When starting a new website design – or relaunching an existing site – consider everything you know about your target customers and start sketching an outline for the site. From this outline, you can build a sitemap (a flowchart-like diagram) that shows how you can organize all the content in the site.
This post will cover the website outline; we’ll go over the sitemap in detail in our next post.
1. What are the actions you want potential customers to take on your site?
Do you want people to buy something or take steps toward buying? Do you want to capture their email address for direct marketing? These actions will define your website’s focus, content and even design.
Write down all the actions you want people to take and organize them in order of importance. These will determine how everything is presented and organized – content related to the most important actions will be front and center, while other content will be less prominent.
2. List all the content, features, business requirements & changes
Visitors will want to know about you, your company and your products and/or services in detail. Write it all down; we can trim later. Note all the features you need – contact forms, customer logins, shopping carts, etc.
As far as business requirements go – you know your business, who your customers are and what they need. And if you have wanted to change things on your site, note them as well as it’s the perfect time to resolve issues that you feel have been holding your site back.
Just be sure to write it all down – we’ll organize everything in the next step.
2. Create an outline
After deciding on a list of actions, content and features, make an old-fashioned outline of how you want your site to look like. This will help your future sitemap to be created.
Here are some tips for creating an outline from your list:
- Group features and content from similar categories
Organize content in categories and group your ideas together, thinking which of them can be put side by side.
- Set a limit to your categories
To be as user-friendly as possible, don’t create more than five (or a maximum of seven) categories of content. If your website is really big, then you can organize your categories into three big groups, according to their importance, but pay attention to have seven or less categories in each group. The brain can’t handle more than 7 options at a time and you don’t want to drive potential sales away by overwhelming a visitor.
- Add max two levels in each group
If some of your categories need subcategories, do your best to limit these to two subcategories only.
- Group global features separately
What’s the end result?
The end result will – with some tweaking – be a well-organized site with a well-defined navigation system. Visitors should be able to glance at your navigation links and immediately know where to go. The simpler, the better.
When we look at organizing the content, we’ll pay attention to the important actions you want visitors to take. Content related to the most important actions will be super prominent; content related to less important actions will be less prominent.