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7 min read Planning a website - creating a successful web experience

Planning a website – A guide to creating a successful web experience

Key Takeaways

  • The first things to do when planning a website are to establish brand values, define company goals and research your audience.
  • Ask yourself what your website’s function will be. Your answers will determine the whole website-building process and the marketing strategy that follows.
  • You’ll need to plan the different sections of your website, its written content, and its web design.

Plan­ning is an essen­tial step in the cre­ation of a suc­cess­ful web­site. The ben­e­fits of plan­ning a web­site are mul­ti­ple, and with­out detailed plan­ning, your project will prob­a­bly cost more, take more time to fin­ish, and will nev­er be as suc­cess­ful as with a com­pre­hen­sive plan. Learn best prac­tices of how to plan a suc­cess­ful web­site from start to finish.

Planning a website from start to finish

When plan­ning a web­site, there are sev­er­al things you need to take into consideration:

Brand values

What does your brand stand for, what is your tone of voice, which emo­tions you’d like peo­ple to expe­ri­ence when think­ing about and engag­ing with your brand?

Know­ing your brand val­ues will help you with the over­all design, and con­vey­ing the right mes­sage to your web­site visitors.

Website visitors needs

You should deter­mine who your web­site vis­i­tors are, and what will they be look­ing for. How do they like to con­sume the con­tent; do they like to read or watch videos? Which needs do you have to ful­fil to accom­plish the goals you have?

Under­stand­ing your vis­i­tors’ inter­ests and needs will allow you to pro­vide them with valu­able infor­ma­tion and tai­lor their expe­ri­ence to help them move a step fur­ther in their cus­tomer journey.

Website goals

In the plan­ning phase, you need to deter­mine what your pri­ma­ry web­site goal is. Is it to build brand aware­ness, gen­er­ate leads and boost sales, improve work­flow and reduce costs, enhance cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, etc.

Your web­site can have more than one goal but know­ing your pri­ma­ry goal will help you get the most out of your offering.

Website and marketing strategy

Even if your busi­ness does not con­clude sales online, more and more con­sumers engage with brands online before mak­ing a final purchase.

Your web­site there­fore needs to be aligned with your over­all mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, and act as one of the main tools in your mar­ket­ing toolbox.

Your website visitors and your target audience

Dif­fer­ent peo­ple with dif­fer­ent goals in mind will be vis­it­ing your web­site. One of the biggest mis­takes is try­ing to please every­one. Even if that would be pos­si­ble, not every­one vis­it­ing your web­site needs your prod­ucts and ser­vices. Your focus is not to appeal to every­one but your exist­ing and poten­tial customers.

To ful­fil the expec­ta­tions of your cus­tomers you need to know:

  • demo­graph­ic and geo­graph­ic infor­ma­tion such as gen­der, eth­nic­i­ty, income, qual­i­fi­ca­tions, mar­i­tal sta­tus, where your cus­tomers are located
  • psy­cho­graph­ic infor­ma­tion, with the focus on con­sumer behav­iour, lifestyle, and self-concept
  • a per­son­’s moti­va­tion and the pur­chase process decision

Based on infor­ma­tion gath­ered, you can cre­ate sev­er­al dif­fer­ent buy­ing per­sonas or cus­tomer avatars, and tai­lor the user expe­ri­ence by hav­ing your tar­get audi­ence in mind.

Goals and objectives

Hav­ing mul­ti­ple goals and objec­tives often means you will have to care­ful­ly plan dif­fer­ent sec­tions of your web­site that con­tain spe­cif­ic con­tent types.

If one of your goals is improv­ing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, you will want to pay atten­tion to FAQs and guides, or even have a ded­i­cat­ed self-help cen­tre. On the oth­er hand, if your goal is sell­ing dig­i­tal or phys­i­cal prod­ucts, you will need an e‑commerce store with cart func­tion­al­i­ty, and to inte­grate a sim­ple and effec­tive pay­ment system.

Website sections and content types

Based on your goals and cus­tomer needs, your web­site will con­tain dif­fer­ent sec­tions with a vari­ety of con­tent that you need to plan.

Website sections

Here is an exam­ple of dif­fer­ent web­site sections:

  • Land­ing pages
  • Blogs
  • E‑commerce prod­ucts
  • Port­fo­lio items
  • FAQs and guides
  • Help cen­ters
  • Forums
  • Com­ments
  • Forms
  • Event cal­en­dars
  • Image gal­leries
  • RSS feeds
  • Search field and result pages

Website content

Start­ing with con­tent is the best way to design your web­site based on the your cho­sen mes­sage, rather than try­ing to fit con­tent into a pre-deter­mined design.

Your web­site con­tent should con­sist not only of plain text but also mul­ti­me­dia ele­ments. Hav­ing a mix of plain text and var­ied mul­ti­me­dia will help grab a user’s atten­tion and keep them inter­est­ed for longer.

Dif­fer­ent vis­i­tors con­sume con­tent dif­fer­ent­ly. Some like to read long arti­cles while oth­ers will scan the head­lines and take a glimpse at images. Oth­ers will pre­fer to watch videos or study infographics.

  • Plain text
  • PDF doc­u­ments
  • Down­load­able dig­i­tal content
  • Pho­tos
  • Graph­ic elements
  • Adver­tis­ing banners
  • Icons
  • Audio and video files
  • Con­tent feeds

Website structure

Your web­site struc­ture needs to be log­i­cal, well-defined, and easy to nav­i­gate. With­out a struc­ture, your web­site would be a ran­dom col­lec­tion of dif­fer­ent sec­tions and con­tent types.

Whether you decide to go with hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal nav­i­ga­tion, the main pre­rog­a­tive is for it to be intu­itive. First-time vis­i­tors should have no prob­lems under­stand­ing where your con­tent is.

Nav­i­ga­tion should reflect your web­site struc­ture and a buy­er’s typ­i­cal behav­iour. For exam­ple, if the FAQ is one of the most vis­it­ed sec­tions on the web­site, it should be acces­si­ble through the main navigation.

Ide­al­ly, every sec­tion on the web­site should be acces­si­ble with no more than two clicks from any­where you are.


The home­page is the most vis­it­ed, and there­fore the most impor­tant page on your whole website.

A home­page has three main tasks:

  1. Makes the pur­pose of your web­site and your busi­ness clear
    When land­ing on the home­page, vis­i­tors should under­stand with­in sec­onds, who you are and what you do. A good tagline should com­mu­ni­cate your USP and sum­marise what your com­pa­ny does in one sentence.
  2. Helps users find what they are look­ing for
    Your home­page should offer start­ing points to dif­fer­ent sec­tions of your web­site. It should be sim­ple to choose whether they want to fur­ther explore dif­fer­ent ser­vices or just read the lat­est com­pa­ny updates.
    A search bar should be promi­nent in the web­site head­er, espe­cial­ly on larg­er web­sites. The pri­ma­ry com­pa­ny infor­ma­tion should be grouped in one of the foot­er columns.
  3. Reveals the web­site content
    Whether it’s a prod­uct, port­fo­lio item, or the blog post you want users to find, your home­page should fea­ture your most impor­tant content.

Homepage design – “Above the fold”

The area “Above the fold” is what your vis­i­tors see when the page loads for the first time, with­out any scrolling and click­ing. This is the most valu­able real estate on the whole web­site, and you should treat it as such.

The con­tent above the fold should grab your vis­i­tors’ atten­tion the moment they land on your site. Here, you should place the con­tent that is cru­cial to achiev­ing your pri­ma­ry goal.

Keep in mind that the pre­cise loca­tion of the fold is not the same on every mon­i­tor. You can check your web­site ana­lyt­ics for the most com­mon mon­i­tor and brows­er com­bi­na­tions, and based on the facts deter­mine the size of your above the fold area.


Suc­cess­ful web­sites have a promi­nent call-to-action on their pages. With­out a call-to-action, vis­i­tors don’t know what they are sup­posed to do and will leave the web­site with­out ful­fill­ing your goals.


In the last few years, home­page slid­ers have become very pop­u­lar among web­site design­ers. How­ev­er, they are not always the best choice as there are sev­er­al down­sides to using them:

  • slid­ers slow down page load­ing, neg­a­tive­ly impact­ing SEO and low­er­ing con­ver­sion rates
  • they take up most of the above the fold space that can be used for more valu­able content
  • vis­i­tors often skip them com­plete­ly with­out pay­ing atten­tion to their content
  • some­times slid­ers do not tran­si­tion well to mobile

While slid­ers are not the best choice for every web­site, they can be very use­ful in some cas­es. The deci­sion to use or not to use a slid­er should be made by analysing your tar­get audi­ence, what they are look­ing for, and if a slid­er can help them reach their goal.

If a slid­er tells a sto­ry that moves cus­tomers a step for­ward in the cus­tomer jour­ney, and enhances trust, it can be a good deci­sion to use one. How­ev­er, if there is no clear idea behind the slid­er, and it’s sim­ply used because it looks good, it will only cre­ate a dis­trac­tion and neg­a­tive­ly impact conversions.

Some exam­ples of prop­er slid­ers use:

  • prod­uct tours for com­plex prod­ucts – instead of over­whelm­ing a vis­i­tor with a lot of infor­ma­tion, a visu­al prod­uct tour can explain the use of a prod­uct in an eas­i­ly digestible series of steps
  • make impor­tant con­tent stand out – news and oth­er web­sites that are reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed can dis­play new con­tent in a slid­er, so users know at a glance what’s new and worth reading
  • e‑commerce options showcase
  • pho­to galleries
  • online port­fo­lios

Homepage design – “Below the fold”

“Below the fold” describes the con­tent a user must scroll to see. Although below the fold con­tent has decreased vis­i­bil­i­ty, it’s still immense­ly impor­tant to engaged users.

You should use this space to present valu­able con­tent on the home­page that will help you achieve your sec­ondary goals.

The pur­pose of a sitemap is to out­line the entire web­site struc­ture and nav­i­ga­tion scheme. Cre­at­ing a sitemap in the ear­ly phase of plan­ning your web­site will help you under­stand all the required con­tent and the project scope.

A sitemap can be a sim­ple tex­tu­al out­line with bul­let­ed lists and inden­ta­tions that indi­cate the web­site struc­ture and hierarchy.



More advanced sitemaps are built and struc­tured like a flow chart. They are visu­al­ly more appeal­ing, and by look­ing at them you can get an over­all idea about the web­site struc­ture with­in seconds.

Besides in the “plan­ning a web­site” phase, hav­ing a sitemap will ben­e­fit your SEO and the user expe­ri­ence. Sitemaps help vis­i­tors nav­i­gate your web­site and search engine bots in improv­ing crawling.


Plan­ning a web­site helps you ensure you don’t miss any steps in build­ing your final offer­ing. Plan­ning saves time and mon­ey, but most impor­tant­ly it results in a beau­ti­ful and func­tion­al web­site that ful­fils your cus­tomers’ needs, aligned with your busi­ness goals. How­ev­er, a web­site isn’t a one time project. Once you’ve built a suc­cess­ful web­site, you need to main­tain it reg­u­lar­ly to pre­vent issues, and iden­ti­fy areas for improvement.

Find out more about pur­ple­tools main­te­nance plans.

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