Companies determining how to plan a website should take note of our new page, The Ultimate Guide to Website Planning and Maintenance. We recommend taking great care when website planning as your site and its content are going to inform Google about your areas of expertise and how you solve your clients’ problems.
If you’ve done a good job planning and executing your site, then Google is going to share that information with its gazillion users, and specifically those asking questions about your areas of expertise.
Sure, that’s easier said than done, which is one of the reasons we made a one-stop shop for website planning. Our page goes into detail from concept to launch to maintenance. Sections include:
- The Importance of Website Planning
- Your Responsibilities in the Web Development Process
- Information Architecture and Wireframes
- How to Choose a Content Management System
- The User Experience of Website Navigation is Crucial
- Content Authoring with Wireframes as a Guide
- Form Follows Function with Website Design
- Catch the Little Things with Website Quality Assurance
- Launching the Website and Performance Tuning
- Ongoing Website Maintenance
Here’s a little taste of what you’ll find in each section.
Initial website planning and strategy phases allow your website’s developer to uncover your needs, brand information, audience demographics and the core purpose of the site in order to build a solid foundation upon which the site’s “look and feel” are applied.
We determine your needs by asking questions to determine the needs the site addresses, the problems it solves and the functionality it must possess, such as:
- What is the purpose of the website?
- Who is your audience?
- Who are your competitors?
- If you currently have a website, what do you like/dislike about it?
- Do you intend to update content yourself?
- Do you intend to provide user-restricted content?
Before your site’s design and development process begins, there are a number of other items that we probably need to discover, including:
- Where is your current site hosted?
- Where is your domain registered?
- Where is your email hosted?
- Who is your email marketing provider?
- What social media channels do you use?
- Do you have logo files (and other branding elements)?
- Do you have any photos you can provide?
If you don’t have the answers to all of these questions, we’ll also assist with detective work.
Information Architecture is the process of figuring out what type of information your website will include and how it will be organized. We’re answering this big question: What is your audience looking for?
We approach this challenge like a game of 3D tic-tac-toe, where you are looking at multiple layers in order to develop an organized website that is intuitive to users. We also want the site’s functionality to be scalable, so we are able to add new elements over time if needed, such as additional products, services, industries or markets. Information Architecture leads us to the navigation and the taxonomy – how we classify everything on the site.
A CMS is an application used for digital content creation and management. They were established to create an easy way for content authors and publishers to add information or make edits to their websites without needing to know how to write code or work within complex programming languages.
A CMS has loads of flexibility and can be customized for all your needs. One can include:
- Multiple user roles and permissions
- In-house integration to add features and advanced functionality
- The capacity to display multiple languages on one site
- Plugins to extend functionality or add deeper, feature-rich applications
- E-commerce (done cheaply or free)
- Advanced security and hosting support
- Integration with all back-end systems to provide seamless, uninterrupted business process flow
- Management of multiple websites from a single admin interface
The user experience (UX) easily guides your potential customers toward solving their challenges. When you consider the navigation menu items on your site, ask the following questions:
- What challenges do your prospects have?
- What solutions do you provide to their challenges?
By the time we reach the content authoring stage, a client has approved the information architecture of the site, wireframes and the content that will appear on all the site pages.
Once upon a time, a website was generally a header, footer, text and an image or two. As such, it was easy to add content to pages by either directly typing a few paragraphs or a quick copy and paste from a prepared document or text file into the page.
Now, we can do so much more with sites in terms of content design – utilizing different types of content, content modules, columns, sections and more. Unfortunately, these individual design areas and elements often need to have content added in much smaller chunks.
For example, when working from content documents supplied by the client or our writing team, we may need to copy and paste a header and then copy and paste a paragraph and then copy and paste a caption to author a section of a page. Obviously, the complexity that we can achieve in page design can slow content authoring a bit, as we’re not just copying and pasting a single page of text from top to bottom.
When it comes to the look and feel of the websites we design for our clients, our designer refers to the Bauhaus method of “Form follows function.” We approach website design for our clients with the idea that a completed site is a product that someone uses. Both the desktop and mobile versions of company sites need to be user-friendly, which entails deeply knowing your audience.
Designers are artists, and artists thrive in a creative, free landscape. But, we understand that our client’s sites have needs that supersede our desire to go too wild with design. The sites should:
- Satisfy the client
- Serve the audience
- Play nice with Google
Website QA is a big process, especially if you’re a small organization. This is the time to address all the little things on the site pages – from design to functionality.
At Savoir Faire, we combine the forces of our web development expert and UX/IA expert to pinpoint any element on the site that didn’t come together exactly as intended – or any mistakes or issues that snuck through the development process.
The QA process may be tedious but should not result in major site changes if you’ve done good due diligence with a client. We go through the steps of marketing discovery to ensure that, by the time we get to this stage, our team and the client are all in agreement as to what is going to be on the website for launch.
Before launch, we need to have a clear understanding of what the moving parts of the site are:
- Where the domain is registered
- Where the DNS is managed
- Where the website is hosted
- Where the email is hosted
- Where all of that will end up if we’re moving to new hosting
In a perfect world, we just need to back up the live site and “push” the new site to the live environment to launch the new version. Or, we just need to point the domain to the new version of the website. But more often, especially when replacing a site rather than launching a brand-new site, we need to do a bit more work to ensure no information is lost, email remains functioning and there is minimal downtime.
Throughout the year, WordPress issues updates, from minor bug fixes and security releases to completely new versions. As WordPress issues those updates, many plugin developers keep pace, either because they have identified their own bugs or because they need to make adjustments to their code to remain compatible with the updated WordPress core code.
Keeping up with these updates is a critical part of keeping your website healthy and secure.
Hackers exploit vulnerabilities that go unfixed. If you aren’t upgrading to the latest versions, these vulnerabilities invite nefarious users to inject malware, deface your site, or even cause it to crash completely. According to WPBeginniner, 83% of hacked WordPress sites are not upgraded.
Whether it’s content updates, software updates or performance updates, monthly reviews and edits can take time. But not making them can affect your site and your bottom line. At minimum, you should be making sure you have a monthly plan in place that includes regular full backups, regular software and plugin updates, and regular cleanup of files, cache and database. A well-tuned website, like a well-tuned car, will perform better and present fewer large-scale problems in the future.
Visit The Ultimate Guide to Website Planning and Maintenance to read the entire sections, and reach out if you have any questions.