The 10 phases of planning a website

Planning a website properly is no easy feat. So, our experts have put together a list of the 10 phases you should work your way through as part of your website design planning process.

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Christie Clark, Marketing Manager

Digital Marketing, SEO,

4 Minutes

11 Jul 2023

The old adage ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ has never been more applicable than during the process of building a website.

If you don’t plan your website properly, then building it is going to be a messy process and your site may not be as efficient or effective as it could be.

Planning a website properly is no easy feat. So, our experts have put together a list of the 10 phases you should work your way through as part of your website design planning process.


1. Understanding Your Audience

To create a successful website, it’s incredibly important to appeal to your audience by understanding their interests. Conduct thorough customer research, including methods like questionnaires, email surveys, and interviews, to gain insights into customer behaviour, requirements, and desires.

Use this data to ensure that your website’s design and functions cater to the user, ultimately increasing engagement and interest. If budget allows, consider monitoring how customers navigate the website and gather their feedback to identify areas for improvement.

2. Researching Your Competition

Studying your competitors can provide valuable inspiration and help identify market gaps. Visit your main competitors’ websites, analysing their strengths and weaknesses.

Take note of their effective strategies and areas that need improvement but make sure to prioritise creating your own user-friendly design over a flashy upgrade of your competitors’. Striking a balance between aesthetic appeal and usability is crucial.

3. Developing an Effective SEO Strategy

Incorporate a well-planned Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy early in the website planning process. Conduct comprehensive keyword research, with assistance from an SEO agency, to identify relevant keywords and phrases for your industry. Use this research to create a targeted sitemap and develop content aligned with user search intent.

Ensure your website brief includes SEO guidelines for search engine-friendly development. By implementing SEO best practices from the start, you can maximise your website’s visibility and attract organic traffic.

4. Performing a Content Inventory

If you’re rebuilding an existing website, conduct a content inventory early in the planning process. Audit all current content to assess relevance, determine what needs rewriting or removal, and identify content gaps.

Evaluate content from the user’s perspective and consider factors such as purpose, target audience, last update date, author/owner, and quality rating. Then, categorise content as requiring no change, updates, or removal.

5. Resource Allocation and Coordination

Ensure you have the necessary resources allocated for your website project. Properly assign people and dedicate sufficient time to meet deadlines. Consider key stakeholder availability during User Acceptance Testing (UAT) to prevent delays.

Planning and coordinating resources in advance will ensure a smooth and timely execution of your website project.

6. Conducting Card Sorting Sessions

Utilise card sorting sessions to determine the ideal information architecture of your website. Gather diverse participants, such as existing customers, staff members, or friends and family, to assist in this process. Participants organise your website’s content into logical groups based on their understanding and preferences.

Conduct both open and closed card sorting sessions for thorough analysis. You can use traditional methods or online tools for digital card sorting exercises, simplifying data collection and analysis.

7. Finalising Your Sitemap

With insights gathered from user research, competitor analysis, content inventory, and card sorting, shape your sitemap. It outlines your website’s structure and organisation.

Conduct tree testing to ensure usability by presenting users with tasks within a simplified text-based version of the sitemap. Observe how users navigate and complete tasks to identify areas for improvement and ensure a smooth user experience. Optimal Workshop provides an excellent online tree-testing tool.

8. Designing an Effective Call to Action (CTA)

Define your desired CTA before wireframing and design. Determine the specific action you want users to take when they land on your site, such as requesting a quote or contacting you.

Place the CTA strategically throughout the user journey, ensuring it’s quick and easy to engage with once the decision to work with you is made.

9. Selecting the Right Content Management System (CMS)

Choose a suitable CMS that aligns with your website’s requirements. Avoid proprietary options that limit flexibility.

WordPress is a highly recommended CMS, known for its flexibility, extendability, and user-friendly interface. It allows for easy content updates, even for non-technical users. Numerous plugins and extensions also enhance SEO performance.

10. Developing Wireframes and Prototypes

Create wireframes and prototypes to visually represent your website’s layout and functionality before full-scale development. Wireframes focus on element placement and user flow, while prototypes simulate interactions and user experience.

Tools like Sketch, Figma, or Adobe XD can aid in creating wireframes and interactive prototypes. Incorporate user feedback to address usability issues and design flaws early on, resulting in a more efficient development process and superior end product.


By following these steps, you’ll know that you’ve ensured that your website will meet user needs, achieve business goals, and deliver an exceptional user experience.

It’s crucial that you go through all of these phases before you actually start to build your website. A proper website design plan can make a huge difference in the ease and efficiency of your website building process and your website’s eventual effectiveness.


Found is a London-based multi-award-winning digital growthSEO, PPC, Social and Digital PR agency that harnesses the efficiencies of data and technology and future-thinking to help clients grow their businesses online.

If you have any questions or concerns about planning and/or building a new website, the Found team is ready to help.

Feel free to contact our team today.