8 Point Website Planning Checklist

February 5, 2021

Author: Angela Noble

Author: Angela Noble

When planning a website redesign or redevelopment project, it’s so important to be as prepared as possible. A little bit of planning and a strategic approach will go a long way in ensuring your team and your development team are aligned on the goals and expectations for the project.

Use our 8 point checklist to plan your approach to your website project.

1. Establish Your Goals

Setting expectations for what you want your new website to achieve is a key first step to planning your website project.

What is the primary action objective for visitors to your website?

  • Fill out a contact form
  • Call you
  • Purchase a product
  • Sign up for your mailing list
  • Read your content
  • Download a resource

Does your website need to connect to an ESP such as MailChimp to collect email subscribers, or perhaps a CRM such as Salesforce to collect lead information?

What is the most important KPI to determine the success of your new website?

  • More traffic
  • More conversions
  • More sales
  • Lower bounce rates
  • Higher time on page

You’ll need to be analysing and comparing this data from your original website’s performance. Ensure Google Analytics or a similar data tracking system is set up on both your old website and then carried over to your new one. 

2. Outline Your Target Audience

Understanding who your target audience is will help you create content for and design and build your website to more effectively reach that audience.

For example, should your content be highly technical or easier to understand? Should your design approach be novel and innovative for younger or more tech-savvy people? Or more prototypical and easy to use for less tech-savvy audiences?

Here are some questions to review in defining your audience:

  • What are the key demographic features (age, income, education, geography, etc.) of your customers?
  • What are the key values, attitudes and lifestyle features of your customers?
  • How do we answer their questions and solve their challenges?

Consider creating a user persona to really understand and then speak to and design for your target customer.

3. Create Your Content

From copy to images and videos, you’ll need to put together all the content your new website will need to include. This could even include a branding guidelines to ensure all your new website’s visual design is consistent with your other branded touchpoints.

More specifically, written content, or copy, is the primary need at this stage of planning. At Noble Intent Studio, we take a content-first approach to website design. “Design is communication. And you can’t communicate if you don’t know what you want to say.” As such, all of our websites are custom designed and built around our client’s unique content, not the other way around. 

This is in contrast to some web design philosophies where pre-made templates or themes are used to spin up a website very quickly. While this approach is efficient, it usually is not effective in communicating your unique messaging. If you can find a premade theme that aligns with your content types and goals, great! There are many themes created for certain industries, such as agencies, architecture firms, or ecommerce websites, that have prototypical features these types of businesses generally need (portfolios, blogs, product and checkout pages, and a few key pages like team and contact). However, if your business and content types are more unique, we’ve found that it’s much more effective to create custom websites built around your unique content and business goals.

We recommend creating a Google Doc to outline your content needs and begin writing. Google Docs is a great tool because your entire team can collaborate, make comments or changes, and see updates in real time without the hassle of sending updated versions back and forth via email. 

What do you want to say and how do you want to say it? Ensure your content is built to answer your customers’ biggest questions, solve their problems, and address their unique needs and interests.

Use SEO-Optimized Website Copy

If you’re at all concerned about ranking on Google, you’ll need to consider SEO, or search engine optimization, when writing your website copy. 

According to our content marketing partner Zettist, “SEO is the use of targeted keywords in your writing to get search engines to favor your website. It’s imperative that the text on your site uses the right keywords to encourage search engine algorithms to get as many eyes on your brand as possible.”

This can be accomplished through keyword research and then using those keywords within your copy.

4. Outline Site Pages and Features

Once you have your content put together, it’s time to think through what pages and features you will need in order to display that content. 

  • Estimated number of website pages (home, about, contact, services, etc.)
  • Will you have a blog?
  • Will there need to be forms, and if so where will that information go (emailed, collected in database, fed to CRM, etc.)
  • Will ecommerce features be needed and if so, have you thought through the checkout flow (email confirmations, etc.)
  • Are there any other integrations such as client portals, integrations with your CRM or other platforms?
  • Links to or integrations with social media platforms

This information, along with your completed content, will inform an eventual site map and information architecture that your web design and development team will likely create.

5. Decide On A Website Platform

There are many platforms to build a website on, each with their own features and advantages. If you have an existing website platform that your team is accustomed to using, it may be best to stick with that. On the other hand, if you have a platform you don’t like, a redevelopment is a great time to switch.

We usually recommend the WordPress platform for its ease of use for our clients to update and add content on their own. For ecommerce needs, both WordPress’ WooCommerce and Shopify are great options.

6. Choose A Hosting Platform

We often are asked what the best website hosting platform to use is. While there are some clear “NOs” (looking at you GoDaddy and Bluehost), there are so many options out there that it’s difficult to know what platform to choose from.

We typically recommend Dreamhost, Cloudways, and WPEngine for varying levels of needs and support. Learn more about the pricing and benefits of each here.

7. Pick A Domain Name

Choosing your domain name, sometimes called a website address or URL, is a really important component of a web design project. If you already have an existing website, this may be already in place. Even so, a website redevelopment would be a great time to switch URLs if your current one isn’t working for you.

For example, we recently started working with two clients who were using .net website addresses. These clients are multi-million dollar corporations, yet their .net URLs don’t reflect the high-end, established, and credible businesses they are. Over time, they simply outgrew their early choice to use a .net domain and/or a .com became available. 

There are many options out there, including .com, .net, .org, and now many other TLDs (top level domains). If you’re unsure which option is right for you, check out this G2 article on the topic. “Generally speaking, .com domains are the best choice for most companies and individuals looking to establish a web presence, simply due to the fact that they are far more common than the alternatives. A .net domain, in particular,  is ranked lower by Google than a .com… While this is an overall minor factor in terms of how your website directly ranks via an algorithm, the credibility that comes with a .com domain over a .net domain means there is more opportunity for link building and outreach, which is a crucial part to any pages’ ranking.”

We always recommend a .com TLD for a company and a .org for a non-profit or not-for-profit organization. There are some fun ones out there now, for example .design or .apartments, however most people don’t understand this and will usually append a .com on the end in confusion. If you want to secure a unique TLD for future use when they become more common, that is a great idea. We own a variety of URLs, including our primary domain nobleintentstudio.com but also sandiegoweb.design and a few other fun ones.

If you’re looking for a domain name, we recommend the website iwantmyname.com to start your domain search!

8. Plan Your Migration

If you have an existing website, it’s very important you plan to migrate your existing content and urls to your new structure. This is most important to retain any SEO you have gained over the time your old website has been in place. 

Don’t just delete your old website and make a new one! Even if you’re not excited about your existing website, or even embarrassed by it, deleting it before you have a new one and without migrating the content and redirecting your old URLs to your new ones will be highly detrimental to your search ranking.

Your development team should map your existing urls to your new url structure and put in redirects to ensure there will be minimal 404 errors when your old site turns into your new site.