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What You Should Do Before Beginning Your Site Design

Websites are complex. There are so many things that are easily overlooked, like a broken link or a misspelled word.

And of course, a handful of things could go very, very wrong. Like what if you forget to test an important data capture form and then lose out on generating a bunch of new leads? Or worse, what if you forget to properly set up site redirects, and those valuable search engine visitors get a page not found message?

Instead of worrying about the what ifs, wouldn’t it be much easier to have a comprehensive website checklist to run down before every site launch? One that you could use for enterprise websites, microsites, landing pages, and everything in between?

Fortunately, we’ve created just that. Keep reading to learn everything you need to do before, during, and after launching a website.

Whether this is your first website that is being built from scratch or you are doing a website redesign, there are a few steps that you should take before hiring a web designer or diving in yourself.

1. Analyze your previous website (if applicable).

In order to make good decisions, you must first understand where you’ve been. That starts with your existing website if you have one. Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of a new design or overhaul?
  • What haven’t hasn’t been accomplished with this existing site?
  • How will a new design serve the new organization?

The answers to these questions can help you identify your gaps, which can then inform goal setting for the new site.

2. Crawl your old site (if applicable) and document its structure.

You can get an idea of your site’s existing structure, pages, and assets by using a crawling tool. This is a necessary step in creating your website development plan because you’ll have a more concrete view of what pages existed before, what redirects are in place, and what the meta data currently looks like.

3. Obtain benchmark data from your previous website (if applicable), and confirm testing procedures.

Not only will you want to compare how your new site performs compared to the old, but you’ll also want to continue identifying gaps that will provide data-driven insights to aid your new strategy.

Additionally, you’ll want to confirm testing procedures. Soon, you’ll begin testing your website to make sure all the different components are working, everything flows, and there’s a system for tracking bugs and enhancements.

Use a form (like Google Forms) instead of asking people to email their thoughts so the feedback-gathering process is more streamlined. Then, put one person in charge of choosing which bugs to prioritize, and filtering all the creative feedback you receive through the form.

4. Identify your goals for the new design, how you’ll achieve them, and how you’ll measure success.

Once the gaps are fully fleshed out, you can begin crafting your goals for the design. You may come to conclusions such as:

  • The current site is unwieldy, and we need ease of use.
  • The current site no longer looks trendy, so we need a visual refresh.
  • The current site doesn’t perform, so we need a more SEO-friendly structure with a better UX.

Whatever your goals, you’ll want to understand exactly how a new site will help you achieve them so that you can craft its implementation accordingly.

5. List out action items, roles, and responsibilities.

Make a project management checklist for the website. What content needs to be written? What calls-to-action need to be created?

Make a master list of the things you need for your website and deadlines for when they should be completed.

Then, assign each action item to an individual or team. It usually takes a lot of people to launch a website: You have marketers writing the content; designers choosing images and laying out the overall look and feel; a technical team doing all the back-end development. To ensure everyone’s on the same page and there’s no role confusion, you’ll want to lay out a comprehensive plan for what each team or person is responsible for.

One great way to do this is by using the DARCI model, which stands for Decision Maker(s), Accountable, Responsible, Consulted, Informed. It’s a powerful tool that’ll help everyone understand which individual is responsible for completing which action items, which individual(s) or group(s) need to be consulted before any final decisions are made, and who needs to be consulted once a final decision has been made or an action has been taken.

6. Prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Poll everyone involved in your website launch on their concerns about what could go wrong, and then devise a few backup plans for what to do when — not if — some of these things go wrong.

7. Develop a consistent brand.

Decide on a consistent brand message and tone, one that you’re committed to presenting consistently across. This will make you look more legitimate, credible, and memorable.

  1. Understand your value proposition.
  2. Choose a mission statement, vision statement, and tagline that represents that value as well as your brand identity.
  3. Choose colors and fonts that convey that identity well.
  4. Decide on the type of imagery that you’ll use to further convey your messaging.

8. Create your technical SEO strategy.

Take some time to ensure that your website has been given a solid foundation for SEO success. From site architecture and content hierarchy to metadata and XML sitemaps, do not leave any stone unturned.

  1. Perform keyword research and decide what you want to rank for.
  2. Create a content strategy that satisfies those keywords.
  3. Understand how your existing pages (if applicable) can be adjusted and which pages will need to be created new.
  4. Figure out which pages are no longer necessary.
  5. Map out where unnecessary pages can be redirected to (using a 301 redirect).

9. Strategize your conversion paths.

Once you have an understanding of the primary pages that will exist on your site, you’ll need to figure out exactly what actions you want users to take and how you’ll capture their information. This includes thinking through:

  • What premium top-of-the-funnel offers are needed
  • What bottom-of-the-funnel action will be presented on main pages
  • What forms need to be created
  • What landing pages and thank you pages need to be created
  • How conversions will be tracked
  • What actions will happen after a website visitor converts (email responder, etc.)

10. Set up analytics software.

  1. Choose which analytics platforms you will be using on the new site.
  2. Decide if any previous Analytics tracking scripts will be used or if new accounts/scripts are needed.
  3. Set up new accounts (if applicable).

11. Set a launch date.

Once you have an idea of what needs to get done before the launch, pick a launch date. Give yourself at least a month. our plan for two-to-three weeks of research, design, and development.

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