How to Plan Effective Website Templates

03/26/2014 4 min read Written by Samantha Winski

Ah, the delicate art of web user experience design. When starting new website projects with our clients, everyone (us included) is eager to jump into design. The trouble with skipping discovery and planning is that a lot of factors go into organizing an effective web page or pages. Here’s a roundup of the top 5 things we consider before we sit down to wireframe or design:

1. Goals

The goals for your website redesign need to be discussed and clearly outlined. Here are a few examples of how your goals impact content decisions: 

  • If your goal is to be a thought leader in the industry: We need to promote your blog, resources on the homepage, and relevant content within interior pages
  • If your goal is lead generation: We need places for calls-to-action and forms prominent in all pages
  • If your goal is to grow into new markets: You'll need to earn trust with your audience through testimonials, case studies, and other third party content like news articles, events, etc. 

2. Personas

Who is coming to your website and what information do they need to help decide whether to work with you? Buyer personas weigh heavily when planning a website redesign. It's what we use to help make tough decisions about what elements we place on a page. Buyer personas are vital for the success of your website and marketing program. 

3. Inspiration Sites

Some of our clients have very firm ideas on what they want to see with their website redesign, and that’s great! We recommend collecting a few ideas from all the stakeholders, so we can assess what is and what is not within your budget (or is on strategy or off strategy for that matter). We are voracious consumers of websites as well, we are constantly sharing ideas when we start working with a client.

Need a little inspiration? Here are a couple sites we like to browse when looking to get inspired about layout, organization,  and technology:

When in doubt, just go Google! Think like your customer and browse terms related to your industry and see what inspires you.

4. Content Hierarchy

A light 10-page website is organized differently than a 100-page website – that goes without saying. We are careful to work with every client to create a sitemap that thoughtfully organizes content, while enabling a conversation to take place as users browse through it. The content hierarchy tells us:

  • How much content to feature on the homepage, and what to feature
  • How many links we'll include in the main navigation, if a utility navigation is needed, etc.
  • How many unique templates are needed for your website based on the variety of content

5. Best Practices

Finally, we always consider best practices and well-tested methods to organize content within each page. Best practices are always changing and do not apply for every website. We look very carefully at the following factors:

  • Typical user expectations. The more time your customers spend trying to figure out how to navigate content, the less time you can wow them with your content
  • Keeping up with technology that is compatible with most popular browsers and devices (like responsive design, HTML5)
  • Avoiding layouts, technology that is detrimental to SEO
  • Working with content structures that can scale down in a responsive layout logically

Planning your page templates is just the first step in building an effective website. Always keep in mind that testing and iterating should be used to improve user experience and conversion rate as you, your customers, and your industry evolves. Need help getting started with putting together templates for your next website redesign? Or just have a page that needs an update? Contact us today to speak with an expert

Photo Credit: ReSurge International via Compfight cc
By: Samantha Winski

Samantha Winski is a Senior Onboarding Consultant with Lynton, helping companies move or optimize their HubSpot instances. She writes for Lynton remotely from Pittsburgh about process management and optimization using HubSpot.

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