Just as no two websites are the same, neither is the planning that goes into creating them. Imagine your new website design as a dynamic creation rather than something fixed and unchanging.

Everything that you do to it needs to be thought about carefully and planned well. If you don’t do this, both you and your web designer may find yourselves wasting many hours trying to organise chaos.

By planning well ahead, you will end up with the website that you always wanted without a mass of headaches and never-ending stress. Whilst involved in the planning process you will also gain a good understanding of the inner-workings of your site and this can only be a good thing.

With all of the above in mind, we have taken heed of all our hard work in the past, enabling us to put together this ultimate website planning guide. Enjoy!

Your ultimate website planning guide

Carry out a ‘needs analysis’

Start with the basics. Ask yourself how do you want the site to be configured, what type of functionality is required and what will your choice of primary content be?

Think of this as a needs analysis where you decide what the website will look like, what size it needs to be and what it needs to do.

Get your marketing person involved when it comes to things like copy and images. Everything needs to reflect your brand.

Get the raw materials together

Depending upon your choice of web designer, he should manage everything such as the overall design, code, written content and graphics/photography. You may have to provide the raw material or he may create it from scratch, based upon your ideas.

Photography should always be high quality, no matter where it is used on the site. If your budget allows, use a professional content writer and photographer.

Only the best will do when it comes to these two things.

Create your site structure

This is the structure that your website will follow. Lay it out as a flowchart, showing the links between pages and how the traffic will flow. Keep it simple and easy to follow, all prepared with the user in mind. The user experience (UX) is of paramount importance. Look at main page headings and any sub-pages.

Pull together all content

If you are using slideshows, videos, text and images, how will they be presented? Where will your call-to-actions be sited?

All websites vary when it comes to the site content but you may need to include blogs, image galleries, staff directories or forums etc.

For the moment, keep your eye on the content and not the design; that can come later.

A good web design agency will have a web design project management process in place to help you organise all this perfectly.

Adding design to the content

Now you can take your text, images and functionality and put it all together in one attractive design. Here the user experience comes to the fore again, ensuring that you are creating an attractive and appealing encounter.

Wireframes can be used to show how text and images will be put onto the pages. Concentrate on flow of information and how it will feel for the user. Pages will include ‘home’, product pages, ‘about us’, blogs and contact etc.

The next step will be to create mock-ups in Photoshop or a similar programme, depicting exactly how the final pages will look. Add in logos and usual fonts. Your web designer will take care of the coding after this so it is best to leave the intricacies of this up to him.

Style reference guide compilation

Going forward, it is a good idea to keep a style reference guide, noting all of the design elements used. Your web designer will provide this, showing fonts and sizes, colours used, graphics, and any other aesthetic or graphical variances.

This keeps your brand aligned so that when you make changes in the future, you don’t make the mistake of blurring your identity.

Content management system (CMS)

The final step is to load everything produced so far into the CMS of your choice. This will enable you to manage the content going forward without having to refer back to the designer each time you wish to add or change something.

By being in control of the site admin, you can keep your site fresh and up-to-date. This is particularly useful where you are adding blogs on a continual basis or running a large produce inventory.

Beta test

Before your site can go live, it has to be beta tested. This will involve taking a sample of your audience and enabling them to try out the product.

This can be organised in a variety of ways; if you have a site already up and running, you may invite carefully chosen customers to sign up to try out the new beta version.

This will be launched on a test server to make sure that the display is correct, links work and interactivity is smooth. You may wish to get involved in the beta testing yourself. Dig and delve into every nook and cranny and enable yourself to pick up any problems, no matter how small.

Going live

Once the thorough beta testing is complete and both you and your designer are happy, the site can go live.

This should run simultaneously with a plan for adding further content in the future as well as an in-house process for maintenance and aesthetic responsibilities.

It is a good idea to plan with your web designer how code will be tested and updated on a regular basis, enabling fine-tuning so that your website always looks pristine.

This should be an ongoing process until you decide to build a new website.

Summary

Planning your website is not a small task but it is not that difficult once you break it down into easily manageable components. This makes everything far more easy to deal with, bringing clarity to what can seem a very complex matter.

Unless you are a one-man business, don’t try and go it alone.

Before you start talking to a web designer, form a web development team in-house so that you can discuss the necessary content. You can then begin to collect raw materials together that can be used online.

As for designing the site, this is best done by an expert as the layout needs to be planned carefully and the build based upon providing the best possible user experience. Pulling it altogether is something that you can happily leave your web designer to take care of.

They will be well versed in what is required when it comes to mock-ups, style guides and all of the required testing.

Always remember that your website planning does not stop once the site is live; it is desirable to have a maintenance plan in place to keep the site operating smoothly.

There is nothing worse than a company having a website up and running that has technical glitches or looks anything less than perfect.

Don’t forget to include time and budget for your search engine optimisation (SEO) based upon carefully researched and chosen key words.

This is essential if you want to be at the top when it comes to search engine ratings such as Google.

If you follow the steps above, not only will you minimise many wasted man-hours but you may even find the whole web development process enjoyable!