Planning a Website Design

Your website’s goals should also be clear and defined before you start planning it.

A well-structured goal should have the following characteristics:

Specific – They should be clear. An example would be “I want to get 100 unique visitors per day to my website.”

Measurable – The goals should be quantifiable which means you can chart your progress. SMART goals are quantitative rather than qualitative.  A qualitative goal like “I want my customers to feel good when they come to my site” just won’t cut it.

Actionable – An actionable goal is one where you can take action in quantifiable ways to make steps towards its achievement.

Realistic – Your goals need to be realistic and attainable.   When a goal is realistic and attainable you will be able to see progress as it happens, even if it’s happening slower than you like.

Timely or Time-bound – Have a deadline.  Without deadlines, hours turn to days, days turn to weeks and weeks turn to years.  Before you know it you are out of time. Set a deadline and put it on your calendar.

As you develop a website plan, your clear objectives should be understood by everyone involved with the project. Without clear and actionable objectives no measurement can take place and no one is really sure if there is any progress or return on investment.

Some clear and specific goals might include the following:

  • Increase sales of X product online by 20% over the next month.
  • Increase awareness of Y product online to encourage 30% more in-store purchases over the next quarter.
  • Add 1500 new subscribers to the newsletter over the next year.
  • Connect with 10 people per week on Facebook.
  • Increase brand loyalty on social media by encouraging fans to give at least 1 message of positive feedback per day.

The following are examples of worthy goals to think about while designing your website:


Educating your customers

A well-developed site objective will address whatever stage the prospect is at in the sales process. For instance, visitors simply looking for information, will be able to have their questions answered and will be able to get a sense of the personality of the business.

Providing excellent information about your products and services and their benefits will go a long way to communicating your company’s helpful spirit.   People are naturally drawn to friendly, helpful organizations. It also goes a long way to pre-educating clients so the work of your sales staff becomes easier. Educating clients can be a great tool in differentiating you from your competitors and lowering sales resistance.  If you have a product that is truly unparalleled in your market the clear communication of that uniqueness is absolutely essential.

If there is nothing that distinguishes you from your competitors you need to do something about that right away.

Generate new leads from search engine traffic

There is nothing finer in Internet Marketing than free traffic attracted to a web site by using excellent content.  As Google indexes your site it will naturally refer interested eyeballs to your site. A client who is attracted to you and who initiates the call will require much less persuasion to buy.

A word of caution about search engine traffic: If you are starting a new website you can expect to wait between six and 12 months before you really start seeing some results from natural search engine traffic.  Google tends to favor older more established websites regardless of the quality.

Building Credibility

Building credibility is absolutely essential.   Marketing is not the place for modesty. If you have done great work for your customers, you owe it to your visitors to demonstrate that with text and video testimonials.  

Demonstrating your expertise

Talk about what you do and how you do it. Talk about why you have selected the specific products that you sell to your customers. Talk about your uniqueness. Talk about the years of experience possessed by you and your staff.  

When asked to comment on competitors stealing his ideas, Ray Kroc retorted that his company (McDonald’s) could invent faster than his competitors could steal.  If you and your company are truly innovative, your competitors should have a tough time catching up with you. Don’t let your paranoia about having your ideas stolen prevent you from clearly communicating your expertise to your customers.

Getting more orders and selling more Products

Turning your traffic into revenue is the ultimate goal of any website. Currently analyzing your Google analytics and the flow of traffic through your website will help you to further fine-tune the buying experience and ultimately lead to new revenue.  Google analytics has gone a long way to provide free tools that e-commerce store owners can use to identify bottlenecks in their website usability.


Planning Your Sites Structure & Pages

Web designers don’t always have to “plan” a website.  Many websites have a kind of “manifest destiny” about their structure.  After all, how much planning does a 5-page site take? If you plan to build something more sophisticated (20 or more pages) you will want to break out the Sharpies and the construction paper!

Start with identifying the parts of your site that are typical and necessary.  Check out the next section of this book regarding page ideas that you might have missed in your brainstorming.   

List the categories of service that your company provides. Perhaps you can organize your material around key solutions you offer.  Either on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard you can quickly create a flow chart to show the pages and how they relate to one another.  One of my clients recently submitted a large piece of bristol board with their notes on it. Whatever communicates your ideas the clearest – it does not need to be high-tech.  

I’m a big fan of thinking with 3×5 cards, like the kind we used to give speeches from in grade school.  Try writing the page names on the front of each one and writing notes on the back.


Wireframes simply communicate rough layout concepts for your site.  The simplest sites will have the same layout for every page. A more complicated page might have a different layout for the front page only.  A good wireframe will establish a clear hierarchy of information. Your layout should try to group the most important items and call-to-action type elements in the upper left-hand side of the page where eye movement starts when a page is read.  

Here’s an example of a typical wireframe.  Artistry is not required.

Since wireframes are a simplified representation of your site you can focus on the usability considerations instead of getting bogged down with font selection, colors, and other things that your designer should be thinking about.

Creating a wireframe document at the beginning of the process will save time, money, and headaches.  

Common Website Pages

Before you start thinking about what to write, it is important that you create a plan.  That way you won’t repeat yourself or forget vital information. Your plan will list the pages you wish to include on your website and outline their content.  Wondering what pages to include? Here is a list of the most common pages on successful websites and the reasons they should be included on your site:

Home Page (Main Index Page)

This is your introduction page and provides the first impression of your site to your most uninitiated visitors.  Remember that search engines will refer people into deeper parts of your site based on search terms but well over 50% of your traffic will land here first.  This is a great place to put a nice, general ‘Welcome’ video. Depending on how your homepage is structured, it can also contain current news items or your most recent blog posts.

Products / Services

This page can be organized in many different ways.   If you are selling a large number of products or services on your site you may ultimately want to create a separate page for each product or service.  This approach lets you volunteer as much data as you need in the product descriptions. When people are searching your site for product information, they want to know it NOW. They don’t want to wait until regular business hours

Contact Us

Place contact details in as conspicuous a place as possible. Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Create a special “Contact Us” page and also add this information at the bottom of each page. Details should include business name, physical address, mailing address, telephone, fax, and email address.  Your contact page is also a great place to put a contact form


Testimonials are essential when demonstrating your quality to someone who has just discovered you.   Make sure your testimonials are real and unscripted. If possible provide the contact details of the person who supplied you with the testimonial. Video testimonials are particularly powerful if you can get them.  If applicable, you might consider showing before and after photos. Show the problem picture and beside it show the picture of resolution, with an explanation of your product’s benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Including FAQs on your site can be a big time-saver for your staff.  The page can be seeded with questions and answers that lower sales resistance.  Include the kind of questions that customers might be asking themselves if they are on the fence about buying from you and then answer them in a satisfying way.

Response Form such as “Subscribe” or “Inquiry” Form

This is absolutely necessary if you plan to build a mailing list. Most people don’t like giving out too much information, so ask only the basics, such as Name and Email Address. It is also extremely helpful to include a low-threshold offer such as an ebook or a giveaway in exchange for their contact info.  Then, keep in touch with your customers on a regular basis by sending out information that is compelling and engaging to them. Consider surveying your existing clients for ideas on information that they would like to have created for them

On-line Magazine or Newsletter

This is a great marketing tool. Not only does it help you keep in touch with your customers, but provides your website with fresh content. You can set up your newsletter in 2 different ways:

  • Email subscribers on a regular basis
  • Publish it on your website.
  • Or both.

When developing your content think about the key benefit your product provides.  Focus on the information that will specifically interest people seeking this benefit.  Don’t sell gratuitously. Your audience must look forward to the information. Talk about all aspects of living with the problem your product solves.


If you are a published author and have developed articles or white papers for your industry, including them may add to your credibility provided your prospects understand them.  If you sell a product with a mass appeal, offer to write an article showcasing your expertise in local newspapers or trade publications. Those articles can make fantastic blogs and resources to include on your website as it grows.

About Us / Our Staff

This is a good example of where your modesty needs to be shoved aside.  Your prospect doesn’t know anything about you personally. If you withhold information about your business and professional experience and history that demonstrates your preeminence in your marketplace, then you are doing your prospects a real disservice.   This is a fantastic place to showcase WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL.

Many companies also include information about their staff such as biographies and qualifications or will describe recently completed projects. If you really want to make your Staff Page powerful, make a short video of each staff member describing his/her background and expertise.

It is also useful to include details of trade associations you belong to, trade and insurance certificates and any awards you may have won.

Guarantees and Warranties

Feature any warrantees or guarantees your products have.  This is particularly powerful if you have added additional assurances beyond what the manufacturer has provided.   

Events Calendar

Calendars can feature useful information such as:  

  • Dates where and when your art will be displayed (if you are an artist)
  • Where you will be performing (if you are a musician).  
  • Dates of webinars or public speaking events
  • Workshops or courses
  • Customer appreciation events

Return/Refund Policy

To make your customers feel more comfortable when making a transaction at your website, you should publish your return or refund policy.  Ensure it is easy to understand and spelled out step by step.

Privacy Policy

Privacy continues to be a major issue for customers shopping online. Concerns about how their information is going to be used can be a barrier to making a sale.    Assure customers that their privacy will be protected. Ensure that you have the proper protection for doing so in place.

 Site Map

A site map is similar to a Contents Page. It demonstrates to visitors how your site is laid out and where everything is in one handy document.   Page names listed on a site map can be clicked on to jump to the page. Your sitemaps URL can also be submitted to search engines to help improve visibility, indexing, and, ultimately, ranking.

Copyright Information

Your website should carry a copyright notice to protect its intellectual property. It is generally in the form of “Copyright © 2009, Your Company Name”. You might ask your web developer to dynamically code your copywriter statement so it is always showing the current year.  It would be a shame to give the impression that you have been ignoring your website for years just because you forgot to update your copyright statement.

Blogs and Posts

Blogging is a great way to publish information of interest to prospects that may not fit into the established structure of the rest of your site.  It is also useful as a way of publishing timely or dated information about the industry or to draw attention to current events that have some bearing on your product or the problem it solves.  

For more information refer to the Blogging section in this book.  

Photo Gallery (or galleries)

Even if you do not wish to sell your products online, you will want to showcase your goods or services in a   photo gallery. Consider demonstrating how your products or service is being used by your customers.


When you are providing custom creative services this is absolutely essential.  It provides clients with a strong idea of the nature of your work and your style.


Web Site Usability (UX Design)

Website usability comes down to whether or not a person can easily use your website for the purpose it was intended.  For instance, if your website is an e-commerce store, can visitors effortlessly find the products they are looking for? Can they quickly locate answers to any questions they have? Can they readily purchase the product and arrange to ship?

When you are developing a website it is tempting to think it is more useful than it actually may be.  It is extremely useful to sit an uninitiated person in front of your website and watch as they try to navigate your site and get answers to questions they may have about your product. If you are really committed to building a website that is easy to use, try this experiment with a number of people from a variety of ages and genders, and backgrounds. Make sure you don’t offer help or suggestions.  Simply take note of how the flow of your site is experienced and how the test subject is either encouraged or frustrated.

Here are three handy tactics to make sure your website is easy to use:

(1)  Simple menus

Simple menus can go a long way to encouraging usability.  Hierarchical menus that go down more than two levels can be confusing and next-to-impossible to interact with particularly if someone is using a small screen. An example of an unduly complicated hierarchical menu might be a site that has 10 parents’ pages and then child/parent pages below those and then grandchildren’s pages below them.  If your site is complex enough to warrant that level of hierarchy consider doing what Apple computers has done. Rather than including every possible page in their main menu and links to child pages they have built the parents’ pages with graphical links and attractive graphics and headings. This takes much more extra planning but greatly enhances the user experience.

(2)  Website search

Providing a site-wide search function is extremely useful.  Even though we do our best to make our website logical and easily navigable, there will always be people who need more help.  WordPress includes an excellent search tool that allows users to search an entire website. If you are not using WordPress, work with your website developer to come up with a way of making the essential information on your website fully searchable. If you are developing a custom search function for your site, include tracking so that search terms used by your customers can be reviewed.  

This will help you identify points of confusion. For instance, if you run a model train store and customers are searching for fake plastic trees you might consider reorganizing the appropriate page so that the location of fake plastic trees is more apparent to the uninitiated visitor.


(3)  Well-designed segmentation of your site

If your site is logically segmented, your visitors will have no trouble drilling down to what they are looking for.  If you want a good real-world example of excellent segmentation consider a large department store such as WalMart. With their single-floor layout, you will find the desired section under a large, friendly sign announcing its location. Once again Apple computers does an excellent job of careful segmentation on their website.  If you are lost on the Apple website you don’t stay lost long.


Usability Testing

There’s a growing community of usability testing options available for marketers. These new options utilize teams of testers who provide meaningful feedback to website developers.  Here are six services you might find useful:


If you are at all involved with conversion-rate optimization, you already know the importance of usability testing.  After all, if users cannot effectively use your site, they will have a slim chance of converting.


But you do not always have the time, money, or staff expertise to conduct live research in a test environment. That requires identifying and screening participants, hiring a moderator/facilitator, setting up the technology to record their screen movements,, and video taping their “thinking out loud” as they attempt to complete the given task.


Fortunately, there is a burgeoning community of crowd-sourced remote usability testing options that are available for ad-hoc as well as ongoing projects. The benefits of accessing one of these options are numerous — the pricing is generally affordable and straightforward, you do not have to worry about finding participants, and you can often launch a test and receive results in a matter of hours. Sound too good to be true?  Check out these top tools for remote user-testing, from simple to extensive:



The TryMyUI service offers a pool of screened testers who are trained to articulate their thought process as they attempt to complete an assigned task on your site. You simply create a scenario as well as a list of tasks you wish testers to perform. Specify your demographic profile and how many testers you want to use, and within hours you’ll receive fully narrated videos of each tester navigating your website. Each video will show the user’s screen, mouse movements, and keystrokes, as well as an audio track of everything the user says as s/he attempts to complete the assigned tasks.  You also get written answers to a questionnaire that you create for the user, which s/he fills out after completing the usability test.


TryMyUI puts a lot of effort into quality control, so even though their prices are modest (just $35 per test result), each test result is checked for usefulness before you receive it. They also carefully screen and categorize their testers, allowing you to specify the gender, age, annual income, computer expertise, country of residence, education level, family status, social networks usage, and employment type of your testers. To refine the audience even further, you can add your own qualification criteria, such as must be an avid gamer or take at least one prescription medication.

If you don’t want to pay-per-user test fees or if you prefer to recruit testers yourself, you can buy a license to run a test with an unlimited number of your own participants for $99.



If you love the whole process of design and user testing, you probably already know about UsabilityHub. This community of designers and web builders tests each other’s work to earn “karma points” on the site, but you are welcome to enter the circle. You can invite your own friends to join the testing pool as well, and when you publish a test on the site you can even request certain demographics. You won’t find many naive users on this pro site, though.


You can run three different types of tests on this platform, and they give you plenty of help deciding which one is best for you — a five-second test, a click test, and a nav-flow test. Once you publish your test’s availability on UsabilityHub, you can receive as many responses as you feel would be useful. The site says that in general, you can expect to receive 50 responses within 20 to 30 hours.

This service can be free if you want to provide some test responses yourself.  Paid plan options begin at $20 per month for up to 100 responses.


Crowdsourced Testing

This company is a fresh face in the user testing field, just emerging from a successful start-up phase.  Crowdsourced Testing emphasizes the professionalism of its testers, stating that most of them have more than six years’ experience in the field of software testing.  Also noteworthy is that its testers are spread across 111 countries (and growing), making it a good choice for marketers with a multi-national audience.


For $49 per platform/per tester, Crowdsourced Testing will test your site or app for the following: functionality (spelling mistakes, bugs, broken links), localization (language and culture appropriateness for target region), and usability (ease of use, overall website experience). Thus, unlike some of the other options listed here, you will not have as much flexibility in specifying a demographic profile for your testers.


When you sign up with Crowdsourced Testing, you simply provide some basic instructions about your site or app, and then your project is assigned to a group of expert testers, a project manager, and a lead tester. This team immediately gets to work, reporting issues in an easy-to-use bug tracking system.  At the end of a testing session you’ll receive a clean, clear, and concise list of issues that you can easily consult online, review and share with your developers to be corrected.



Userlytics lets you choose between their recruited group of demographically filtered testers or using a test invitation link to recruit your own. They promise rapid results, although they also permit clients to ask testers up to 100 survey questions following the live testing.


The primary feature that distinguishes Userlytics from other crowd-sourced testing solutions is that you’ll receive a video of the tester themselves during the entire duration of the test. Being able to see the tester’s face allows you to capture subtle cues (e.g. a furrowed brow or a frown) that could indicate a level of frustration or confusion that isn’t evident on the audio recording.

Pricing can be as low as $49 per respondent session, but larger organizations will appreciate the enterprise options that include an indexable executive summary of test results and quality assurance on custom and one-off projects.



UserTesting has staked out a leadership position in the crowd-sourced remote testing field, with a portfolio of notable corporate clients. They claim to have recruited more than 1 million testers, and, although you should probably take this number with a grain of salt, they definitely do have a very large testing pool. UserTesting claims that, using this pool, 79 percent of clients receive test results within an hour.  You can apply demographic filters to their testers, or have your own customers be the testers instead.


Since UserTesting works with major corporations, it goes way beyond basic testing. Add-ons include a broad selection of customized enterprise solutions, including one-on-one interviews, focus groups, expert user testing, customized test creation, and detailed reports. A particularly unique feature is that UserTesting allows clients to interact with testers after the test, asking them follow-up questions about their experience. The cost is $49 per test, with an introductory offer of $99 for three tests.



At UserZoom, crowd-sourced user testing is only one small aspect of their UX services. They don’t recruit their own testers, but you can contact one of the sampling companies that UserZoom partners with, and (for a separate fee) receive a set of filtered participants for your testing.  If you’re looking for a way to draft testers from your own customer base, UserZoom offers several customizable recruitments and feedback tools.


Website Accessibility

As the web matures it is crucial to building websites that follow W3 accessibility standards. Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web and that they can contribute to the Web.


Millions of people have disabilities that affect their use of the Web. Currently, most Web sites and Web software have accessibility barriers that make it difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities to use the Web. As more accessible Web sites and software become available, people with disabilities are able to use and contribute to the Web more effectively.


Web accessibility standards also benefit people without disabilities in certain situations, such as people using a slow Internet connection, people with “temporary disabilities” such as a broken arm, and people with changing abilities due to aging.