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9 Steps for planning a successful website

Date: 01/02/2023

Stuart Watkins

Creating a new website can be a daunting task, but with proper planning, it can be a smooth and successful process.

At Devstars, we believe this is bar far the most important part of any development, and as a wise person once said, “Fail to plan, plan to fail” Here are nine steps to help you plan your new website and ensure it is optimized for users and search engines. These processes will allow you to create a well-developed, high-converting, user-enhanced website.

1. Define The Goals of Your Website

Before planning your website, it’s important to define your goals. What do you want your website to achieve? Your goals will differ depending on which sector your business lies within.

Are you trying to generate leads, increase sales volumes, or provide information to your audience? Familiarise yourself with your user goals, putting yourself in the place of your audience. This will help you ensure that you include everything the user will expect to see within your website. Knowing your
goals will help you to guide the design and development of your website and ensure these objectives are achieved.

2. Research Your Audience

website personas

Understanding your target audience is crucial to the success of your website. Who are they? What are their needs and interests? What are they searching for online?

Conducting market research through surveys, online research, or dialogue with existing or potential customers will help you understand your audience and tailor your website to meet their needs. Understanding research and data surrounding your audience will allow you to provide efficient customer service and highlight specific focus points within your business strategy.

This information will equip you with knowledge about what to include on your website. Once you understand your market, you are more likely to be able to appeal to them.

By understanding and acting upon your customer’s needs and desires, you are providing a positive online experience which will encourage them to return to your website for repeated business or custom. You are more likely to succeed if you understand what motivates and interests your customers.

3. Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Take a look at your competition. What are they doing well? What could they improve upon? Analyzing your competitors will give you valuable insight into the market and help you identify opportunities for your website.

We use tools like SEMRush to analyse a client’s website against competitor sites. Running gap analysis on backlinks and keywords and helping guild both linking and content strategies.

competitor analysis graphic

You can also use heuristic analysis. Are they missing opportunities that you to take advantage of? Or are they trying to do too much and adding unnecessary distractions?

The competitive analysis also assists you in identifying your unique selling points, allowing your business to be positioned apart from similar products or services. This is hugely influential to your marketing strategy and a benchmark for what to include within your website and draw focus upon, giving you an edge over similar businesses.

4. Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS)

A CMS is the backbone of your website. It allows you to update and manage your website’s content easily. It is important to consider which CMS will be best for helping you to achieve your goals.

When selecting the CMS for your website, it is important to consider the main aims of the site.

Are you:

  • Looking to increase sales or seek a high readership to blog posts or content?
  • Selling services which can be purchased instantly?
  • Trying to sell a broader service which can’t be clicked and collected?

Most CMSs are easy to use, including WordPress or Webflow for information-oriented sites, providing you with a fast-to-market solution. Whilst these options typically offer templates for guidance and inspiration, we advocate building bespoke themes for many reasons. Key to this is control over the design, security and page speed.

If you’re providing an E-commerce service, you may opt for a retail-oriented CMS such as Shopify, Magento or Woocommerce.

Our specialists can quickly steer you to the correct platform based on your goals and budget.

5. Plan Your Navigation and site structure

navigation structure

The navigation of your website is crucial for both users and search engines. It should be easy to use and intuitive. Plan your navigation before designing your website to ensure it is user-friendly and optimized for search engines.

Tools like Balsamiq or Figjam and great for planning sitemaps.

Visitors are much more likely to stay on your website for longer if it is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Key instances of web navigation include sidebars, menu bars and footers, all of which include links to specific webpages (for example: ‘About Us’, ‘Contact us’, etc.).

Including a search bar on your website has proven results, attracting customers with a higher conversion rate of achieving the site’s end goal (for instance, purchasing a product or requesting a quote). Websites for large companies will always include this feature, including Amazon or the Apple store, reducing the need for a flow of page-to-page navigation.

Keep your primary navigation limited to where you want visitors to go. Other links could be put in the footer.

6. Design a Wireframe UX and Prototype

wireframe prototype

A wireframe is a visual representation of your website’s layout. It is an essential step in the planning process as it helps you plan the content placement and ensures your website is easy to navigate.

Wireframes can be developed and changed quickly, allowing you to work in an agile manner through rapid design sprints. This process allows you to ideate quickly and figure out what will work and what won’t without the overheads of detailed design or programming.

Your wireframe will provide you with a blueprint for your website. A successful wireframe will result in a user-friendly, practical website, which includes functional web pages that can be easily navigated. A wireframe is also an effective tool to remove any loose ends or irrelevant sectors of your website. Wireframes can be hand-drawn or by using software such as Figma, Adobe XD or Moqups.

It is important to consider how each web page links during the wireframing process. Consider how the content will flow and appear to the user once the site has been fully developed.

7. Choose a Design

Your website’s design should be visually appealing and reflect your brand. It should also be responsive and look good on all devices, including desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

There is evidence that simple and prototypical websites are more appealing to visitors and that people tend to make decisions about the website in only a few seconds. You can read more about this here.

The design of your website needs to be appealing to your target audience whilst remaining approachable and easy to navigate. Suppose your business lies within the E-commerce sector. In that case, it will be hugely beneficial to design your website with spotlight features on topical or promotional products (for example, including your ‘product of the week’ on your home page or a curated collection for a certain event or consumer).

The site is a great example of powerful website design, maintaining its branding by incorporating Nike logos and branding material whilst featuring select products on its homepage. If you are creating a more service-based website, perhaps you could consider a call-to-action approach, using prompts such as ‘Request a Quote Now’ or ‘Send us your Query’, as well as ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Services’ pages, to inform the audience about what your business can offer.

8. Develop Your Website

Now that you have a plan, it’s time to develop your website. This includes coding the website and integrating it with the CMS. Your website also needs to be compatible and functional on various devices, including laptops, mobile phones, and tablets.

The development process will see your wireframe come to life and be implemented through your desired CMS. We’re obsessed with writing clean, minimal, well-marked-up code that helps reduce load times and makes ongoing site development easier.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you are replacing an existing site, you will need to (301) set up redirects so web links to any older pages get forwarded correctly.

9. Test and Launch

Before launching your website, it’s important to test it thoroughly.

Test the website on different devices and browsers to ensure it looks professional and works properly. Once you are confident that your website is ready, it’s time to launch it.

As well as compatibility, you will also need to:

  • Test for payments are successfully processed
  • Test the performance and efficiency of your website
  • Ensure security
  • Assess the website’s functionality

At Devstars, we have pre and post-launch checklists that allow us to run over 40 tests to ensure quality methodically.

During this step, it is also important to consider whether your goals for your website have been achieved. In conclusion, planning a new website takes time and effort, but following these steps ensures your website is optimized for both users and search engines.

Remember to define your goals, research your audience, conduct a competitive analysis, choose a CMS, plan your navigation, design a wireframe, choose a design, develop your website, and test and launch.

Finally, evolve the site over time.

There are great tools to track clicks, page views and dwell time and test site interactions. Use them all to improve your conversion rates and overall engagement.

Check back soon for our article on iterative A/B testing to make the most of your website.

If you need help planning your next web project, reach out and get in touch.

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