The first step when developing a good-looking website is the designing phase along with the project outline. The better the project is defined, the more its implementation will be simplified during development. This initial process is the sine qua non condition for your success, be it a website for a client, your company, or for yourself.
That’s why it’s recommended to set some time aside for the conceptualization and planning phase of your website.
In order to define a structure that will be adapted to your presence on the Internet, here are some tips on how to plan a web design before the development of your project.
What is the purpose of your website?
Before thinking about the layout of your site, first ask yourself what goal you want to achieve with your website. It is the layout of this objective that will constitute the basic pillar of the future work process.
Indeed, each element on your home page must be in line with this purpose. Ask yourself what your website should contribute to and what its functionality will be. Do you want to improve the popularity of its content? Promote it? Or inform?
For example, if your website is located in the field of e-commerce, the goal will be to acquire new customers or prospects and increase sales of your products. As a general rule, the web presence of a company or institution corresponds to its business card, the image it conveys. Whatever the goal you want to achieve, keep in mind that planning your website will mark the rest of your journey.
What kind of content should you publish on your website?
Think carefully about what kind of content your site should have and how to handle it. Is the site rather illustrative, with many photos and videos in support? Or rather composed of many texts? Do visitors need to log in before accessing your page? Do you need to set up a payment system? Will you set up a system for visitors to leave comments?
By asking yourself such questions, you can quickly assess the degree of complexity of your project as well as the cost and time required to set it up.
In order to do this right, do not hesitate to establish regular exchanges with your colleagues, brainstorm and conduct research.
The target group of your site and its expectations
What is the target of your website? Define it while keeping your goals in mind. If you want to promote or sell a product or service, adapt the content and layout to your target. Similarly if it is an information portal or a themed forum.
Whether the site is commercial or informative, any website administrator must know who they are talking to so that their site matches the needs of their users.
In many areas, standards have been established for content and presentation according to the target. For example, there are regular product sorting and search tools on online shopping sites to facilitate user navigation. Each sector of activity and each target is characterized by its own peculiarities. The content and layout of your website should be influenced by these factors. It is important to know and identify these particularities, even if your site aims to stand out from the competition and conventions.
Structuring the site plan
This step consists of developing the structure of the site by creating a sitemap. The sitemap is a representation of the architecture of the site that organizes the sections and links between the different pages.
Make a draft of your website’s tree structure while it is being planned, either on your computer or directly on a piece of paper. This allows you not only to organize the content but also the navigation on the site. The sitemap also allows you to define the page to which leads which link. Rank each page according to its importance and make a short description of the intended content. Of course, the structure of the pages must remain clear, and a section should not have too many sub-headings.
The layout and presentation of the website
The development of the layout is closely linked to that of the site plan. The draft layout is a step to plan carefully: it is not used to define the final design of your website but rather to arrange the content on the different pages. For example, you can decide where you will place your company logo, a drop-down menu or different tabs. Other aspects of your website layout depend on the type of content offered, such as:
- the possibility for visitors to leave comments
- adding social sharing buttons, so users can like it and share your content
- Affiliate links to partner companies you promote
Also ask yourself if you want to optimize your website for different media (mobiles, tablets, computers…). It is generally recommended to optimize your website to make the browsing experience more pleasant for mobile users (mobile friendly) and increase traffic to your site. For this, it is often necessary to reorder the components of your page.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Your presence on the Internet must not only be adjusted to visitors and their expectations, but also to search engines like Google. To do this, you must adapt to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) standards, which is the optimization of your website for search engines. By adjusting certain elements of your website, you can help search engines understand your page content.
A well-done optimization enables a better positioning in the ranking on search results, especially on Google (the first search engine used in the world). Good SEO will enable you to increase the chances that your site will be visited by a larger number of Internet users.
A great way to capture the attention of your target group and generate traffic is to focus on the quality of your content. No need to be an expert in SEO: the main thing is to identify the keywords most searched for by your target group on the Internet. It is these keywords that will then have to be integrated into your texts, in a subtle and regular way. This aspect, among other things, influences the ranking of your site by the crawler (the indexing robot in charge of crawling sites and content on the Web).
Opt for a professional web design or an online site editor?
Creating a website is no longer the prerogative of professionals, especially since the emergence of online CMS (Content Management System). No need to know how to code in order to manage a website: in most cases, novices in Web design and programming opt for an online site editor. The online site editor allows you to create pages, modify their content, and structure it without the need for advanced technical knowledge.
First, ask yourself what features you want to implement for your website, as they vary greatly depending on the different providers. Often, the online site editor is quite limited when you want to add particular features, but it is often possible to supplement them with paid extensions. There are also free CMS for creating websites, however their functionality is often restricted and rather suitable for individuals who need a minimalist website.
If you want to develop a professional and complex site, it is essential to master programming languages such as HTML and CSS. You will then benefit from a wide range of tools and features. Nevertheless, you will need some time and experience to achieve an impeccable and professional result. In addition, maintaining and updating content is more complex than with a CMS.
You also have the option of hiring a professional or agency to develop your website. Here too, the design phase conditions the creation process and the final result of your site. It is therefore essential to set yourself the objectives you want to achieve beforehand and to establish precise specifications for the person or agency to which you entrust your project.
Establish the schedule
Once you have defined what content to offer, the structure of your site seems clear to you and you know who to entrust its development to, it is time to establish the schedule. For large-scale projects, feel free to break down the schedule into different stages. For example, starting with the writing of content texts, then with the implementation of the design. This process can take many forms and its maintenance will evolve during your project but remember to always allow enough time in case of unforeseen events.
Once these steps are completed, the structure of your website will be broadly defined. But there are still many aspects you still need to fine-tune as a result of planning your website.
That said, I’m pretty convinced you now have the fundamentals on how to plan a web design. Nowadays, designing a website could become very complex, depending on the complexity and scope of the projrct at hand. So, I recommend you have a look at the articles below: