Building a good website means having a game plan in place for your content, images, layout, and general user experience.
The website should have immediate appeal to your target audience, doing a good job of describing what the brand is, what it does, and how visitors can benefit from its products or services. Even an information-based site such as a news blog can achieve these goals if it thinks of its content as a product, and its news gathering as a service for the visitor.
Often, the things you do before you start actually putting the site together can make a big difference on the outcome. It might seem appealing to simply find a good pre-assembled site (such as one of our RocketLaunchers) and refine from there, but if you have a plan in place for the site’s content beforehand, you will be much better positioned to achieve your goals.
In this article, we will go over some of the things you should consider before building your next website.
If your website were a painting, your written content is the paint. It is the most important component of your site, and you want to consider what you want to say before you start assembling the page.
The way your content is written will ultimately define your brand on the page. How one block of information flows into the next is every bit as much a part of the written copy as it is the layout of the site.
You may not have every piece of information at the ready during the initial build, but it is always good to have most of it done before you do. This will help immensely when you get to the layout phase of the build, as the length of paragraphs, headlines, and other written components will look a lot better when the layout is built around them, instead of the other way around.
How your site looks depends a lot on the images you use. Do you want big, bold images that are overlaid with written content, or do you want them to accent the site more subtly?
Figure out what images you want to use on the front page, as well as the subpages, and how you would like them to look. This will help a lot when it comes time to set up the layout.
The logo is also a part of this phase as it will need space to shine on the final build. It could also help determine the color scheme for the site, as one that plays off the logo will be less likely to clash in an unpleasant way down the line.
If you are building a website for a brick-and-mortar store, having a big image of the storefront displayed prominently on the front page can be a great idea. If you go into the build knowing this, you will have a much clearer idea of what you need to do to make it work.
How do you want visitors to navigate through your site? Do you want the front page to be a functional part of the online shopping experience, or an introduction to your brand? Do you want to have an About, Contact, and a Blog page?
This is all information that becomes increasingly more important as you go through the build process. Consider the role each page will play in the final product, and what you need to make those pages work.
This is a great opportunity to create or request written copy for these pages, as they are often overlooked in favor of the front page during initial planning.
The more hurdles a visitor has to jump through to become a converted customer, the less likely they are to do so. Consider how easily someone can find the information or make a purchase from the front page to the confirmation page.
This is where planning the main menu, supportive menus (sidebar, footer, etc.), search, and other navigational components occurs. It will make creating the layout a lot easier.
Once you have the written content and images in mind, you will want to sketch out a rough idea of what the layout will look like. Consider where certain components will go, and how they flow into one-another as the visitor scrolls down the page.
This is an important step, especially if you are working with clients that need to approve the design. It will enable you to receive feedback on the design before you have to actually put in a lot of development work.
This is also a great time to take a look at any themes or templates you might use to speed up the development process. Instead of building your site around a template, you would be finding one that best fits your concept. Again, putting you in a position where you can easily transition from concept to final product.
Henning Bokelmann, a member of the RocketTheme moderator team, advised: "It's important to sketch ideas and think about the audience. A little sketch can help you plan a better site, especially if you are working with clients."
We have assembled some tips to help with presenting mockups to clients in a previous blog post.
When you are building your next website, consider these important steps. They will help you to build a better, more complete experience for your visitors at a much faster pace than you could if you tried to match your content to a pre-existing layout.
This is one of the reasons RocketTheme designs its templates and themes in a way that makes their layout as fluid and adaptable as possible. With a little work, and the right planning ahead of time, you can create a site that is set up for success from day one.
Do you have any tips for website planning? Please leave a comment below and let us know.