If you began as a small business, you might have been very proud of your first website or your initial rebrand. But as your company grows, it’s easy to ignore that your once fantastic website is now outdated.
Many companies haphazardly add a web page here or revamp a menu, resulting in a mish-mashed website structure. Unfortunately, these sites lack a simple navigation method and a cohesive image that appeals to customers. Of course, things change quickly, and sometimes you’ll just want to make a small change. But good web design is always intentional. This is why creating a brand-new website, one that has a planned design process, can be so valuable. After all, you want your website to pop up at the top of all search engines and offer a great user journey.
Let’s look at the key steps to beginning the new web page design process, including brainstorming, planning, and mapping. You’ll need these done before anyone opens up a design program or inputs any code.
Modernizing Your Website: An Investment in User Experience
A complete website redesign can be expensive and extensive, but make no mistake: it’s one of the best investments you can make in your business. While some businesses still rely on in-person first impressions, many company websites are the front foyer of their business. These websites are the first thing clients or customers ever see.
After that first impression, the website can be an eCommerce marketplace where you display products and services in their best light. The website can be a sales-team tool for drawing in a significant percentage of your interested leads. The site should offer essential customer education that helps shoppers realize your fundamental differences and how best to use your products.
For this reason, every single click counts when a prospective customer arrives on the website. However, it’s important to note that users have become less patient with website dysfunction. They are apt to simply find a competitor if they cannot easily navigate your site and find what they want. The opposite, however, is also true: you can drive significant business revenue with a functional layout and modern, intuitive principles of web design.
A great website removes barriers and ushers your target through the user experience with just a few clicks. Ideally, delivering a sale and a satisfied repeat customer over time! However, without serious care and consideration, a website can repeat past mistakes or leave customers confused in the user journey. Careful mapping during the website planning process can help you retain these customers.
Design Starts With Architecture, Not Layout
Mapping your website design before coding and creating actual design elements helps your team stay focused on what matters to the company. A site map is, at its heart, an understanding of page layout on your website and how they are nested, menued, and interlinked. Compare your new visual sitemap to your existing site during this process.
Plan the site mapping process out extensively before picking fonts and adding graphics. This gives you the rationale behind the website, making the rest of the design process more attuned to your needs.
Begin by Evaluating Your Current Site: SWOT Analysis
No matter how outdated, your current website is the first place you’ll turn when mapping out your new site design. A good website planning method evaluates using the acronym SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- What is your current website doing well, or what are your strengths? Don’t skip this step even if you dislike most of your current design. Your core customer base can provide insight into what works well for them. Even if you want to start completely fresh, remember you want your loyal base to be part of this website revamp.
- What are the weaknesses of the current website? Focus on overall impressions like “feels outdated” or “doesn’t reflect our target market’s interests.” Note detailed functionality issues: do you have broken links, outdated information, or unnecessary pages?
- What could your final site potentially do for your clients that your current site doesn’t? Think about any customer requests, like a live chat feature or other functionality that wasn’t included before.
- Finally, note threats: what could happen to the company or your prospects if you don’t effectively redesign soon? Consequences that you want to avoid can be a major driver of the design process.
You’ll use this information to structure the new site maps and determine what will be removed or altered.
What Do You Want Your Site to Do?
The opportunities and threats analysis is the start of a bigger discussion about the site goals of the site maps. Your website will look very different with each of these three goals and objectives, for instance:
- Be at the top of the search rankings for informative articles on your company’s topic, establishing your expertise.
- Offer a comprehensive source of product usage information along with easy-to-use customer service portals and outreach options.
- Offer an easy-to-navigate and engaging eStore with a streamlined, functional checkout process.
Most websites won’t do all of those equally, and you’ll have finite resources to design this website. You need to prioritize the aspects you want to include in your visual sitemap. Develop a plan for any secondary priorities. Try imagining how a customer will interact with the new website and what you want their experience to be. What will they click first, what will they read, and how will the experience feel? How can you use the design to create an enjoyable, easy experience that customers move through without resistance or frustration? The answers to these questions will help your team create the optimal visual sitemap.
Scope Out the Competition to Refine Your Goals
While you should establish goals on your own, you should know what standards are in play in your industry and in adjacent non-competitor agencies that are effectively reaching your target market. Work with your in-house team and a marketing agency to pull features of layout, design, content structure, and customer journey from other websites that could be useful in creating your site maps. How do competitor website pages appear on various search engines? Which of your customers are they drawing in?
Your design will need to have its own unique flair, but there’s no reason not to understand what you’re competing against in the online marketplace. Return to these competitors’ sites as you move into the nitty-gritty of design later on in the process, but reviewing other sites at this juncture can be inspirational for your structure and site maps.
Beginning the Site’s Structure Plan
Sketching out your website’s site map can look a lot like a flow chart, with each bubble connected to a wireframe that outlines all the elements you want on that page. The advantage of starting with a site map and wireframe pages is that, at this point, it’s very easy to reorganize the individual pages and adjust them to create natural “flows” through the site.
You’ll be asking yourself which pages you want, including home pages, product pages, services you offer, company history pages, and even blogs or resource center pages. You’ll also want to know how your design will encourage customers through the website: Does each blog post prominently feature the product marketplace, or does your home page focus on connecting with a sales team member directly?
As you lay out where each page fits, you may be tempted to include everything from your current website. Remember, this isn’t essential! Less is often more on a website, so don’t be afraid to cut things and simplify the journey through the site. Customers may be more engaged and less confused as a result.
Work With Designers, Engineers, and Content Specialists
Whether in-house or with your chosen website design team, you’ll want to take any site map plans to the designer, engineer, and content specialist, who may have insights that could refine your plan. These professionals will have sitemap tools to refine website navigation, enhance website structure, and overall create a better website sitemap.
A designer will know if a planned design element will be jarring or won’t flow with how people normally use websites and help you discover harmonious, brand-specific ways to accomplish ideas you haven’t fully fleshed out.
The engineer will have suggestions related to the backend that can help ensure your website works well and is designed in a way that won’t lead to broken features down the road or issues with accessibility.
A content specialist can help you manage your expectations for what a page’s content can do for you and your customers and ensure you’re not repeating yourself or leaving out key messaging. They can also help ensure that search engines ‘like’ and can easily categorize your content, also known as search engine optimization.
Ready to Get Started? Bring Your Ideas to a Great Team!
The process of getting a new website should let your creative juices flow and make sure you’re reflecting your team’s real personality and goals. If you are still struggling with mapping out a website design that improves your site, reach out today for help. An experienced marketing team can really make a difference even in the early stages of website design!