An 8-Step Web Design Plan to Build a Better Website
Updated August 2023
What Is Website Planning, and Why is it Important?
Website planning is the first step in the process of website design and development. It serves as a gathering of ideas to determine the purpose, visual design, and functional features of a website and the budget for creating and maintaining it.
To tell you the truth, I have a bit of a problem with website builders that make business owners believe they can build a useful website in less than an hour. I have been doing this for a long time, and I can tell you it takes a lot longer to create an online presence that will support your short and long-term business objectives. Of course, a web design plan can help you save time and money.
Their website represents a significant business investment for most small to mid-sized businesses. And in 2023, an engaging and user-friendly website is essential if you want to grow your business. So why would you want to rush into this without planning? I have seen so-called one-hour sites, and believe me, you don’t want one of those!
I don’t want to waste your time, and I don’t want you to waste mine, either. So, if you prefer to go the one-hour website route, go right ahead. Just don’t expect very much, or you will be disappointed! For those of you interested in getting an active online presence in the most time and cost-effective way, I will show you how to plan your web design project
How to Plan a Website
For the sake of this post, I will assume you did not just wake up and decide today was the day to get a new website. A website development planning process starts well before the actual web design begins. And it helps to start making a list of requirements and options as soon as you start thinking about your new business.
Since each business is different, it stands to reason that the website needs to match the business objectives to succeed. You need to consider everything from the needs and expectations of your intended target audience, your budget, the timeline for getting your website up and running, and a realistic assessment of what you can do to help and support the actual web design effort.
Why You Need a Plan
Designing your new business website will most likely require you to create a detailed plan or outline for your project or ask your web designer or agency to help you with this step. And no, rushing or skipping this step is not a good idea! Most likely, you will need professional help to build your online presence. Essential web design planning will help communicate your vision and expectations to your creative and development partners.
Some web design projects take a week or two, but most of the time, creating a useful online presence can take anywhere from 2 – 6 months, depending on the scope of work. Effective web design planning needs to take that into account, as well as what will happen to your new site after launch. You were not planning to launch and forget your website, were you?
While mobile-first web design, modular frameworks, and a more user-friendly design approach have made creating a useful business website more effortless than ever, a lot is still involved here. And believe me, I have seen the results of rushing through the web design process, and they are not pretty! To help you do better, I want to share some essential tips on how to plan your web design project with you.
Websites are becoming more straightforward and less complicated to construct, but you still don’t want to cut any corners along the way. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of steps for you to plan your website’s design and development.
A Simple 8-Step Web Design Plan
Step 1: Set Web Design Goals
Once again, you most likely did not wake up this morning saying, “I am building a new website today!” Most likely, you have been thinking about this for a while. And that includes the actual, primary purpose of your website. And please don’t tell me you want lots of hits (ouch!) or need to turn the digital needle in your favor. If you’re going to build a useful website, you need to set some measurable goals:
- Do you need more online or in-store sales?
- Are you introducing a new product or service?
- Do you need more email subscribers?
- Do you need more memberships?
- Are you trying to reach a new/different target audience?
- Are you adding new functionality?
- Do you need more donations or volunteers?
Once you determine the results your new website needs to provide for your business, you can take the next steps. That includes coming up with a plan for actually achieving the goals you just established. Start by adding actual performance indicators to your goals. What dollar value in additional sales do you need per month? How many website visitors would like to see every month? How much do you want to grow your email list?
Of course, you may not know specific figures at this stage, and that is OK! For now, just set some realistic numbers. Once your new website is up and running, you can use an analytics program like Google Analytics to track your actual website data and adjust your goals accordingly.
Step 2: Assign Responsibilities
The next step in effective web design planning is to determine who will be involved in your web design project. Most likely, you are not working on your website design alone. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, creating an active online presence takes a lot of different skills. You will most likely need a web designer and developer, along with someone who can create your written content, such as blog posts and webpage details.
You will also need visual content, such as photos, graphics, and icons. While you can get some images from stock image archives, I recommend hiring a professional photographer whenever possible to create images that are unique to your brand. The same goes for your brand logo. Clipart or cheap logos from online repositories are not nearly as compelling as a professionally created brand image.
Once you determine the professionals you need to meet your online business objectives, you need to outline individual roles and responsibilities. It helps to set realistic expectations as part of your effective web design planning strategy. Will any members of your team be unavailable during the project? Are you planning to do this at a busy time of the year? Will your design and development partners be available when you need them?
Step 3: Create a Realistic Web Design Budget
The next essential step in effective web design planning is to determine a realistic budget. And that may be harder than you think. There are several web design cost factors you may not have considered before. In addition to the actual web design aspect, you should consider your website hosting and maintenance needs, regular content updates such as blog posts, and even an ongoing SEO strategy.
Establishing a realistic budget should include the actual cost of building the site, the cost of hosting and maintaining it for one year after launch, and potentially ongoing content and search marketing efforts. That way, you not only have the funds and plan to pay for your website construction but also to maintain and support it after launch. That second part is essential if you want your new website to promote your long-term business objectives.
I have a little bonus tip for you here! At PixoLabo, we recommend starting small and launching the minimum viable version of your new site as quickly as possible. Not only does this make the initial project much faster and cheaper, but it also allows you to start analyzing the performance of your new site. Plus, the sooner you launch your new website, the sooner you increase your online engagement and sales. Which also provides you with funds for the next phase.
Step 4: Content Creation
Unfortunately, the next step in our web design plan is the one that gives most of our clients a hard time.I understand; that content creation is not easy. However it is essential if you want to build an engaging website.
Consider the actual web design as merely a pretty container, like a flower vase. And yes, you can undoubtedly have a very slick and fancy website. But just like a vase without flowers is a bit boring, a website without effective content is bound to fail, guaranteed!
Content is Critical
There are several reasons why content is so critical. First of all, it tells your online audience just how fabulous and awesome your business and brand are. Content also helps search engines better understand your business and your services and products. And finally, to keep your website in front of your target audience, you need to create fresh, relevant content on an ongoing basis.
As you can see, most websites quickly fall behind without an effective content strategy. I am sure you have seen sites like this; they display old, stale information of no interest or benefit to visitors. Therefore, you must create a strategy for content creation for both your original website content and ongoing content creation, such as blog posts, slideshows, documents, videos, and images.
And So is Content Creation
Be sure you assign responsibility for creating each type of content. Will you do this in-house, or do you require outside help? Can you re-use or repurpose any existing content? Are you going to post all of these content items starting on day one? Or will you share blog posts and other content over the course of the year?
You must have a good idea of what kind of content and how much of it you will need before you take the next step in our essential web design planning process. Understanding your content needs is critical! Why? Web designers are not magicians! We need to know what we need to design before we can start the design phase.
Step 5: Plan the Site Structure
The next step in our web design plan involves, you guessed it, the design of your website! And you thought you would never get to this. Up to now, we have been going through what we call the discovery process or phase. If you followed all the above steps, you now have a clear understanding of why you need a website and the results it needs to provide. You know what kind of content you need and who will create it. And you have a timeline and budget for getting this done. Let’s do this!
You already have a list of pages you need for your new site. Now is the time to fit them all together. How will your website visitors consume your content? How will they navigate your website? Will there be consistent design elements? Will you need to accommodate specific user expectations?
Once you have a rough idea of the design elements and site structure, you are ready to create a mockup or visual representation of your website. Back in the day, when I first started building sites (we chiseled them out of granite tablets back then!), this involved simple drawings, wireframes, or potentially a Photoshop mockup.
In 2023 most designers opt for a more mobile-friendly approach by creating live mockups for multiple device types. This approach allows you to see how your new site will look and function on mobile and desktop devices. Live staging sites will significantly speed up the design and development phase.
Step 6: The Web Design and Development Phase
At this stage of your web design project, there is not much to do for most business owners. Once content, including text, images, graphics, and videos, have been created and approved and the primary site structure developed, you are ready to build your site.
For most business owners, leaving the process of designing a website to an experienced web designer or agency is the best option. I have seen too many times what happens when business owners try this on their own. The sad truth is that 97% of DIY websites never launch at all! And is building your website the best use of your time?
Instead of wasting your valuable time and resources, I recommend you hire a good consultant to walk you through the available online options and resources for DIY web design. Or engage a professional web designer or agency to build your website for you. Trust me, you will get better results in less time and for less money.
Step 7: Usability Testing.
This aspect of your web design project is essential to folks like us and is most often overlooked by everyone else. I am sure you have seen the results. From broken links, fractured animations, and missing content to websites taking too long to load or not rendering at all on specific browsers, there are endless little surprises that tend to show up at the worst moment.
Consistent and comprehensive usability testing solves these types of problems and guarantees minimal website errors as much as possible. Usability testing is also a critical aspect of website optimization. Yup, you will get an impressive page speed score if your website optimization crashes your site! But fast page speed does not equal user satisfaction in this case!
Having a robust usability testing procedure across all devices ensures that your new website will be ready to provide the best possible user experience to ever more sophisticated and demanding mobile consumers. And search engines love error-free sites as well!
Step 8: Ongoing Website Maintenance
Website maintenance is another one of our web design planning tips that tend to fall on deaf ears. And that can come back to hurt you over time. Look at it this way: You just gave birth to your new baby. Are you just going to forget about it? Of course not! So here is the critical lesson; your new website is just as helpless and vulnerable as a new baby.
Launching a new website is only the first step. However, many business owners believe they have completed the web design process. The site is up, the phone is ringing, and life is good. But it will not stay that way for long. Over time your new website will begin to lose that new website smell and not appear so shiny anymore. And as technology advances, your website will start to get that dated feel again.
Website maintenance can take many different forms. Technical support includes keeping your website platform and content management system (CMS) up to date. That frequently includes updating individual plugins and extensions as well as making sure there are no conflicts afterward. You will also need to make regular backups of your website, database, and content. Backups will allow you to restore your site, just in case!
The other form of website maintenance I highly recommend you consider is keeping your content updated as well. At the very least, you should replace images on your home page and your services and product pages a few times a year. Of course, it works even better if you update your content on an ongoing basis.
If you do not have the means or ability to handle your website’s technical and content updates and maintenance, you will need to hire someone to do this for you. I recommend you start by finding out if your web designer or agency offers website maintenance plans. Most agencies do. If not, you may need to find an agency or freelancer to help you.
Planning Your Web Design Project
And there you have it! By following our simple steps for planning your web design project, you are much closer to building an active online presence that will support your business objectives. This is why you are creating a website for your business in the first place, isn’t it?
A web design plan is crucial if you want to achieve the results you need in the most cost and time-effective manner. I have seen over and over what happens when business owners decide to “design from the hip!” And it is not pretty, trust me! Both you and your business deserve to do better.
Hopefully, this will give you a better idea of how to plan and prepare for your next web or e-commerce design project. If you need additional help or have any questions, why not book a consultation with the award-winning web design team at PixoLabo? Let us help you with your website design project.
Need Help Planning Your Next Website?
Then, if you believe we are a good fit for your small business web design needs, let’s talk! We offer a full range of consulting and design solutions for businesses and product brands.
And if you are still unsure how to build a website or online store for your business, let’s talk. We will listen to you, answer your questions, analyze your existing site, determine the type of website that will best support your business objectives, and help you implement our web design plan.
Did You Use Our Simple Web Design Planning Plan?
Did you recently design or redesign your website? How did that go for you? Maybe you have some tips of your own you can share? Please leave your comments below so our audience can benefit as well and grab our feed, so you don’t miss our next post!
And help other business owners get the business website they need to thrive and survive in the digital age by sharing these essential website planning tips with them!
For more content relevant to your business or product brand – check out the range of articles on our web design blog. (This one, outlining 20 key reasons why your business needs a website, is an excellent place to start!)
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!