ensure a smooth and fast user experience.

Testing and Quality Assurance

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Performing functional testing

Functional testing ensures that all features and functionalities of your website are working as intended.

Test forms, buttons, filters, and any other interactive elements to ensure they function correctly. Identify and fix any bugs or issues that may impact the user experience.

Testing cross-browser compatibility

With various browsers and devices available, it is crucial to test your website for cross-browser compatibility.

Ensure that your website looks and functions consistently across different browsers, including popular options like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.

Test on different devices and screen sizes to verify responsiveness.

Testing Mobile Responsiveness (Mobile Friendly)

In today’s mobile-centric world, ensuring your website looks and works great on smartphones and tablets is an absolute must.

That’s where ‘Testing Mobile Responsiveness’ comes into play. Think of it as making sure your website can dance gracefully on the small screen.

We want your visitors to have a seamless and enjoyable experience, no matter what device they’re using.

In this section, we’ll explain the importance of mobile responsiveness, how we go about testing it, and why it’s a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful online presence. 

Conducting usability testing

Usability testing involves observing real users interacting with your website to identify any usability issues or areas for improvement.

Create specific tasks for users to complete and gather feedback on their experience. Use this feedback to optimize the user interface, navigation, and content to provide a seamless user experience.

Ensuring proper forms and error handling

Forms are an essential element of many websites, whether for contact forms, registration, or checkout processes.

Test all forms on your website to ensure they are working correctly and capturing user data as intended. Implement proper error handling and validation to guide users and provide a smooth experience when completing forms.

In conclusion, proper website planning is essential for creating a successful online presence.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can design and develop a website that meets the needs of your target audience, achieves your goals, and provides an excellent user experience.

Remember to conduct market research, create a sitemap, develop user personas, plan your content, choose the right technology, design a user-friendly interface, optimize for search engines and accessibility, and thoroughly test your website before launch.

With careful website planning and execution, your website will be a valuable asset for your business or organization.

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Jim Traister

Founder & CEO

Jim is the CEO and founder of MakeThingsNew, a digital marketing agency he launched to provide services such as affordable website design, website maintenance, web hosting, email marketing, and ongoing SEO for his client’s projects. He earned a Master of Business with a specialization in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix. Jim launched his first digital marketing agency in 2012 and has since dedicated himself to serving independent business owners. Additionally, he has taught at the college and university level for several years, teaching courses such as Information Technology in Hospitality and Tourism, Marketing, and more. Prior to opening his first marketing agency in 2012, Jim had accumulated over sixteen years of business experience.

Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions

Absolutely! You don’t need to be a tech expert to participate in website planning. Our website agency will guide you through the process in plain language.

Your insights into your business and target audience are invaluable, and we will translate them into a well-structured website. Actually, we do not even publish your website without your approval.

The duration of website planning can vary depending on the complexity of your project. It usually involves defining your goals, target audience, content strategy, and site structure.

The timeline will be discussed with your website agency, but it’s worth investing time upfront to ensure a smoother development process.

You have two options to choose from:

  1. Use Your Existing Domain: If you already have a domain name that you love and want to keep, no problem at all! We can work with your existing domain to build your website. Just let us know the details, and we’ll make sure everything is set up correctly.
  2. Help You Pick a New Domain: If you’re starting fresh or looking for a new domain name, we’re here to assist. We can brainstorm domain name ideas that align perfectly with your business and brand.

We’ll consider your industry, target audience, and any specific keywords that are important to you. Together, we’ll find the ideal domain that reflects your online identity.

Whether you go with your current domain or opt for a new one, our goal is to make sure your online presence is strong and memorable. Feel free to let us know your preference, and we’ll guide you through the process seamlessly!

We will provide the following:

  1. Peace of Mind: A website maintenance care plan ensures that your website remains secure and up-to-date. You can rest easy knowing that any potential issues, updates, or security vulnerabilities will be handled promptly.
  2. Improved Performance: Regular maintenance helps keep your website running smoothly and loading quickly. This is crucial for providing a positive user experience and keeping visitors engaged.
  3. Security: With the ever-evolving landscape of online threats, keeping your website secure is paramount. A maintenance plan includes security measures to protect your site and sensitive data.
  4. Content Updates: As your business evolves, so should your website’s content. One of our website maintenance plans can help you keep your information, products, and services current, ensuring that your audience always has access to the latest information.
  5. SEO Benefits: Search engines favor websites that are regularly updated and well-maintained. This can boost your search engine rankings and help you attract more organic traffic.

We’ll be more than happy to discuss the details of our website maintenance care plans and tailor one to suit your specific needs. It’s a great investment in the long-term success and health of your online presence.

Just let us know when you’re ready to get started, and we’ll be here to assist you every step of the way

A website planning guide is essential in the planning process of website development. It helps in creating a structured website plan and defining the brand to ensure a successful website.

An effective website design plays a crucial role in creating a website that resonates with the target audience. It involves building a website and selecting the right template to establish a strong brand and a seamless web design.

Understanding the type of content that will use your website is vital in creating an engaging website content. It helps in creating a website that meets the needs of the target audience and ensures a positive user experience.

When it comes to being found on the internet, the type of content on your website is like the secret sauce for success. Here’s why it’s crucial to think about it:

  1. Relevance to Your Audience: Different types of content resonate with different people. By tailoring your content to your target audience’s preferences and needs, you increase the chances of engaging and connecting with them effectively.
  2. Search Engine Visibility: Search engines like Google love fresh, relevant, and diverse content. Having a variety of content types, such as blog posts, videos, and infographics, can improve your website’s search engine ranking, making it easier for potential customers to find you.
  3. User Experience: Content affects how users interact with your site. Whether they’re looking for information, entertainment, or solutions to their problems, providing the right type of content enhances their experience and keeps them coming back for more.
  4. Brand Storytelling: The type of content you choose helps you tell your brand’s story. It’s an opportunity to showcase your uniqueness, values, and expertise, building trust and loyalty with your audience.

So, in a nutshell, thinking about the type of content is like tailoring your message to your audience and improving your visibility online. It’s a powerful tool for connecting with potential customers and making a lasting impression. We’d be happy to help you plan the perfect content strategy for your website!”

The development process involves the design and development of the website, including the selection of a template, content management, and search engine optimization to create a website that aligns with the goals of the business owner.

A content management system simplifies the design process by providing a platform to effectively manage the content on the website.

It enables the team members to update and modify the website content without technical expertise, ensuring a streamlined and efficient content management.

The choice of a Content Management System (CMS) plays a big role in how you manage your website. We’re big fans of WordPress, and here’s why it can have a significant impact on website management:

  1. Extensive Customization: With thousands of themes and plugins available, WordPress allows you to customize your website to meet your unique needs. Whether it’s design, functionality, or features, there’s usually a solution available.
  2. SEO-Friendly: WordPress is built with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. It offers various SEO plugins and tools to help you optimize your content and improve your website’s visibility in search results.
  3. Regular Updates: WordPress is an actively maintained CMS, which means it receives regular updates for security and performance improvements. This helps keep your website safe and running smoothly.
  4. Scalability: Whether you’re running a small blog or a complex e-commerce site, WordPress can scale with your business. You won’t outgrow it easily.

Overall, a CMS like WordPress simplifies website management, making it efficient and accessible.

It empowers you to take control of your site’s content and functionality, which is why we often recommend it. Of course, we’ll work with you to determine the best CMS for your specific needs and goals. Your satisfaction and ease of use are our top priorities