How you plan your new website is crucial to make it work hard and win you new business.
It’s often said that planning, designing and building a new website is only 25% of what you should be doing online.
That means, even once you’ve got your shiny new website live, you still have three times as much work still to do. How you plan your website and the process the project follows is so important – you don’t want to invest hours and money into your new site if it’s not planned properly in the first place.
If you’ve worked on a website project before, you’ll know that’s a daunting task; the web project alone can take 8–12 weeks, so you’re looking at at least another six months of hard graft (usually on top of everything else you need to do).
This is why you need a plan and a process.
We use WordPress for all our sites. If you’ve used it before you’ll know why; enterprise-level content management, security, updates and flexibility in a free, ‘works-out-of-the-box’ app.
WordPress is and continues to get more amazing, but it’s a tool, not a solution, and unfortunately, if you see WordPress as the all-encompassing solution for your website, you’ll end up with something you end up re-working six months later.
WordPress is part of your toolkit for building an awesome website. It’s an important one, but it needs to used properly.
How to plan a website.
When we build sites at Toast, we spend nearly as much time helping our clients to plan them as we do building them. Planning stages typically include:
- Site objectives – you don’t ‘just need a website’. Why do you need it and what is it for?
- Persona identification – who are your target customers, how do they use, and what do they need from your site?
- Keyword research – where do you currently rank, and for what?
- Keyword planning – which keywords will convert for you, and what keywords do you want to rank for but currently don’t?
- Function specifications – what ‘stuff’ do you need your website to do? Does it need to talk to other apps or perform routine tasks for you automatically?
- Analytics research – what insights can your Google analytics reports give us into your current site?
- Content plan – how much, who is writing it and when?
- Site Maps – planning the structure of your website
- Defining success – how are we going to measure how well the new site is performing?
There are only nine points there, but they cover a lot of ground. If you are serious about getting your website working hard for your business, you’ll invest time and budget into the planning stages to make sure the site performs well.
Sounding a little complicated?
It is, but that’s why you need to talk to a web agency that thoroughly plans what they do and has a process to make sure it’s done.
The process of planning (and beyond).
Let’s be honest, the planning stages of a website aren’t seen as the most exciting, it’s the design stuff that everyone can’t wait to get stuck into, but design alone will not get you new business from your website.
As we look at it, you can have the best-looking site on the planet, but if it doesn’t bring you any customers, it’s a waste of time.
Making sure that all the planning is done correctly means that the eventual design of the site if more informed, better thought-out and more effective.
When talking to agencies about getting a new website designed, make sure you discuss the process and how they are going to approach the project.
If the discussion is mainly based on what it’s going to look like, you’re going to get something that looks nice but doesn’t do anything.
Your web agencies process should follow something like this:
- A meeting (or call) to ask you for detailed information about your business, your objectives and where you currently are online.
- A thorough examination of your current website (if you have one) to benchmark it and find out what’s working and what isn’t.
- Further discussion about why you want a new website; any agency will take your money and give you that, potentially without addressing exactly why you want it.
- An examination of your market or sector – who is the competition, what are they doing and how do you compare?
- A realistic chat about Keywords – building the visibility of your website in the SERPs (Search engine results pages) takes time – there’s no magic bullet that will get you ranking high from day one.
- A full audit of your current site (keywords, backlinks, site health, social media, etc.)
- Planning how return on investment is going to be measured.
- Corporate identity review and how this is going to work on the site.
- An outline marketing review – are you integrating on- and off-line marketing?
- Discussions about the content (text) and images as well as other assets.
Take a breath there. We’re getting to the creative stuff!
- Moodboards, initial design discussions.
- Wireframes, information architecture, user journeys and conversion planning, responsive wireframes.
- Content production.
- Initial design stages (big ideas).
- Design development.
- Design development.
- Initial site build-out
- Content load and initial on-page SEO
- More testing
- Cross-browser testing
- Proofing, further on-page SEO, internal site links
- Final pre-flights
- Post-launch testing and checks
- A support period (that should be included in the project charges)
- Ongoing support, development and SEO
That’s a pretty long (but in no way exhaustive) list, and each bullet point will have several other related tasks that need to be done before moving on to the next.
We’ve not even touched on promoting your new site when live, effective Social Media campaigns or anything ‘marketing’.
The point here is that the above is not ‘just a website’ – it’s a plan and process to build your digital team member, AKA your website.
It should be something that can interact with your customers or clients 24/7.
One size does not fit all.
The most important thing that we take into account when planning a new website is that no two clients are the same.
You’re going to have different objectives and requirements from everyone else we work with.
Our process is flexible and fits around several important factors:
- The size of your team and in-house capabilities.
- Your additional workload (it’s rare we work with people whose sole job is working on the website).
- The size of the site.
- Production of content and assets for the site.
- Dependent projects (launch events and exhibitions for example.
- Your previous experience in delivering a website.
We understand that you’ll often have internal clients and stakeholders that might not be directly involved in the project, but will be watching it like a hawk.
Communication and transparency.
It sounds obvious, but project management tools are vital for a large website project. We use these, and they are of great benefit to every project.
Looping in all the stakeholders, sharing files and documents, setting to-do’s, milestones and deadlines are another part of the website planning, design and build project that are crucial to its’ success.
Given that web projects can sometimes be a bit of a bumpy ride, a full handover pre- or post-launch is also a vital stage.
At Toast, we build in two weeks of post-live support into all our projects as we know that once the site is open to the public (and all your colleagues), the micro-examination starts and tweaks, snags and alterations need doing.
Now that your site has gone live, we can come back to that other 75% of the stuff that you need to do on the site.
Blogging, on-going SEO, link building, content production, inbound marketing, tracking, reporting and so on – it’s a seemingly endless list, but we’re here to help you.
Toast have support packages that suit even the smallest of websites right up to unlimited support contracts for larger mission-critical sites.
We can also help you with content production and SEO with our monthly SearchWorthy package.
We’re a team of 15 designers, developers and marketers over three floors in our Oxfordshire-based HQ.
In-house, we offer graphic and web design, website consultancy (the planning and process bit), WordPress development, Inbound Marketing and Hubspot services. We’ve been doing (most of) this since 1997 and have the experience you need to get the job done.
If you’d like to have a chat through your requirements, call us on 01295 266644 or drop us a message below.
We’ve written an updated version of this post that can be found here.
Dave is Toast’s Managing Director and also heads up the digital team. He’s been a designer, illustrator and web designer for over 25 years and has worked on a diverse range of projects across many industry sectors.