When it comes to redesigning an old, clunky website or launching a brand-new website, there’s a process that takes your website from a clear concept to a fully-functional, interactive website: the website planning process. Whether you’re doing this in-house or hiring a digital marketing agency, having a website plan in place can help eliminate unnecessary headaches down the line, resulting in optimised, effective web design.
THE WEBSITE PLANNING PROCESS
The website planning process involves understanding and deciding what combination of factors and tactics can go towards designing and developing a website that draws qualified traffic and helps boost your business’ online standing and authority among your competitors. Here at Digital Innovations Web Design and most digital marketing agencies, the custom web design planning process involves the following steps:
DEFINE YOUR GOALS
The first and foremost step to an efficient website planning process is to understand what you’re trying to achieve through your site. Even before you set out to look for prospective digital marketing or web design agency to work on your website, you need to assess for yourself why exactly you need your website. Prepare a brief that details these aspects such as:
– The primary goal of your website: Is it to drive sales for a product(s)? Is it to promote or generate buzz for an upcoming product launch? Is it to generate a revenue stream for a future endeavor?
– Your brand’s identity: This is about how you want to present yourself as a business to your audience: modern, traditional, professional, informal.
– Your primary and secondary audience: Define your ideal customer/site visitor: what are their demographics and characteristics?
– Your competition: Who are the major competitors in your niche, and what aspects of their websites do you like or want to do better than?
Going in armed with all the above information will smooth the rest of the process leading up to the website launch. Your website agency can use this information to lay out the rest of the design roadmap with more accuracy and specificity.
With the project timeline and milestones mapped out and the contract put in place, this is the phase where you convey your vision and goals of your website to your team. This is where the brief you prepared beforehand comes in handy. The team then brainstorms and collaborates to come up with a final creative plan/brief that will serve as the basis for the rest of process.
SITEMAP AND INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE
In this phase, your team maps out how the information on your website will be structured: in other words, the sitemap is developed. The sitemap is a tree-like structure that decides the hierarchy of the pages on your website, while the templates and layouts for the pages and the page flow. This is the more creative aspect of the website planning process, where you and your team can fully decide on how to customize your site to both your brand and your customers’ needs.
Once the sitemap is in place, it’s time to decide what content will be populated on each page. This includes deciding what information customers or visitors will expect on each page, potential calls to action and other user experience (UX) aspects.
WEBSITE STYLE AND BRANDING
At this stage, if you’ve already defined your goals and vision for the website, your team can then use it as the foundation to strategize the visual feel and the identity of your website: from the UX, color scheme, imagery, fonts, graphic styles. However, for clients that are unsure about what direction they want their website to go in, the team uses this stage to research the market and the competition in order to define the potential goals and vision for the site.
UX AND WIREFRAMING
This is a crucial phase where the team defines and maps out the actual experience the user will have while interacting with the website. Not to be confused with UI (user interface), UX involves developing wireframes for the entire website that defines how the customer/visitor will achieve their end-goal of visiting the website: from the order in which they navigate the pages and the actions they’ll need to take.
With your content and wireframes set, this is the phase where it all comes together, with the style guides defining the overall look of the website through the fonts, colors, and images while the wireframes providing the foundation for the overall structure of the website. At the end of this stage, your website is nearly ready.
DESIGN AND CONTENT INTEGRATION
Usually called the “beta-stage”, you’ll be provided with a beta or test version of your website that you can use to ensure and ascertain that everything in the website is working as it should. Use this stage to find any bugs or changes that need to be fixed/implemented before your website goes live. You can also use this phase to set up the website’s databases (if needed) and integrate the final content into the website.
SEO AND MARKETING TACTICS
This isn’t a distinct phase by any means; in fact, it’s one that runs parallel to the entire process. Every step of the planning process should be finalized with the aim to make the site search-engine friendly.
The website planning process doesn’t have to be complicated: it’s just a matter of going into the process already armed and prepared with a clear vision of what you need your website to achieve. From there, it’s a matter of trusting your team/agency to translate that vision into reality through a carefully structured roadmap that is built around your website’s goals.