Are you a business owner looking for a complete website planning guide to plan your new website?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this Website Planning Guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know to plan, design, and launch your dream website—just like we do for our own clients and many other web projects.

The website planning process includes the following phases:

  1. Research and Analysis: Define your business, identify your ideal customer, and analyze your competition to establish a strong foundation for your website plan.
  2. Design and Branding: Learn how to choose the right color schemes, typography, and images to create a cohesive and compelling visual identity for your website.
  3. Content Planning: Plan and structure your website’s content to ensure clarity, engagement, and alignment with your overall goals.
  4. Technical Considerations: Navigate the technical aspects of website development, including selecting a domain name, web hosting provider, and content management system (CMS).
  5. Next Steps: Decide whether to build your website yourself, use a pre-designed template, or hire a professional web designer, and learn the pros and cons of each approach.

What is Website Planning?

Website planning is the process of defining the purpose, structure, and functionality of a website to ensure it meets your target audience’s needs and achieves your business goals. Your website plan sets the foundation for a successful website by addressing technical, design, and content considerations before development begins.

Ok, now it’s time to jump in and plan your new website!

The Website Planning Process

As a reminder from above, the website planning a website involves 4 phases:

  1. Research and Analysis: Define your business, identify your ideal customer, and analyze your competition to establish a strong foundation for your website plan.
  2. Design and Branding: Learn how to choose the right color schemes, typography, and images to create a cohesive and compelling visual identity for your website.
  3. Content Planning: Plan and structure your website’s content to ensure clarity, engagement, and alignment with your overall goals.
  4. Technical Considerations: Navigate the technical aspects of website development, including selecting a domain name, web hosting provider, and content management system (CMS).
  5. Next Steps: Decide whether to build your website yourself, use a pre-designed template, or hire a professional web designer, and learn the pros and cons of each approach.

Step 1: Research and Analysis

In order to successfully plan your website, the first thing you need to do is get clear on your business goals, target customers, and your competition out there. Many of these questions are found in my web design onboarding questionnaire that I have my SD clients fill out. Let’s jump right in:

Define Your Business

Start by understanding the core elements that define your business. This clarity will guide your website planning process, ensuring your site effectively represents your brand and meets your business objectives.

Business Questions To Ask Yourself
  • What is your business mission?
  • What are your business values?
  • What services does your business offer?
  • 3 words to describe the personality of your business?
  • What features does your website need?
  • What are the top 3  goals of your website?
  • What is the purpose of your website?
  • How do you want your ideal client to feel when they visit your website?

Your Ideal Customer

Understanding your ideal customer is crucial. This insight helps you tailor your website to meet their needs and preferences, enhancing their overall experience and engagement with your brand.

Ideal Customer Questions To ask Yourself
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What are their hobbies and interests?
  • How old are they?
  • What is their gender?
  • What is their income level?
  • What is their occupation?
  • What motivates them to succeed?
  • What pain points do they have that you can solve?
  • Where do they spend most of their time online? 
  • What factors influence their buying choices?
  • Where do they go for information before making a purchase?

Your Competitors

Analyzing your competitors allows you to identify opportunities and gaps in the market. This competitive analysis will inform your strategy, helping you to differentiate your website and offer unique value to your audience.

Competitor Questions To ask Yourself
  • Who are my competitors?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • Whare are my opportunities to stand out?

Step 2: Establish Your Design and Branding

Now that we’ve covered your business information, ideal customers, and competitors, we can move on to design and branding. The design and branding of your website play a critical role in creating a strong online presence for your business.

What is a Brand? 

A brand is more than just a visual representation of your business or the name people associate with your company. A brand encompasses various elements, creating a unique and recognizable identity that separates your business. Some of the key elements that define a brand include:

  • Identity: Your brand identity is the visual representation of your business. This includes your logo, color scheme, website design, and other visual elements that help people recognize your business.
  • Reputation: Your brand reputation is what people think of when they hear your business name. This includes things like your customer service, the quality of your products or services, and any other factors that influence people’s perception of your business.
  • Values: Your brand values are the unique characteristics that represent your business. This includes your mission statement, company culture, and other values or beliefs that guide your business practices.
  • Personality: Your brand personality is how your business presents itself. This includes things like your tone of voice, your style of communication, and any other elements that help people connect with your brand personally.
  • Differentiation: Your brand differentiation is what sets you apart from your competitors. This includes your unique selling proposition (USP), brand story, and other factors that help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Mood Boards

All good branding and web design starts with a mood board! A mood board is a collection of images, colors, textures, and fonts that capture the vibe and style of a project. It’s used to inspire and guide the design process. 

Color Schemes

One of the most important aspects of website design is color scheme. It influences the mood and emotions associated with the site and sets the visual tone for the brand. Your color scheme should align with your brand’s personality and create a visual hierarchy that helps guide visitors through the site.

Your color scheme should include 5-6 different colors:

  1. Primary: the main color that you want your brand to be known for.
  2. Secondary: this color should complement your primary color.
  3. Text: this color is for your text. It should be dark and easily readable.
  4. Accent: think of this color as a supporting color. It can be used for lines or designs to add dimension to your brand.
  5. Negative: this color is for negative space on your website, social media posts, and any other brand assets. Think off white or super light shades of pink and gray.
  6. Misc: this color is optional for your color scheme. I tend to change this color depending on its purpose (web design element vs social media post.

Here’s the Samantha Digital color scheme / color palette:

Typography

Another essential element of website design is typography. Your typography should be easy to read, match your brand’s vibe, and be consistent throughout the site. Choosing the right typography is important because it can help establish the brand’s voice and identity, create a visual hierarchy of information, and add interest to the website design.

Honestly, for all the subsections within this Design and Branding section, there is SO much to go over that I couldn’t possibly squeeze it all into this Guide. But here are some guidelines when it comes to Typography. This is definitely an oversimplification, and there are nuances and exceptions, but at the core:

  • Serif Font: Serif fonts feature small lines or extensions at the end of their strokes.
    • Vibe: They typically give off a classic, formal, and traditional vibe, often associated with reliability and professionalism.
  • Sans Serif Font: Sans Serif fonts do not have the small lines or extensions at the end of their strokes.
    • Vibe: They generally convey a modern, clean, and minimalist vibe, often associated with simplicity and contemporary design.
  • Script Font: Script fonts mimic the fluidity of handwritten text, often with varied strokes and cursive styles.
    • Vibe: They usually evoke an elegant, sophisticated, and artistic vibe, often associated with creativity and a personal touch.

Here are some places to browse for font inspiration:

  • Pinterest
  • Google Fonts
  • Adobe Fonts
  • Creative Market

Here’s the font suite for Samantha Digital:

Images and Graphics

Images and graphics are arguably the most important part of your website. They help to convey your brand message and create an emotional connection with your target audience. When choosing images and graphics, it’s important to select high-quality, relevant visuals that enhance the overall design of the site. Images and graphics should be used strategically to support your content and reinforce your brand message.

If you have the option to get professional brand photos taken, that is absolutely ideal, however, I totally understand that might not always be the case! Until then, here’s where you can find images and graphics:

  • Canva
  • Pixabay
  • Unsplash
  • Envato
  • Icons 8
  • Thematic
  • Pond5

Step 3: Develop a Content Strategy

Content is the backbone of your website. A content strategy helps you plan and organize your website’s content. It is essential to create high-quality, engaging, and relevant content that caters to your target audience’s needs and preferences.

A common question I receive is, “Should I write my website copy before or after I have my website created?”

The answer? 

You absolutely want to have your website copy ready before going into website development. Why? Having your copy ready provides a clear direction for the design and structure of your website. It ensures that the layout, visual elements, and functionality align with the message you want to convey. Also, well-crafted copy allows you to design a user-friendly website that guides visitors seamlessly through your content.

Start by identifying the types of content you want to include on your website. This could include blog posts, product descriptions, videos, images, and infographics. Next, consider the topics and themes relevant to your target audience. Your content should provide value to your audience and help them solve their problems or answer their questions.

Step 4: Technical Considerations

The technical considerations of website development are just as important as the design and content itself. Let’s cover choosing a domain name, web hosting provider, and content management system (CMS).

1. Choosing Your Domain Name

A domain name is the URL (universal resource locator) that people type in their web browsers to access a specific website. It consists of two parts: the name of the website and the extension (such as .com, .org, or .net). My domain name, for example, is samanthadigital.com

Brainstorm Domain Name Ideas

Tips for choosing your domain name:

  • Keep it short and easy to remember: Aim for no more than 15 characters.
  • Make it easy to spell: Avoid using complicated words or difficult-to-spell words.
  • Make it brandable: Choose a name that is unique and memorable to your brand.
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers: This can make it harder to remember and look spammy.
  • Think long-term: This is your online identity for years to come, so choose a name that will stand the test of time.
  • Get feedback: Once you have a few domain name options, get feedback from friends, family, or colleagues. They may be able to provide valuable insight or point out any potential issues.
  • Opt for a .com extension: this is important for branding, user experience, and SEO. The .com extension is the most popular. Try to avoid extensions like .net, .biz, .tech, etc.

For more information, read Exactly How To Choose Your Domain Name.

Make Sure Your Desired Domain Name is Available

Once you’ve come up with some ideas for your domain name, you’ll want to make sure it’s available. You can use Bluehost’s Free Domain Checker to see if your desired domain name is available.

Register Your Domain Name

Once you’ve confirmed your domain name is available, it’s time to buy (aka register) it! If you’re planning on using WordPress, I recommend getting both your domain name and hosting from Siteground. If you’re not planning to use WordPress, or aren’t sure yet, be sure to check out the next section.

2. Choosing a CMS & Web Host

A CMS (Content Management System) is a software application that allows users to create, manage, and publish content on your website websites, without requiring coding skills. Popular CMS today include WordPress (my personal favorite), Wix, Squarespace, Showit, and Webflow.

A web host provider is a service provider that provides server space for websites to be accessible on the internet. Many CMS offer web hosting services as part of their CMS fees. For example, Wix, Squarespace, and Showit subscriptions all include website hosting in their pricing. So if you go with one of those platforms, you don’t have to worry about web hosting. 

WordPress, on the other hand, requires you to purchase your own hosting. 

Like most things in life, this has its advantages and disadvantages. 

My absolute favorite web host is Siteground

Similarly to the Design and Branding section, there is SO MUCH to consider. I recommend taking a look at these two blog posts:

WordPress vs Showit vs Squarespace vs Wix

How To Choose A Web Host Provider

Step 5: Next Steps

Now that you’ve covered the foundational aspects of your website planning, it’s time to decide how you will bring your vision to life. The next step is determining whether to build your website yourself (DIY), use a pre-designed template, or hire a professional web designer. Each approach has its pros and cons, and the right choice depends on your skills, budget, and specific needs. To summarize:

OptionProsConsBest For
1. DIY (Do It Yourself)Cost-Effective: Often the most affordable.
Full Control: Complete control over your site.
Learning Opportunity: Acquire new skills.
Time-Consuming: Can be time-intensive.
Steep Learning Curve: There is a lot to learn.
Limited Resources: Might lack advanced tools and resources.
– Entrepreneurs with a tight budget and ample time to learn and implement web design.
– Individuals who enjoy hands-on projects and are eager to learn new skills.
2. Pre- Designed TemplateQuick Setup:
Faster way to get your site launched.
Professional Design: Ensures a polished site.
Ease of Use: Minimal technical knowledge required to customize and maintain.
Depending on the CMS and template:
Limited Customization: Comes with design constraints that may limit personalization.
Generic Feel: Might look similar to other websites using the same template.
Hidden Costs: Some templates come with additional fees for premium features or support.
– Small businesses and entrepreneurs who need a professional-looking website quickly.
– Those with a moderate budget who want some level of customization without the complexity of DIY.
3. Hiring a Professional DesignerExpertise: Brings knowledge and experience for high-quality design and user experience.
Customization: Fully customized website that matches your brand.
Ongoing Support: Many offer ongoing support and maintenance services.
Higher Cost:
The most expensive option.
Dependency: May become dependent on the designer for updates and changes.
Timeframe: Projects can take longer to complete.
– Businesses with a larger budget needing a highly customized, professional website.
– Entrepreneurs who value a unique design and are willing to invest in expert services.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

To decide which approach is best for you, consider the following questions:

  1. What is your budget?  Determine how much you are willing to invest in your website.
  2. What is your timeline? Consider how quickly you need your website to be launched.
  3. What are your technical skills? Are you comfortable with developing your own site?
  4. What are your long-term needs? Consider the level of customization and ongoing support you will need for your website.

The Benefits of Properly Planning Planning Your New Website

Planning a website properly is crucial for its success. Without a solid plan, a website can fail to meet user needs, miss business goals, and end up costing more time and money in the long run. Here are some of the biggest benefits when it comes to planning your website:

Benefit 1: Clearly Defined Website’s Purpose and Goals

The first step in website planning is to define the website’s purpose and goals. Without a clear understanding of what the website aims to achieve, it’s challenging to create an effective design and content strategy. Website planning helps to identify the target audience, the website’s primary purpose, and the goals the website should achieve. This information is critical in developing a website that meets the target audience’s needs, provides the right content, and drives the desired actions.

Benefit 2: Enhances User Experience

Website planning plays a crucial role in enhancing the user experience. By understanding the target audience, website planners can create a website that is intuitive, easy to navigate and meets the user’s needs. A well-designed website with an excellent user experience can increase engagement, lower bounce rates, and ultimately drive conversions. When users can quickly find what they’re looking for and enjoy interacting with a website, they are likelier to return and recommend the site to others.

Benefit 3: Saves Time and Money

Effective website planning can save time and money in the long run. By identifying the website’s goals and objectives, website planners can develop a roadmap that outlines the necessary steps to achieve those goals. This roadmap can help to avoid unnecessary design changes, content revisions, or other expensive modifications that may have been required if the website had not been adequately planned. Additionally, planning can help prevent delays or unforeseen issues during the development process, ultimately leading to a smoother and more efficient website launch.

Benefit 4: Improves Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Website planning is critical in improving search engine optimization (SEO). A well-planned website can provide search engines with the necessary information to index and rank the website effectively. This includes website structure, content strategy, keyword research, and metadata. By considering SEO during the planning phase, website planners can create a website optimized for search engines. This can result in improved search rankings, increased organic traffic, and higher visibility for the website.

Benefit 5: Provides a Competitive Advantage

Effective website planning can provide a competitive advantage in the online marketplace. By understanding the target audience, identifying unique selling points, and creating a website that meets the user’s needs, website planners can create a website that stands out from the competition. A well-designed and planned website can help to establish credibility, build trust, and improve brand recognition. This can ultimately lead to increased conversions and revenue for the business or organization.

Consequences of Not Planning Your Website

When a website is developed without proper planning, the following negative consequences may arise:

  • Assumptions about how content will appear on the site must be made, which can lead to incorrect assumptions and affect page-building complexity.
  • Miscommunication frequently occurs, leading to increased back-and-forth communication on trivial matters and taking longer to clear.
  • Backtracking is necessary, leading to delays and missed deadlines. This may cause developers to do the same task twice in different ways.
  • Scope creep occurs when work falls outside the project’s original scope, resulting in cost overruns.

Important Website Planning Considerations

  • Your Website Is For Your Audience: Your website should cater to the needs of its audience unless it’s an internal communication tool. It is not meant solely for your use.
  • Websites Require Ongoing Maintenance: A website is not a one-time thing. It’s a communication tool that can be adjusted and expanded over time, and it can have either a good or bad impact on your business. For many companies, it’s the primary way they connect with their customers.
  • Your Website Should Align With Your Marketing Strategy: It’s okay if the website needs assessment coincides with other marketing efforts in your department. Your company’s existing branding and marketing strategies should influence the website’s structure and design.
  • Creating a good website can’t be done independently. Having consistency and coherence in all your online and offline marketing ventures is essential in portraying your professionalism and establishing your business as credible.

Website Planner Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of a website planning guide?

A website planning guide is a comprehensive document that outlines all the steps needed to create a website. Its purpose is to provide a roadmap that can help you create a website that meets your business objectives.

Who should use a website planning guide?

A website planning guide can be used by anyone planning to create a website. It can be used by small business owners, freelancers, and even individuals creating a website for personal use.

Do I need a professional to create a website using a planning guide?

No, you do not need to hire a professional to create a website using a planning guide. However, if you are not confident in your technical skills, it is recommended that you hire a professional to help you with the website creation process.

Ready to Get Planning And Launch Your New Website?

Get the Ultimate Planning Guide Now!

Now that you better understand what goes into creating a strong brand and website, it’s time to get the Ultimate Guide To Planning Your Website!

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of planning, designing, developing, launching, and managing your website. You’ll learn how to create content that resonates with your target audience and how to create a powerful online presence.

Get the guide now (using the form above) and start building the website of your dreams!

Conclusion

Creating a successful website requires careful planning. Each step in the website design process plays a critical role in achieving your goals.

We hope that after reading this blog post, you are excited and inspired to start your web design project!

We wish you all the best with your site launch! If you need help with your website, don’t hesitate to check out our small business website packages or contact us to talk with a professional web designer!