If you have decided to build a website, you are probably very eager to get started but there are some things that have to be dealt with before you begin.
Planning your website thoroughly before you start is important for a couple of reasons but most of all, it will save you a lot of time further down the line. It will also help you to make sense of your website and make sure you are offering people the information you need.
Your website should be a hub of information for your users, not only about your products and services, but also your industry at large. If you are able to position yourself as an industry authority, you are much more likely to get return visitors and in the long term more business.
You should always be aiming to drive your users through a specific journey on your website that allows them to get to their required destination as quickly as possible. If it is too difficult to navigate or there is too much information that is poorly structured, then people will leave to find their information elsewhere.
Here are my top tips for making sure your website works for your customer:
Your website should have a clear hierarchy. The most important stuff at the front and the less important/more detailed bits further in. So your homepage should give an overview of what you do and why you do it better than everyone else as well as providing people with clear direction on where they should go next e.g. if your aim is to get people to get in touch then offer them a way to do that as soon as possible. If you want people to buy products, make sure your most popular products are on the homepage and it’s easy to access the others.
Just remember, the further down the page information appears the less likely it is that a user will see it. The more clicks they have to perform to get to a piece of information, the more likely they are to leave your site. There are of course exceptions to these rules, especially if you are clever with your design and content and drive people to scroll or click.
Your inner pages i.e. any page that isn’t your homepage, should contain more detailed information. This is where you can talk more specifically about your products and services as well as talking more in depth about you or your company. Remember, the further a user goes into your site, the more information they are likely to want.
Think about what you want your inner pages to be and what information you want them to contain.
Once you know what all of your pages are, it’s time to create a sitemap. This is a basic visual representation of the pages on your site and how they connect to each other. Draw a rectangle for each page and put the name of the page in each rectangle. Then connect pages that link together using lines. You should have something that looks similar to the below.
Plan your content. For each of the pages you have decided you need, it’s probably worth looking at what is actually going to be on the page. Writes some content for each of the pages. Try to segment it into readable sections with relevant headings for each page. This will help to make sure the content isn’t overwhelming as well as allowing the user to skim through to see what the page is detailing.
Think about images. It’s great to have amazing imagery to go with your content. It should be relevant to the content and where possible, not feel like generic stock photography that everyone has seen hundreds of times across multiple websites. You might be tempted to search for images on google but often, these images are not free for anyone to use and need to be licensed. There are paid options for imagery like Shutterstock but this can get expensive and often feels generic. Try looking at a site like unsplash.com where you can get license free stock imagery that is a little more unique. If you can, choose a similar style of images to use across your site so the look and feel remain the same offering your audience a consistent experience.
There are many other things to think about when you are building your site such as what fonts to use, your colour palette, the tone of voice and much more, however, the above should stand you in good stead. With the other elements like colour, fonts etc. the main thing is to create consistency.
For example, for the titles of pages, try to keep the same font and size across the board. With colours, choose two or three complementary colours to use for buttons, accents and design. Too many colours will be overwhelming and in essence look terrible.
Take inspiration from other sites that you like or you think work well. Big companies have significantly more money, time and data to figure these things out so use their expertise to make your site look as good as it can.
Finally, don’t rush the process. Never think of your site as a finished thing. If you see something not working quite as well as you thought or lots of people leaving the site without doing anything, it’s probably worth making some changes to the structure and seeing if they have a positive effect.
If you have any more questions about planning your website, pop them in the comments below.