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Saturday, January 20, 2024

How to Plan a Website Development Project: Tips for Non-Designers

Planning a website development project can feel overwhelming for non-designers.

By following a structured 7-step planning process and leveraging intuitive tools, you can create an effective website that achieves your goals.

In this post, you'll get actionable tips on how to plan a website project to meet your needs, even if you don't have design expertise. You'll learn how to set objectives, make wireframes and prototypes, choose premade templates, prioritize UX, and more.

Introduction to Website Development Planning

Planning a website development project may seem daunting for beginners without design experience. However, following a strategic approach can set your website up for success. Here are some key steps to get started:

Grasping the Basics of Website Planning

When planning a website build from scratch, focus on:

  • Defining your website's purpose and target audience
  • Creating sitemaps and wireframes to outline site structure and page layouts
  • Researching competitors and analyzing their website designs
  • Selecting the right CMS platform based on your needs
  • Developing a content strategy plan aligned to your goals

Following these fundamental planning steps will provide direction and clarity from day one.

Choosing the Right Domain and Web Hosting

Choosing an appropriate domain name and reliable web hosting are crucial first steps when planning a website. Consider an .com domain name that is short, brandable, and easy to remember. Vet potential web hosts on uptime guarantees, server resources, and customer support.

Understanding the Role of a Content Management System (CMS)

A content management system (CMS) like WordPress streamlines website updates. The intuitive CMS dashboard allows you to edit site content without coding knowledge. Popular CMS platforms have abundant themes and plugins to extend functionality too.

The Importance of Mobile-Friendly Design

With increasing mobile internet usage, a mobile-friendly website is vital. Mobile-friendly design displays cleanly on smaller screens through responsive elements that resize and reflow. Planning for mobile-friendly design from the start ensures site accessibility and strong user experience across devices.

How do I create a project plan for my website?

Creating a comprehensive project plan is crucial for successfully developing a website, especially for beginners without much design experience. Here are some key steps to follow:

Set Up a Project Management Tool

Use project management software like Asana, Trello, or Notion to organize tasks, set timelines, assign team members, and track progress. These tools allow you to visualize the whole website development process.

Define Goals and Target Audience

Be clear on what you want to achieve with the website and who it's for. Outline the website purpose, key features, and user personas. This will inform other planning decisions.

Map Out Site Structure and Pages

Create a sitemap to outline the website structure and list out all the pages needed. This helps estimate scope and plan content.

Make Wireframes

Draft simple page layout sketches to visualize interface and elements. This is useful for planning UX design.

Schedule the Development Timeline

Break down tasks, estimate effort time, set milestones and deadlines across design, development, content creation, testing etc. Build in buffer time.

List Down Tools and Assets Needed

Outline all tools, assets, integrations, and plugins you'll need to execute the plan successfully. Confirm accessibility ahead of time.

Revisiting and updating your website project plan regularly allows you to track progress and adjust timelines or requirements as needed.

What are the 7 steps of the web development project cycle?

When planning a website development project, it's important to follow a structured process to ensure success. Here is an overview of the key stages:

1. Gather Requirements

The first step is to clearly define the goals, target audience, and key features for the website. Identify what content, functionality, design elements are needed to meet objectives. Document detailed specifications.

2. Create Sitemaps and Wireframes

Next, map out the site structure and layout. Sitemaps show the hierarchy and navigation. Wireframes visualize page elements like headers, body text, CTAs.

3. Design and Branding

Now establish the look and feel - fonts, color scheme, logo etc. Create mockups showing desktop and mobile site layouts. Iterate on the designs through reviews.

4. Content Creation

With finalized designs, start writing and organizing site content - product descriptions, blog posts, guides etc. Images and multimedia can also be produced.

5. Development

The fully designed site is coded into a live, functioning website. Carefully implement features defined in planning stages.

6. Testing and Launch

Rigorously test on devices and browsers pre-launch. Fix issues. Migrate content. Market the updated website.

7. Maintenance

Monitor site analytics. Make changes to boost SEO and user experience. Add new features. Keep content updated.

What are the 7 steps in planning a website?

Planning a website can seem daunting, but breaking it down into steps makes the process more manageable. Here are 7 key steps to follow when planning a website development project:

1. Identify Your Website Goals

The first step is to clearly define what you want to achieve with your website. Consider the purpose, target audience, and key messages you want to convey. This will inform decisions in later steps. Example website goals: sell products online, share information about a nonprofit, promote a personal brand.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Get very specific on who you want to reach with your website. Details like demographics, interests, pain points, and preferred content format will allow you to tailor the site to your audience's needs. Create buyer personas to represent your target groups.

3. Define Your Unique Selling Proposition

What makes your business, products, services or information stand out from competitors? Identify your unique value proposition and ensure it is prominently conveyed throughout site content and design.

4. Secure a Domain Name and Hosting

Choose a domain name that matches your brand and is easy to remember. Acquire hosting to store your website files on a web server for reliable uptime.

5. Pick a Website Builder

An intuitive website builder like WordPress makes creating modern websites easy, even for beginners. Themes, templates and drag & drop editors simplify site creation.

6. Create and Collect Design Elements

Visually appealing web design requires elements like logos, images, iconography, color palettes, and typography. Create or source these assets before site development.

7. Create Content for Core Pages

Well-written website copy tailored to your goals and audience is vital for conveying your message and value proposition. Prioritize content for key pages like "About Us" and "Services".

What are the 5 stages of website development?

When planning a website development project, there are typically 5 key stages:


This stage focuses on defining the website's purpose, features, layout, and visual style. Key activities include:

  • Creating user personas and mapping the target audience's needs
  • Developing information architecture and site maps
  • Designing wireframes to outline page structure
  • Creating visual designs and style guides


The initial website designs are presented for feedback and approval before development begins. Revisions may be required at this stage.


The approved designs are brought to life by writing code and content. Front-end developers build site templates while back-end developers create databases, applications, APIs, etc.


The complete website is thoroughly tested across devices to identify bugs, errors, design flaws before launch. Testing verifies that features work as intended.


After final tests and fixes, the site "goes live" and is accessible to users. Launch plans may involve marketing campaigns, announcements, etc. to drive initial traffic.

Following these structured stages helps streamline website builds. Adjustments can be made as needs evolve but having a plan prevents wasted effort.


Planning Your Website Development Project

Planning a website development project can seem daunting, especially for beginners. However, following a structured approach focused on clear objectives, project planning, and realistic timelines can ensure your first web project goes smoothly.

Setting Clear Project Objectives

When embarking on a new website build, it's important to define your goals upfront. Consider questions like:

  • What is the purpose of your website? Is it an online store, portfolio, blog, etc?
  • Who is your target audience? What do they need from your site?
  • What content, features, and functionality must you have to meet your audience's needs?
  • What is the budget for this project?

Documenting clear website objectives informs all your subsequent planning and guides development priorities. It also allows you to measure success once launched.

Developing a Website Project Plan Template in Excel

An Excel website project plan template allows you to map out key phases in your website build. This includes:

  • Project initiation - Outlining objectives, team members and responsibilities, budget, timeline etc.
  • Design - Creating sitemaps, wireframes and visual designs.
  • Development - Coding the front and back end of the site.
  • Testing - Ensuring functionality and responsiveness.
  • Launch - Going live and marketing the new website.

Having each phase laid out upfront makes managing the project smoother and more organized.

Creating a Website Planning Checklist

A website planning checklist ensures no critical tasks get missed. Essential items include:

  • Registering a domain name
  • Choosing a web host
  • Selecting a CMS platform
  • Creating wireframes and sitemaps
  • Optimizing for search engines (SEO)
  • Making the site mobile responsive
  • Testing accessibility
  • Setting up analytics

Checklists allow you to methodically plan for each website build step.

Establishing a Realistic Project Timeline

Creating a realistic timeline prevents delays down the line. Important milestones to factor in include:

  • Design approvals
  • Content writing/editing
  • Development sprints
  • Testing periods
  • Soft launch
  • Official launch date

Build buffer time into your project plan as well. This accounts for any unforeseen delays.

Carefully planning your website project sets you up for a smooth development process. Defining goals, documenting plans, and allowing ample time ensures you launch an effective site right on schedule. Reach out for help from web design experts if you need guidance.

Designing Your Website: A Non-Designer's Approach

Leveraging premade templates can help non-designers create professional-looking websites quickly and easily. Focus on finding responsive templates optimized for mobile devices, with intuitive interfaces and ample customization options.

Prioritize user experience (UX) and accessibility in your website design. Follow web content accessibility guidelines to ensure your site is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users.

Use wireframing and prototyping tools to map out your site's layout and functionality before development. This allows you to test and refine the user journey.

Optimize your website for search engines (SEO) from the start. Research relevant keywords, create optimized content, ensure fast load times, and use alt text for images.

Leveraging Premade Web Design Templates

  • Evaluate different template providers to find designs suited to your brand and industry. Popular options include WordPress themes, Squarespace templates, and Tailwind UI kits.
  • Ensure the templates are mobile-friendly with responsive layouts. Test them across devices to avoid usability issues.
  • Look for customizable templates with changeable colors, fonts, and layouts to match your brand identity.
  • Check if the template provider offers reliable support in case you need guidance.
  • Use A/B testing to evaluate different template options by displaying them to test users.

Constructing Wireframes and Prototypes

  • Map out your site's structure and layout with simple wireframes before visual design.
  • Use online wireframing tools like Figma, Adobe XD, or Whimsical to collaborate and iterate easily.
  • Create a site map detailing each page and how users will navigate between them.
  • Build interactive prototypes to simulate user journeys for usability testing.
  • Get feedback from target users early and often to refine your wireframes and prototypes.

Prioritizing User Experience (UX) Design

  • Follow UX best practices like clear navigation, quality content, striking visuals, and seamless functionality.
  • Ensure your website is accessible to users with disabilities by meeting Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  • Use A/B testing to see which UX elements users respond to best. Test changes like button placements or menu labels.
  • Analyze site analytics and user testing feedback to continuously improve page load speeds.
  • Personalize content to match user preferences and simplify their journey to key actions like purchases.

Planning for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Research relevant keyword phrases and topics that align with your business offerings.
  • Create optimized page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and content that incorporates target keywords.
  • Ensure fast page load speeds by minimizing HTTP requests, enabling compression, and optimizing images.
  • Use descriptive alt text and file names for images to improve accessibility and SEO.
  • Create XML site maps and submit them to search engines like Google for better crawling and indexing.

Executing the Web Development Process

This section outlines the steps to take during the actual construction of your website, using a sample project plan for website development as a guide.

Setting Up Your CMS and Design Template

When starting development on a new website, the first step is to set up your chosen content management system (CMS) and apply a premade web design template. Some popular CMS options to consider include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. These systems allow you to easily create and manage website content without needing coding expertise.

Once you have your CMS installed, browse intuitive design templates that match the look and functionality you want for your site. Many template marketplaces like TemplateMonster or ThemeForest offer a wide selection of professionally designed templates for different industries and purposes. Choose one that aligns with your website goals.

Here are a few tips for setting up your CMS and design template:

  • Follow the system requirements and installation instructions for your selected CMS platform. For example, with WordPress you may need web hosting that supports PHP and MySQL.
  • When applying the template, customize any sample content to fit your website needs rather than leaving placeholder text.
  • Configure the template's settings for elements like menus, widgets, layouts, and colors.
  • Set up user roles and permissions if others will be contributing content.
  • Ensure the template is mobile-friendly by previewing it on different devices. Over 50% of website traffic comes from mobile visitors.

Content Creation and Management

Creating high-quality website content that engages your target audience is key. Define an editorial plan outlining the topics and types of content you want to produce, organized by timeframe.

Manage your content efficiently within your CMS by:

  • Organizing it within clear category, tag, and menu structures
  • Establishing a streamlined review and approval process before publishing posts
  • Following content style and formatting guidelines for consistency
  • Optimizing images and media for web with alt text and compressed file sizes
  • Promoting content across platforms like social media to extend its reach

Conducting user research can provide insights into the content users find most valuable. Continually assess performance with metrics like pageviews and engagement to inform future content efforts.

Implementing Team Collaboration Tools

Developing a website involves coordination across many different tasks, assets, and likely multiple team members. Using project management platforms helps streamline this process.

Tools like Asana, Trello and Basecamp provide features like:

  • Centralized task lists to track website elements needing completion
  • File sharing and cloud storage for quick access to the latest materials
  • Commenting tools for discussions and reviews
  • Customizable workflows matching your team’s process
  • Dashboards and reports to view progress and deadlines

Implement the project management tools that best fit your team's needs early when planning your website. This investment saves considerable time over emailing files back and forth or losing track of tasks. Appoint someone to oversee the platform usage and workflow.

Conducting Website Usability Testing

Before launching your site, have a group of objective users evaluate its usability to uncover issues impacting site visitor experience. Usability testing provides valuable insights on:

  • How easy users can find information
  • Whether the interface is intuitive
  • If the content meets their needs
  • Where users struggle to complete desired actions

Fixing usability problems identified from testing can greatly improve user experience and conversion rates for your website. You can conduct basic usability testing remotely using services like UserTesting and TryMyUI. Prepare test scenarios, questions, and tasks that reflect real user goals then gather user feedback.

Incorporating iterative rounds of usability testing and improvements during development is ideal to build a website optimized for your users. Testing with target audience groups provides the most meaningful results.

Launching and Improving Your Website

The Website Launch Checklist

Before launching your website, it's important to thoroughly test and review to catch any remaining issues. Here is a checklist to help ensure your site is ready:

  • Perform functionality testing across browsers and devices to check for bugs and formatting issues
  • Enable caching and compression to improve site speed
  • Submit XML sitemaps to search engines for better indexing
  • Add analytics tracking to measure site traffic and user engagement
  • Check for broken links and 404 errors
  • Review site security and implement protections like HTTPS
  • Create 301 redirects if URLs have changed to retain rankings
  • Set up real-time monitoring to get alerts on site issues
  • Confirm legal pages like Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are in place

Following this website launch checklist helps minimize problems and provides data to optimize the user experience.

Analyzing User Feedback and Analytics

Understanding how people interact with your site provides valuable input to guide improvements.

User feedback through surveys, interviews, or support tickets gives direct insights into issues or areas needing enhancement. Look for trends and prioritize fixes that will help the most users.

Analytics such as Google Analytics tracks user sessions to reveal behavior patterns. Key metrics show popular versus neglected content, conversions by page, high bounce rates indicating problems, referral sources driving traffic, and more.

By regularly analyzing user feedback and analytics, you can base website updates on real data instead of assumptions. Focus efforts on changes that create the best user experience.

Iterative Design and Content Updates

Websites require continuous, iterative improvements as user needs evolve.

Design changes like enhancing navigation, optimizing forms, and refining page layouts can increase usability over time. Update visual elements to keep the style fresh.

Content updates involve adding new informational articles, product pages, blogs etc. to engage visitors. Also refine existing copy to increase relevance.

Use analytics and feedback to guide priorities. Small, incremental updates often work better than infrequent major overhauls.

The iterative process ensures your site always reflects the latest best practices and user expectations.

Effective Post-Launch Marketing Strategies

Driving visitors to a new site requires proactive promotion across channels.

  • SEO marketing through keyword research, metadata optimization and link-building improves search visibility
  • Social media marketing shares content and engages followers to build awareness
  • Email campaigns with special offers or announcements reach existing contacts
  • Paid ads like Google Ads target relevant searchers open to your message

Measure conversion rates to optimize marketing ROI. Nurture repeat visitors through email lists, social media and fresh content.

Sustained marketing grows meaningful traffic over the long term by communicating ongoing value.

Conclusion: Mastering Website Development Planning

Reflecting on the web design process and creating a structured project plan are critical for successfully developing a website, especially for beginners. By following a few key best practices, you can set your website project up for success.

Reflecting on the Web Design Process

When embarking on a website build, it's important to understand the key stages of the web design process and how each impacts the end product:

  • Planning - Creates the foundation through steps like defining goals, user research, sitemaps, wireframes.
  • Design - Brings the visual elements to life through UI/UX design, branding, style guides.
  • Development - Transforms plans and designs into a live website with programming.
  • Testing - Ensures functionality and optimization by testing elements like responsiveness, accessibility, SEO.
  • Launch and Beyond - Gets the site live and plans for ongoing maintenance like updates, backups, scaling.

The Value of a Structured Project Plan

A detailed website project plan improves collaboration and organization. Useful tools include:

  • Website project plan PDF with task checklist
  • Excel website project plan template
  • Project management software for timelines

Benefits include better task delegation, streamlined approvals, centralized asset storage, and transparency.

Next Steps for Your Website Development Journey

After launch, continue optimizing with SEO improvements, usability testing, new features based on analytics. Explore expanding business capabilities with ecommerce integrations, multi-language support, or custom modules.

Accessing Additional Resources and Templates

For further learning, browse the free website project plan templates shared by reputable websites. Their detailed samples demonstrate best practices for website planning.

With a structured plan and an iterative mindset, you can build, launch, and grow successful websites.