Do you want to build your website the wrong way or the right way?
If you want to build your site the right way, there is more involved than just choosing a nice template, selecting your hosting company, and hitting publish. Although web content management systems (WMCS), like WordPress, do a great job providing resources that make it easier to get your site up and running, pre-planning should still be an essential part of your site creation process.
Below are five things you can do to successfully plan your website prior to setting it up in WordPress.
What do you want to use your site for?
Think about the purpose of your new site. Are you needing a website to market your business? Is this a hobby site? Are you looking to sell products online and need to set up an ecommerce site to accept payments, process orders, and track inventory? Maybe you just want to start blogging.
Each of these types of sites require different content and capabilities so it’s important to have a grasp on the purpose of your site first. For example, blogs are typically very straightforward to set up and manage. Ecommerce sites, on the other hand, can involve a high level of complexity if you have several products to manage and want to accept payments online.
What features do you want your site to include? Which ones do you need?
Once you have figured out what type of site you want to build, it’s time to build a wishlist of features your site needs. Are you looking to open your own hair salon? Then a WordPress plugin that gives your customers the ability to book appointments on your website is probably a good idea.
As a blogger, you need a way for readers to be able to subscribe to your blog feed so when you do a new post, they receive the content in an email. This is an important way to grow your readership.
WordPress offers thousands of different plugins (52,867 to be exact!) that, when added, can provide these different specific functions. Because there are so many to choose from, decide what features you need on your site. Then do some research on the different WordPress plugins available for each of these specific functions. There might be five different plugins to choose from that say they do the same thing. Be sure to read a bit more about the ones that catch your attention as one might serve your purpose better than the others.
Take an ecommerce site for example. When you search for an ecommerce plugin on the WordPress plugin site, a few different options show up in your search results. Some plugins might be better suited for your site if you want to sell hundreds or even thousands of products online. Other plugins may be more ideal for a smaller business with a max inventory of 10 items. Not only do you want to make sure the plugin features fit your needs, you want to also make sure the price is within your website development budget.
What do you want your site to look like?
This is an important part of your planning process, because the appearance of your website is an important part of branding, especially if you are building a site for a business. WordPress has thousands of pre-designed templates you can choose from. This is great because some of the heavy lifting is done for you design-wise. A template will give you a format to start with. You can then customize the site colors and fonts to reflect your own brand and style.
If you are a business, a great place to start when choosing site colors and fonts is to align these to the look and feel of your company logo. This will create consistency throughout your pages and is a nice subtle way to convey your brand. It also makes your website look more professional.
What structure does your site need?
Now that you have solidified the high-level details of your website, it’s time to start mapping out your website structure. This means deciding what your main menu items should be, and what submenu items you need beneath each main menu item. This is how your site visitors will navigate your site so keep this in mind. You want to create navigation that makes a great user experience. Mapping also makes your site creation process easier because you know exactly where to go in WordPress to entire your different items.
Here’s how to map your site:
- Write down each of your main menu items across the top of the page.
- Decide what your submenu items should be. Think of these items as the items that would show up in a dropdown menu when you hover on a main menu item.
- Decide what content you want on your homepage and where you want it positioned. I recommend putting your most attention grabbing content right below your menu so people immediately see it when they first go to your site. For a business site, some examples might include a call to action or an announcement like a promotion you are running. For a hobby website, if you are a photographer, you might add a slideshow with your newest photos. Make this content engaging!
Gather your files and write your content before entering it in WordPress
This step can save you time in your building process. At the very least, decide the gist of the content you want to include on each of your webpages. Think about what the theme of each page needs to be based on your menu category. If you want to be super organized, you can write out your content, then copy and paste it into your WordPress page. When it comes to content, keep it short and engaging. A good rule of thumb for text blocks, or paragraphs of web text, is between 40 and 55 characters per line or about 8 to 11 words. Jotting down your content can give you an idea of where to insert your content in the template you have chosen.
Also, gather your files you want to use on your site, whether it be photos or documents like PDFs, into one folder on your computer. This will make uploading the files to your site much faster since you already have your files all in one place.
I hope you found these website planning tips useful. A little planning ahead of time can make the actual site building process a more fun experience AND provide you with a site that looks more cohesive, professional and well-thought out.
Happy site building!
Susie Yuill is a freelance copywriter and marketing strategy consultant, specializing in creating product marketing strategy & content that helps technology companies grow product sales and engagement. To learn more about Susie, visit her website at www.stellartechmarketing.