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The Complete Guide to Website Planning

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

All successful website launches start with a solid plan. Whether you’re launching a blog, personal site, or business website, this guide will show you some quick tips to make your website planning strategy much easier. We’ll also dive deep into some long-term website planning actions to ensure success for the future.

Why Website Planning Is So Important

Launching a website is easy. But launching a good website takes time.

There are dozens of tools out there that allow people with no experience to publish a website in a matter of minutes. If you wanted to, you could stop reading this right now and have a live website in less time than it takes to drink a coffee. But we don’t recommend this approach. 

Why not? First impressions matter. 

In fact, 88% of online users are unlikely to revisit a website after a bad first experience. If you launch your site without a plan, those initial experiences won’t be positive. 

Getting people to your website takes lots of hard work. The last thing you want to do is scare people off because the site is slow, clunky, poorly designed, or any of the other countless mistakes that beginners make when building a website. 

Website planning eliminates–or at least greatly mitigates–these problems. Your site will have a smooth launch, and you’ll make a great first impression on your visitors. 

Your website doesn’t need to be perfect on day one. Even the world’s best websites are constantly making improvements. But a solid plan will reduce the amount of work you need to do post-launch. 

Here’s an example to show you the importance of effective website planning. 

Masai Mara Travel is a tourism website for visiting a National Reserve in Kenya. Their website initially experienced a significant bounce rate from its traffic. After taking the time to do some research and a redesign, the site saw a 40% boost in on-page engagement.

Had they taken the time to plan things more effectively from the beginning, the site would have had higher engagement rates and fewer bounces from day one.

Quick Tips to Improve Website Planning Today

Before you start worrying about color schemes, CTA buttons, landing pages, and other content, there are a few things you need to handle right away. These quick tips will get you started planning your website immediately and take minimal effort on your end. 

Tip #1 — High-Quality Web Hosting

Every website needs a hosting plan. This should be the first step for any new website planning strategy—find a hosting provider. 

There are thousands of hosting providers on the market today. But only a handful are actually worth considering. Bluehost is an excellent option for beginners.

Over two million websites worldwide rely on Bluehost for web hosting. They’ve been around for nearly 20 years, so you know it’s a reliable service. 

Regardless of your website size, Bluehost has a plan for everyone. You can use them for shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated server hosting, and WordPress hosting. They even offer managed WordPress plans. 

For the vast majority of new websites, you’ll be fine with an entry-level shared plan. These start at just $3.95 per month. Your hosting service is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

The reason why it’s so important to start with a quality web host is that everything else stems from here. If the hosting is no good, then your site will be slow, have uptime problems, or other issues that can’t be fixed with a band-aid. 

So choose a reputable provider, and pick a hosting type that will accommodate your needs. 

Tip #2 — Register a Domain Name

Your website can’t go live without a domain name, so this is another step that you should get out of the way in the early stages of your planning process.

Bluehost makes this process really easy, as all hosting plans come with a free domain for one year.

Choosing a domain will be easier for some of you than others. For example, if you’re launching a small personal site or blog, you might want the domain to be your first and last time (e.g. janedoe.com). Or if you’re launching a business website, it makes sense for your domain to mirror the name of your business (e.g., johnsfamilypizza.com).

The tricky part comes when you’re trying to brainstorm a unique name or the domain you want is already registered. So your planning process should include some domain name alternatives.

For example, let’s say you tried to register crazyegg.com as your domain. You can’t do that because it’s already registered. Bluehost will give you alternative suggestions to consider:

You’d be able to register domains like:

  • prettycrazyegg.com
  • littlecrazyegg.com
  • crazyeggguy.com

Bluehost even offers some alternative domain extensions like .online, .tech, .site, .org, and more.

If you don’t register your domain directly with your web hosting provider, you’d be forced to get it from a domain registrar. While there’s nothing wrong with using a domain registrar, it adds an extra step to the process. For beginners, getting your domain name directly from Bluehost when you’re signing up for web hosting is just easier.

You’ll be able to manage your hosting plan and domain name from a single dashboard without having to create extra accounts and separate billing plans. 

Tip #3 — Don’t Forget Website Security

Site security might seem like an intimidating initiative, but it all starts with an SSL certificate. This is the minimum security that your site needs to have from the beginning.

All Bluehost hosting packages come with a free SSL certificate.

SSL certificates show website visitors that your site is trustworthy. 

Web browsers will even alert users with a big “not secure” warning whenever they land on a site without an SSL certificate. This immediately puts users on edge and almost guarantees that they won’t enter any personal information on the site. Most will just leave and never come back. 

Similar to a domain name, you could also get an SSL certificate directly from a certificate authority (CA). But that involves several extra steps. Not only will you have to manage the certificate and plan from a separate provider, but you’d also need to install the SSL on your site.

Instead of going through that hassle, just use a reputable hosting provider that offers a free SSL certificate. Then you won’t have to worry about anything, and the security aspect of your website planning can be checked off. 

Tip #4 — Start With a Template

Design is a crucial component of website planning. But don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be—start with a template.

Trying to design pages on your own from a blank canvas is a hassle. Unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on a quality designer, your own design built from scratch probably won’t win any awards. A poor design can cause lots of problems for the site’s usability, performance, and reputation.

Bluehost has hundreds of free and premium templates for you to start with.

By using a template, it will save you countless hours of planning. Instead, it’s just a matter of customizing certain text, images, and other elements of the template with something that’s unique for your branding. 

But the vast majority of the work will already be done for you. 

Long-Term Strategies For Website Planning

Once you’ve handled the quick actions for website planning, it’s time to start thinking about the big picture. There are other aspects of planning a website that require a bit more time and effort to see the payoff—we’ll cover those strategies in greater detail below:

Strategy #1 — Conduct a Competitive Analysis

Don’t just blindly launch your site without doing any research—that’s usually a recipe for failure.

Instead, take the time to identify some of the top competitors in your niche. What are those sites doing well? How can those sites be improved?

This research helps take the guesswork out of your own website planning. In many cases, it’s easy to replicate success. If you determine that the top five websites in your category all have a common element on the homepage, that’s a pretty good indication that your homepage should have the same element. 

Ask yourself, “what can I do better than these competitors?”

For example, you might determine that some of those websites have a crowded top-level navigation menu. To do better, you’d plan to create simpler navigation with less congestion and clutter. 

Strategy #2 — Define Your Target Audience

Let’s just get this out of the way right now—your website is not for everyone.  

Treat your website like a business. Businesses that try to target everyone and anyone typically don’t do so well. There’s no clear positioning, and it doesn’t speak to anyone personally.

Take the time to research the audience you want to target. Then you plan your site design, branding, and content around those users. 

Here’s a simple example. If you’re creating a blog to target pregnant women and new mothers, your choices would be very different from a site targeting college-aged young men interested in sports betting. 

Your color schemes, design choices, value proposition, and more all stem from your target audience. 

Lots of new websites make the mistake of skipping this stage of the planning process. As a result, the site traffic doesn’t generate leads, conversions, or repeat visitors.

Strategy #3 — Identify Your Goals

This is another often overlooked component of website planning that takes some time to get right. Launching a website to “make money” or because “everyone else has one” is not a goal.

If you fail to identify your goal during the planning stages, your site won’t have any clear direction when you start building it.

For those of you who are struggling to name your goals, use the SMART acronym for guidance:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

For example, a barbershop or nail salon might create a website to simplify appointment scheduling. A restaurant could create a website to facilitate online ordering.

Both of these examples have clear initiatives that can be measured and achieved. 

In these scenarios, prominent CTA buttons like “Book Now” or “Order Now” on the home page would serve a much better purpose than the history of the business. 

Strategy #4 — Create a Budget and Timeline

Websites are an expense. Even basic elements like web hosting and domain registration will cost you money.

Running a website doesn’t have to be costly, but those expenses will increase if you plan to scale your site. 

How much traffic are you planning to get? Where will that traffic come from?

An entry-level shared hosting plan may only accommodate up to 10,000 visitors per month. Eventually, you’ll need to upgrade your plan or switch to a different hosting tier—like a VPS or dedicated server. 

Is your traffic coming from search ads? Affiliate programs? Social media ads? 

These types of initiatives cost money. From the initial planning, you should have at least a two-year timeline estimating your costs and traffic. It’s also important to remember that your hosting costs will likely increase, even if you don’t switch plans. 

Many hosting providers start with an introductory promo when you first sign up, but those plans renew at higher rates.

How will you offset your website costs by monetizing the site? All of this information should be planned from the beginning. This way you won’t have any surprises or unexpected costs. 

Strategy #5 — Plan Your Content Strategy

After you plan the bare-bones design and navigation of your site, it’s time to start planning for the future. Your content strategy can make or break the success of your site.

What type of content will your website publish? How often will you publish that content?

Examples include:

  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Custom Photographs
  • Ebooks
  • Webinars
  • Slideshows
  • Tutorials

The list goes on and on. 

Your content strategy should be tackled with a two-pronged approach. First, you want to make sure that your content is designed for your pre-defined target audience. It keeps those people engaged and ultimately leads to conversions.

Next, it’s important to plan a content strategy that’s SEO-friendly. For example, you might decide to publish five blogs per week for the next year. 

You’ll likely make adjustments to your content strategy over time. But make sure to include your starting strategy within the initial website plan.

Next Steps

Now that you understand the core concepts of website planning, it’s time to expand your knowledge a bit further. Finalizing design choices should be your next priority. 

Check out our beginner’s guide to website design. This will help you launch with success after the initial planning is complete. Applying these design tips and best practices will help you stand out from the competition and ensure your visitors have a good browsing experience. 


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