So you’ve decided to redesign your site. Or maybe you’re building your first ever website.

Regardless of whether you’ve decided to do it yourself or hire a professional, a website design is no small feat. But a little bit of preparation can help make the process so much easier and more enjoyable.

So we’ve put together this post to help guide you through the essentials of what to prepare and think about BEFORE you start the design process.

Decide What You Want Your Website To Do

For some people, it will be obvious what you want your site to actually do. For other people it might take a bit more consideration. Maybe you’re a blogger and your main goal for your site is to get people to read more of your posts and perhaps sign up to your email list.

Maybe you create physical products and you want people to buy them from your site.But as well as thinking about your big main goal for your website, its also good to try to think about it in different steps.

Think about what you want people to do 1st, 2nd and 3rd after they have landed on your website. This will determine how you structure your site.

If you’re struggling, it might help to think about this is reverse. If you are a designer looking to sell your services, then your end goal would be for them to book your services, or contact you to arrange a consultation. But in order to get to that point they may have to view your previous work and look at what packages you actually offer.

So the actions you want your visitors to take might be…

1. View your portfolio
2. View your services
3. Contact you to book your services

Get Clear On Who You Are Targeting

This one always sounds much easier than it actually is. But in order to successfully design a website that will attract the very people you are looking for, you first need to know who those people are.

This goes much deeper than just targeting “bloggers” or “small business owners”. Think about the specifics.

Perhaps you are a travel blogger and want to target females in their 20s who are looking for budget travel advice. Or maybe you’re a wedding planner aimed at young, hip couples based in a specific area of the UK.

This is an important step. It will determine everything from the content to the branding.

Take a Look at Your Competitors

Competitor analysis is integral to any business. And it is also invaluable when planning your own website design. Take a look through your competitors’ websites (and even the websites of some non-competitors) to see what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, and use that to help form your own ideas.

Think about how you can avoid their mistakes or learn from their strengths and adapt them to your own situation.

But a word of warning…make sure that you do not copy your competitors.

Copying a competitor is a sure fire way to end up with a website that is unoriginal and ineffective at appealing to the people you want it to.

Prepare Your Content

“Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
-Zeldman

Content is at the very heart of your website design. Before you can design your site you need to know what content you want to include on there.

A good way of doing this is to go back to Step 1 and think about what you want your visitors to do when they land on your site.

Then think about what they need to see in order to make their way through the full process. This will most likely be a mixture of written copy, images and graphics. It could include testimonials and examples of your work.

Perhaps blog content is integral to your site’s success and therefore you need blog functionality.

Whatever content you need, having it ready before you even start the design process will not only help you in deciding how you need your site to be designed, it will also make the whole design process quicker and more efficient.