Starting from Scratch? Develop a Website Plan

Nikole Haiar - October 01, 2013

webbuildWhether you’re building your website or outsourcing the job, it’s vital to have a good idea of what your ideal end product looks like. Careful preliminary planning yields a better end product, so it’s important to have a website plan to serve as a blueprint for the entire project.

Your blueprint should detail the underlying site architecture, forcing you to think through potential problems before they happen. Beginning with an organized structure makes the website logical and intuitive for future visitors.

Develop your plan in four easy steps:

1 Define Your Goals

Goals give you direction for every choice from functionality to color palette. They can limit the scope of your project and provide criteria for measuring success. Who is your ideal audience? What features will best attract that audience? What is its principal purpose? What must your update schedule look like? Where’s the content coming from?

2 Create a Site Map

Construct a catalog of everything you believe you’ll need on the website. From that list, prioritize the elements that are most crucial to serving your site’s purpose. Chart out what will lead where, how your site’s hierarchy will work. What links should be available from all pages? Creating this initial navigation structure will make it much easier to set stages of your project and track progress. It will also help you evenly distribute content creation duties among the available resources.

3 Document the User Experience

Try to view the browsing experience from your visitors’ perspective. What frustrates you about your current setup? How can you change that to be more appealing? Explore your diagrammed project. The best websites are intuitive and communicate clearly. You can make or break your site before a single graphic is designed or page is built.

4 List the Content and Functionality You Need

What will each page of your site look like, and what can you accomplish on each? What functionality do you envision each page having? List your intentions for each page, as well as for a universal navigation panel that should appear on all pages. Always have in mind providing the best user experience.

With these steps complete, you’re ready to being contemplating website design. Who will make your vision a reality? You have many choices, from do-it-yourself templates to hiring a designer.

For more information on the crucial choices that come with your first website, check out our whitepaper, “6 Steps for Getting Your Small Business Online and In Front of Customers.”

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