Here is what you need to do first before you start to create your WordPress website

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It's very tempting to head straight into picking a Theme, grab some hosting and start creating pages for your website. You have an idea in your head, and you want to get your website live as soon as possible. But once you have a blank page open, what should I write? What image should I put where? You look at that page and perhaps put in what you want to say... but maybe there is a better way.

Getting everything planned first will save you a lot of time in the long run. It will keep you revisiting your site structure, revising your content and prevent that 'blank page' roadblock.

Plus you will have a much more efficient website that meets the goals of both your business and your visitors.

In this article, I am going to provide you with an overview of the activities you should do first, before you start to create your website, or to commission a web design company to create it for you. I have provided a short overview of each vital area; all are much to complex to go in to in detail. This article designed to get you thinking and to get you planning for a successful website.

Plan, plan, plan.

Here's what you need to consider first

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Site map and Content Plan

You know in your mind what pages you want for your website, however, getting it down on paper (or digital) will help you focus on the pages and content you need. You can plan out your site on paper or use one of the many online tools.

Online help:
Slickplan
Jump Chart
Flowmapp
Gather Content
Content Snare

Information Architecture

When putting your plan in place you need to consider your visitor's expectations and needs. Information Architecture includes aspects of visual design, navigation structure and the overall organisation of your content so that it works to help visitors to complete tasks easily and quickly.

Many phases of designing a website's information architecture can be completed simultaneously. Your website is a highly visual medium so it is vital that everything is on brand and consistent. Your website should be both accessible and usable for all visitors.

SEO and Information Architecture

The structure and hierarchy of your website is a key SEO factor. If Google can better understand how your content 'fits together' then it is more likely to send visitors your way.

User Experience Design

Peoples expectations when visiting a website are high. Your website visitors expect certain things to happen and to have a positive experience. Gone are the days when visitors to a website will put up with low-quality content, confusing navigation and jarring design. Now they just leave and find a better website experience.

Websites themselves are becoming more involved with increasing feature and functions. Taking into account your visitors experience when adding layers of complexity is vitally important. You know how your website works, but do your visitors?

User Experience (abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels when interfacing with a system (in this instance your WordPress website), they want to feel positive and that they have found what they were looking for.

Here are a few links that go into UX in more detail:

Forbes - A beginners guide to User Experience
A List Apart - User Research When You Can’t Talk to Your Users
Adobe Blog - What You Should Know About User Experience

Audience Profiling

Who are you talking to, who are you reaching out to with your website? If you think it's everyone, your wrong. Trying to reach everyone means you will reach no one. You need to write out, map out your ideal customer. You need to undertake target audience and user research so you know who you are trying to reach with your website and content. It doesn't have to be a large project, but you should define who you want to reach before you design and build your website and your content.

Useful links
Entrepreneur-How to Target the Right Audience in 5 Simple Steps
Adobe - Define your audience

SEO - Keyword Research

The activity of keyword research for SEO will also help you to define your audience, the words they use, what they search for, the phrases they use when users are looking for the solution you offer. Retrofitting SEO to an already built website is counter-intuitive and illogical. You need to do keyword research first. Your keyword research findings will help you to plan out your website. Knowing what your audience searches for guides you with; the type of content you need to produce, the words and writing style you need, relevant images to include, calls-to-action that resonate and structure of your navigation and pages.

Useful keyword research tools

Moz Keyword Explorer
SEMrush
SpyFu
Google Trends

Design, design, design

Building your brand and powerful design will provide you with the best website results. It is proven people make many buying decisions based on brand and design. Many will only buy from their favourite and trusted brand, often paying a premium to do so. Building a brand loyal audience help you negotiate on quality and trust rather than price. Making sure you have a consistent brand style, and unique design can only benefit your business. Creating a distinction between your competitors and makes you memorable. I'm predominantly a designer.  I have a design background and have worked in the design profession for many years. I have seen first hand the power of good design for businesses. Design is important. Take time to consider this and build a powerful brand.

How to create a design pattern library
Getting started with pattern libraries
Best web design awards
Design Council on design

Images, photography

Unique and inspiring images can make a website. Planning your images and graphics for a website development is critical. It is worth investing in a photo shoot for your website. Preparing for a photo shoot takes time and needs to be done well ahead of your website development project. If you are creating your website account for at least one image per page, if not more. Plus images you need for case studies or blogs. Make sure your photo shoot is on brand and appealing to your target audience. If you can't organise a photo shoot, then image stock libraries are an option – don't pick obvious images, it is most likely someone in your sector has already used them. Always check the licence uses. Spend time researching unusual and less used images that can make you stand out. When creating graphics, keep them on brand with consistent typography and colour schemes.

Useful links:

Bigger Picture photograhers
Shutterstock
iStock
Getty Images

Copywriting

"When it comes to your website, it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it. That’s why, when I start to work with you, I start by finding out the finer details of your business." Haydn Grey. A great quote from our go-to copywriter. Well written text, in the right tone of voice, is critical to your website success. Short, concise sentences, eye-catching headlines, important calls-to-action all benefit from being written well, ideally by a professional. A professional copywriter knows how to write for the online experience and how to weave in those critical SEO keywords and phrases. Writing for the web is different to writing for print and publications. There are techniques and styles to consider when writing for visitors that can skim and scan pages, searching for those essential nuggets of information, where they will read deeper into the information they need. 

The best copywriter - Haydn Grey

Calls To Action and your goals

When planning your website, you need to map out your business goals or overall objectives for your website. What do you want visitors to do when they find you?

Each page should have clear reasons to exist and an explicit action you want your visitors to take. Well written and enticing prompts encourage interactions and help your visitors to meet the goals you need. From a design point, a call-to-action needs to stand out, possibly in an accent colour different to your main colour pallet. Think about 'what next' every time you create content. What do you need your visitors to do.

Great call-to-action examples from Hubspot

Now you can start!

Consider all of these activities before you start your project. The above cannot be produced in isolation of each other. All must be worked on together, so they form a coherent whole that truly represents what you do and why you are different. Make sure each activity complements your overall website goal.

The Takeaway

Creating a website takes time. A lot of time, planning ahead will make the time used so much more efficient and focussed. No more guessing on what to put or how to structure your navigation and content. Planning ahead will give you a clear vision of what needs to be done.

If you need help planning your WordPress website project, contact me hello@wordpressnortheast.co.uk

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Belinda White | WP North East

Belinda White | WP North East

Belinda White, WordPress Consultant - Creative Director at Arttia Creative Limited. Website Consultant, SEO Consultant. Creative designer with over 20 years experience in the UK design industry.

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