How to plan your new website

4th September 2012
By

Your new website is important. It’s potentially business critical, could be the end of you, or the start of your best years in business ever. That’s why you should take time and plan it.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when thinking about starting work on that new, shiny website that will scare the competition away and bring you infinite amounts of business ;-)

Start of by creating a wishlist

There are many aspect of this, but the two key priorities in the first step of creating a wishlist should revolve around what you want to get out of the website and more importantly, what your clients need to achieve easily with it.

What your website should do  for you:

  • Easy to maintain and keep up to date
  • Keep ongoing costs to a minimum
  • KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) can include cost per sales, lead generations, newsletter sign-ups, better retention rates and improved visitor loyalty. Don’t forget to setup ways to track all of this
  • Easy to search engine optimise for Google, Bing and other search engines
  • Simple ways to cross-publish content, for example push to twitter and facebook, or pull from the same to avoid duplicate workload
  • Portability, consider using open source software so you won’t be locked into one company and can move if needed
  • Connect to third party solutions like Salesforce or MailChimp

What your website should do for your clients:

  • Don’t make them think, keep content visible and easy to find
  • Don’t use words like “click here” for links, bad for SEO and bad for usability. If the link lets them download a PDF, use the words “download PDF” as the link text
  • Make sure they can find you on Google
  • Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for on the website
  • Remove unnecessary steps and wordings, keep contact forms simple
  • Can be accessed on multiple devices, like mobile phones, iPads as well as desktops using responsive design
  • Add value by providing free tips, how to guides and offer promotional newsletters
  • Integrate social sharing and allow for comments on blogs
  • Frequent updates, like blogs or sales, to keep them interested and coming back for more
Remember, your website is mainly for your clients, not for you.

Consider your your budget, and don’t forget about SEO and marketing

A website costs money. A good website costs more money than perhaps a not so good website. As the saying goes; “- you get what you pay for”. Clearly, not all cheap websites are rubbish, and the horror stories I’ve heard about companies spending hundred of thousands of pounds on websites that are virtually unusable. Scary.

Costs might include:

  • Planning
  • Web design
  • Web development
  • Project Management
  • Social integration with twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Premium plugins, like Event Espresso or Wishlist Members for WordPress
  • Bespoke functionality
  • Training (if you use a CMS)
  • Functional and usability testing
  • Content adding
  • Photography or stock images
  • Copy writing
  • Market, SEO and competitor research
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
  • Email marketing
  • Web hosting and domain names

A good web design company will listen to your needs, help you prioritise your goals and KPI’s, then create something that works for you (and your clients) within your budget. Talk to them, be honest about your budget, then possibly consider a staggered launch adding on functions as you can afford it.

You can also keep your budget down by writing your own copy, finding suitable images and producing your own screencasts. Also, many come to us with the site structure and wireframes done saving time and budget.

Sadly, all too many people think that a website is the magic portal that will bring infinite success and rivers of gold without any input, maintenance or marketing. Hate to be the party pooper, but forget it. Once your website is live, that’s when you need to continue your effort and write blogs, track keywords and page rankings, look for inbound links, send out marketing emails, spend time building a social community and optimising text content, the list and work just goes on and on.

A good website is a great investment that can pay for itself quickly with the right input. A website that is mismanaged, or left to collect dust, can be a waste of money.

Create the site structure, content and wireframe all pages

Content is what your site visitors are coming for, so the content should drive the site structure and wireframes. What you have on your website is clearly completely up to you, but here are some general pointers:

  • Make the level of language suitable to your target audience
  • Create all content using a document outline, easiest done in Microsoft Word. It basically involves you using headers, paragraphs and lists to arrange your content for each page
  • Include a minimum of 300 words per page
  • Make your title 40 to 70 characters long, and include your main keyword
  • Include your keyword, and variations of it, at least once per 100 words
  • Create a separate META description, or excerpt, using no more than 156 characters, again include the main keyword and variations of the same
  • Name all images, documents etc so they make sense, e.g. don’t name the picture of the white ford focus “DCM274747.jpg”, but name it “white_ford_focus.jpg”
  • Include legal content such as terms and conditions, privacy policies and cookie compliance notices
Site Structure

The site structure is usually an excel spread sheet or a bunch of post-it notes showing the structure of all pages and how they link together, as explained on Yoast’s website. Don’t confuse this with a sitemap which is used for submitting your site to Google.

Wireframing

Wireframing is absolutely key and can be done to many various levels of detail and testing. If you are building a mobile friendly, responsive website, you start by doing the wireframes for the lowest resolution screens (usually 320 to 480 pixels flexible)  first as this forces you to decide what the most important things are on each page as you will, in most cases, have to remove object to fit on a mobile screen. You also usually tile objects on a mobile screen, so again you have to decide what goes to the top. This is then transferred to the wider, tablet and desktop versions as per below.

Wireframe example

Wireframe example for a responsive website, click for larger version

Don’t forget to make sure your content fits and works for each of the wireframes.

Once all wireframes are completed, your web design company can start waving their magic wand and start work on the web design itself. If the project is complex, sometimes a prototype website is built before the design is done.

The web design process should be iterative and involve honest and constructive feedback from both parties. After the web design is signed off, the development starts and soon you will have your hands on that new, shiny website. Bet you can’t wait!

Wrap up

All web design projects are different and above are just some points to help you get going. If you feel that I have missed out something essential, or have your own tips, please feel free to comment below.