What’s the Plan, Stan?
The fun part of designing a website is dreaming up ideas on what it can look like. For me, it’s kind of like when I decide to decorate a room – ripping pages out of magazines for inspiration, getting paint swatches and taping them to the wall, and cruising the aisles of my favorite store in search of the perfect pillows are the part of the process that I love! (I often refer to HomeGoods as my “happy place”!)
But buying random pieces of furniture without measuring the space and thinking how it fits into the overall scheme of the room rarely works. And the same is true when it comes to designing your website.
Planning your website is such an important step but it’s one that a lot of people skip over. Taking the time to really think about what you want and need in your site will make the rest of the process so much easier.
1. WHY are you building a website?
This may seem obvious at first but it’s actually a question that many people don’t give enough consideration. Yet, it’s arguably one of the most important questions you should ask yourself. Understanding WHY you want a website for your business will give you a clearer focus and will set the stage for all of the remaining steps in the process.
Is your goal to have an online presence to add validity to your business? Do you need to sell merchandise? Do you want to use your website as a hub for information that your audience can follow as a blog? You may have one or a combination of any of these goals for your new website. The key is to think about and nail down exactly what you want the site to do. You will end up with a better website as a result.
2. WHO will be visiting your website?
How you would you describe your target customer and the type of person who would be visiting your site. Are they young, old, tech savvy, not tech savvy? Know your audience! Your website should speak to your target market, in regards to content and aesthetics.
Think about why your customer is coming to your site and deliver the message and content accordingly. Too many business owners build a site that “they” like without giving much regard to the end-user. Step outside of yourself for a bit and look at your website through the eyes of your potential customer.
3. WHAT’s in a brand, anyway?
Do you have a logo or brand for your business? How will this tie in to your overall website design? What is your color palette for your brand? What fonts will you use? Do you have design elements you can carry throughout your site for a consistent look?
4. HOW do you want your website to “feel” when a visitor first lands on your site?
This question is a perfect follow up to how you answered #3 about branding. If you already have a brand for your business, consistency on your website is important. You want your visitors to easily identify your brand when they visit your site for the first time. The overall aesthetic or “look” of the site should be consistent, but additionally, you should consider how you want your site to “feel.”
Do you want your visitors to feel warm and homey when they come to your site or do you want them to feel zen, like they just walked out of a spa? Does a collection of colorful images suit you or is white space and neutral colors more appropriate for your audience? This all depends on that “feel” you’re after.
5. WHAT do you want your website to be able to do?
Think about the core functionality that is required for your site. Functionality may range from the a couple pages of super simple text and a few images to some pretty fancy bells and whistles. Here are some common aspects:
• About Us
• Photo/Image Gallery
• List of Services
• Online Storefront
• Menu/Product List
• Upcoming Events /Calendar
• Contact Form
6. CONTENT is King!
Have you developed content for your website? This ranks right up there in importance with step #1, yet it’s another part of the process that many business owners don’t spend enough time thinking about. A website that has a beautiful landing page may grab someone’s attention initially, but if the words on the site don’t connect with your customer, your visitor might leave with one click of the mouse.
7. IMAGES and Graphics
Visual imagery speaks to a customer as much as words do, so pay particular attention to the photos and other images that you plan to use on your site. Will you be taking your own photos? If you have access to a camera, consider using that instead of your cell phone. Lighting is key, so shoot where there’s lots of natural light. Also, make sure you’re taking photos with a high resolution to start with. You can make photos smaller later, but you can’t make them bigger.
Stock photos have come a long way in the past few years, and they might be better suited for your site. Stock photos can run from pretty pricey to very reasonable, and even free. Here are some of our favorite resources:
With a little planning, your website will be sure to give your target customer exactly what they need, which will keep them coming back again and again.
We have a great FREE download summarizes all of this in a great PDF t that you can use to plan your next design project:
Click on the link below to download it: