Creating a new website? Here’s how to prepare and plan

Thinking of launching a new website in the coming months? 

Whether you’re updating an existing website or building one from scratch, there are a few steps you should take before reaching out to a web designer or developer in order for the process to flow smoothly and efficiently. 

Often I have people come to me who are looking for a new website to be built, essentially overnight, with no work or input from them. 

But unfortunately, there’s nothing magical about website creation. 

While I love doing it, and it can be a fun process when executed with proper timelines, client direction, and communication – it also requires a lot of planning! 

Your web designer and developer likely aren’t going to be an expert in your field. They’re an expert in theirs. 

So, you need to be actively involved in the website planning and creation process. 

Not with the technical aspects that might give you a headache, but at least with providing information about your business, delivering assets like logos and colour schemes, sending over photos and testimonials, and sharing about your target audience, your USP (unique selling proposition) and your business and marketing goals. 

Here are a few things you need to consider before diving into the website design process. 

Get clear on your target audience 

If you’ve been in business for any period of time, someone in the marketing world has probably told you that you need to “find your niche,” create an “ideal client avatar,” determine your “ideal client” or something else along those lines that essentially meant developing a deeper understanding of your customer. 

While it might seem frustrating to limit yourself to an “ideal customer” when you want to serve everyone, in marketing if you try to speak to everyone you’ll end up speaking to no one.

Casting a wide net doesn’t bode well for connecting with your audience, driving traffic, or ranking in search engines. Instead, it most often results in weak messaging, misaligned visitors, and confusion across the board. 

You likely entered into business to solve a specific problem, and in order to reach the people who struggle with that problem, you need to use copywriting and website design to appeal to them. 

So get clear: who is your ideal customer? 

Consider their age, location, occupation, gender, hobbies and interests, daily life, who they follow online, and how they show up online themselves.

What websites do they frequent? What information and answers are they looking for? How will they utilize your website? What do their online habits look like? 

If you’re unsure of these answers, don’t hesitate to do some research, interviewing your audience or surveying past clients or customers to gather data. 

If the main goal of your website is to reach prospective clients, your website design needs to appeal to them.  

What goals do you have for your website?

Speaking of goals, what is the purpose behind this website build? Why do you need a website in the first place? If you currently have a website, what is and isn’t working on it?

Getting clear on your reasoning behind creating or updating a website can provide critical data for the website’s layout and design. 

Most websites provide a central hub for your brand – giving you the opportunity to share more in-depth information about you and your company’s history, mission, and offers so that people can connect with and learn from you further. 

However, you likely have other goals as well: 

  • Are you hoping to grow your email list? Sell products directly online? Have people book consultation calls? 
  • Are you looking to provide expertise to potential customers or other professionals in your field? 
  • Do you need additional functionality like event calendars, photo galleries, or log-in hubs so clients or staff can explore additional resources within your site?

You’ll likely want to structure your website around a common goal or two so that your content and calls-to-action are clear and streamlined.

While a web designer can support you with your site layout, having these goals in mind beforehand can provide a good framework to get started. 

Consider writing down the pages you’d like on your site and the information that is to go on them. For example, 

  • Your business address and contact information 
  • Hours of operation 
  • FAQ page questions and answers 
  • Testimonials 
  • Pricing 
  • An about page 
  • Shop or services page 
  • Portfolio items or examples of past work 

Also, make note of any of the functional items we mentioned that you might need to serve your clients: 

  • Search bar 
  • Login portal
  • Event calendars
  • Booking links/software 
  • Email forms 
  • Contact forms 

All of this is information that will be supportive for your web designer. 

Determine and be able to articulate your USP

Your unique selling proposition outlines what sets you apart from your competition. Every business is unique, and it’s important to hone in on what makes you different so you can stand out. 

Consider researching other business websites in your industry to begin compiling a list of what you do and don’t like about how they’ve laid things out, the information they’ve provided visitors, and their use of language and design.

Your USP, combined with your understanding of your ideal client, can support you in coming up with a website framework and design that makes sense for your company. 

While there is always room for fluctuation as you move further into the website design process, it’s helpful to have an understanding of the general vision you have for your site:

  • Fonts 
  • Photography 
  • Page layout 
  • Colour palette
  • Use of spacing and headings
  • Navigation style (and items)

Compiling websites you like as inspiration can be helpful for you and your web designer. 

Gather your assets and logins (a handy checklist)

At this point, you should have a good understanding of what you want your website to look and feel like. 

Now it’s time to gather assets and logins in a shareable format for your web designer. 

Here’s a checklist of some items you might want to compile if you have them: 

  • Social media account links 
  • Testimonials 
  • Lead magnets 
  • Email automation service login information (if you use email automation) 
  • Domain login information (if you currently have a domain) 
  • Hosting information (if you currently have a website)
  • Branding guidelines or branding information (fonts and colour palettes) 
  • Information on your services
  • Information to be included on your About page 
  • Photos 
  • Logos 
  • Codes to add Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel or other tracking tools 
  • Privacy policy information 
  • Shipping or return policies 
  • Terms and conditions 

This is in addition to being able to articulate your goals, information about your ideal clients, and your USP!

Consider budget and timeline 

Having an understanding of your budget and the ideal timeline for your site build is essential. 

Be sure to remain realistic! Websites can involve a lot of back-and-forth communication, revisions, and technical elements which can prolong the process. 

While all of this upfront work we’re walking you through will help immensely, it’s also very normal for a website to take a few weeks or months to come together (especially if your website is quite large). 

Many developers are also booked out a month or two in advance, which you’ll need to factor into your timeline. 

Beyond the actual site build, it’s also important to note that it takes time (generally a few months) to rank in Google search. An ongoing focus on SEO and traffic building will support this process. 

In terms of budget, there are designers and developers at all levels. Ensure though, that you’re choosing someone who can meet all of your criteria in terms of site functionality and design. 

Look beyond the website build 

Website management goes beyond the initial build! You also need to consider questions like:

  • Who will maintain the website going forward? 
  • How will you keep it current with new content? 
  • How are you going to drive traffic to your website? What other marketing elements and strategies do you have in place? 

Having an understanding of your plan for ongoing website maintenance and management can help you to find a web designer and developer who meets your needs. 

For example, if you want someone to manage it after the fact, consider investing in a designer who offers ongoing maintenance as part of their package. 

If you want to be the one to manage it, ensure the web designer doesn’t have a contract stating that they’ll charge you for ongoing upkeep. You’ll also want to confirm the site is being built on a platform that you’re comfortable using (or can easily be trained on). 

Put your website plan into action 

I know this might seem like a lot of work upfront, but all of it will support you and your web designer when it comes time to actually build your website. 

Taking this time to plan and prepare now, will save you time and money down the road. 

Now, it’s time to move forward in finding a web designer to work with so you can put this plan into action! 

I’d love to help you in that process when you’re ready. Book a free consultation call with me here to learn more.