How Essential Web Design Planning Will Help You Build a Better Website
What Is Essential Web Design Planning?
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, some essential web design planning can help you save time and money. Let’s see what that would take!
For most small to mid-sized businesses, their website represents a significant business investment. And in 2020, a mobile-first business 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 want to share some essential web design planning tips with you.
Starting with Essential Web Design Planning
For the sake of this post, I will assume you did not just wake up and decided today was the day to get a new website. You see, effective web design planning starts well before the actual web design process begins. And it helps to start making a list of requirements and options just 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, and 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
Most likely, designing your new business website will 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, it is not a good idea to rush or skip this step! 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, there is still a lot 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 web design planning tips 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.
Essential Web Design Planning Tips
Setting Realistic and Measurable 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? By 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 you have your new website up and running, you can use an analytics program like Google Analytics to track your actual website data and adjust your goals accordingly.
Assign Responsibilities for Reaching Your Web Design Goals
The next step in effective web design planning is to determine who all 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. Most likely, you will need a web designer and web 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?
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 need, 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 will increase your online engagement and sales. Which also provides you with funds for the next phase.
Who Is Responsible for Content Creation?
The next step in our effective web design planning is, unfortunately, the one that gives most of our clients a hard time. I understand; content creation is not easy. But 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 the services and products you provide. 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, without an effective content strategy, most websites quickly fall behind. I am sure you have seen sites like this; they display old, stale information of no interest or benefit to visitors. Therefore, you must put together a strategy for content creation for both your original website content, as well as 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.
Plan the Site Structure of Your New Website
The next step in effective web design planning involves, you guessed it, the design of your website! And you thought you would never get to this. Up to now, we were going through what we call the discovery process or phase. If you followed all the above steps, you know 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 2020 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.
The Actual Web Design and Development Phase
At this stage of your effective web design planning, 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 either hire a good consultant to walk you through the available online options and resources of 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.
Don’t Forget About Usability Testing.
This aspect of effective web design planning is essential to folks like us and most often overlooked by everyone else. I am sure you have seen the results. From broken links, fractured animations, 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 crashed 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!
Who Will Be Responsible for Your New Website?
Website maintenance is another one of our essential 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. But 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 and 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 both the technical and content updates and maintenance for your website, 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.
Essential Web Design Planning and You
And there you have it! By following these essential web design planning tips, 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?
Effective web design planning 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.
Need Help Planning Your Next Website?
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 mobile-first web design experts at PixoLabo. Let us help you with your website design project.
Here at PixoLabo, we offer a full range of WordPress website consulting and design services for businesses and product brands, including custom web design and development, e-commerce solutions, search engine optimization, brand design, and WordPress optimization.
Feel free to reach out to us and learn more about our business website design and redesign services. Our team can help you analyze your existing site, determine the type of website that will best support your business objectives, and help you implement our essential web design planning tips. We are here to help!
Did You Use Our Essential Web Design Planning Tips?
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!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Saita
Co-Founder / CXO