Planning Your Website Before You Build It

Planning your website is key to ensuring that all of the necessary information is captured and presented in an easy way to read and, more importantly, an easy to follow structure.

Before you consider the physical aspects of the website design, you must first consider the following:

Who is your target audience?
What category does your website fall under?
Are your trying to sell something or raise money for a cause?
What is the tone of your content? Will it be serious, simple, witty or complex?
What are you hoping to achieve?

Another advantage in thoroughly planning your website is that it will cost you less time and money (in terms of hourly consulting rates) when you take the plans to a professional web designer or consultant. The more details that you have prior to the consultation, the more time you will save the web designers which, in turn, saves you money.

As you plan, list the content and images that you would like to include on the website; then, grab a pen and paper to sketch out a basic layout of the information in a simple design that is easy to follow. Based on the sketch and information gleaned from the conversation with you, the designer will have a better idea of the website’s purpose and the needed content, which will make the process more efficient and cost-effective.

7 Steps to Planning your Website

1. Research Stage

Ensure that you take adequate time to visit competitor websites to come up with a design that suits your business needs while giving you the potential to gain a competitive advantage. The time you spend researching other sites will give you valuable insight to what you customers are looking for, allowing you the opportunity to meet their needs on your own site.

2. Design Strategy

The design strategy during the planning phase is an outline of what will be done, when it will be done and who is responsible for each part. I strongly suggest adding projected timeframes for the completion of the website to make sure that the project stays on time.

3. Planning

What do you want to show or include on your website? Do you need a shopping cart for customers to make purchases? Do you need a portfolio? Consider the social media aspect of the design and where to incorporate these elements into the website for users to quickly see and easily engage.

4. Design

I have always found the best method to use to layout the information is to draw boxes on a piece of paper and then add your information.

5. Development

This stage is where the actual development of the website occurs based on the design features that you want to add. The development gives you a chance to play around with the website either online or offline. During this stage, it is vital for you to get the layout correct as well as other aspects of the website as you prepare to go live.

6. Testing

During the testing phase, ensure that your website works the way that you want it to work. Do all of the pages open? Is the alignment correct? Can the customer successfully purchase your items? Can people easily find your contact information?

7. Maintaining the Website

Typically, if you need a website to primarily sell a product or service, it will not require a lot of maintenance. However, you will have to ensure that the prices on the website are current as well as occasionally test a dummy purchase to make sure that your online payment systems still work.
If your website, however, is geared more toward social networking, then you must constantly ensure that you post relevant content and regularly interact with your customers. This is especially vital when customers ask questions about your product as initial engagement is vital to solidify your reputation as providing quality and consistent customer service.

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