Imagine you’ve made the exciting decision to build a new extension to your home. The first thing you do is meet with an architect. Before they start putting any plans together, they will ask many questions about you and your family. What problems do you currently have that the extra space will resolve? Who are the family members? What are their ages and hobbies? Do you have pets? How do you envisage using and living in this new space?

At this early stage, you won’t be talking with the architect about colour schemes and curtains. You don’t yet know how many windows you’ll have or what size they’ll be! However, it’s normal to have a vivid image of what the new extension will look like when complete.

It’s exactly the same when you start a new website project.

It is understandable to start the conversation with your website project manager, focusing on the design of the site. In reality, the design should be taken care of by your brand guidelines.

Just as with building an extension, the first conversation should be about the structure of the website and the messages it needs to deliver.

A website can have a great ‘look and feel’, but if the headline messages don’t resonate with the visitors you want to attract and they can’t find the information they need, your new website won’t deliver.

To avoid falling into this trap, there are some things you MUST do before starting to create your website.

If you’ve written a website brief, this information will be included here, but even so, a good web development company will guide you through this pre-design information.

4 steps to complete before the website design phase

1. Be clear about what your business stands for as this should permeate throughout the website

If you have brand guidelines and a brand book, this information will largely be within these documents.

2. Who are your ideal customers?

This could be different from your current customers.

You may be developing a new website to attract the types of customers you’d like in the future.

Just like the person in the office that dresses for the job they want, not for the job they have. They always get noticed and are the obvious choice for the promotion!

3. What are the problems that your ideal customers have?

What reassurances do they need from you, to make the choice easier for them?

Next, create the headlines and messages that resonate with them. Provide evidence that you’ll not only resolve their problems, you’ll do it in such a way that they’ll be extremely happy they chose you.

4. Website structure

Once you have worked out what content they need, you can prioritise where on the journey within your website they see it. Not everything can be shown on the homepage. That would be overload.

Now we can start on the design!

There are four main elements to a website; content & structure, design, development, and testing.

Only once you’ve captured the information in the 4 content and planning steps, should you embark on the design.

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