Are you planning to expand your small business services to the online marketplace? If so, you must prepare to launch a website.
A website sets the foundation for your brand’s online presence. But how can you create a functional website that also highlights your message? It begins with creating a solid website outline.
A website outline is the map of your site’s structure, including pages, categories, and subcategories. It helps search engines, like Google, Microsoft Bing, and Yahoo, quickly understand your site’s message. This, in turn, strengthens your SEO strategies, making your website rank higher on the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Don’t know how to get started? This guide explores 8 easy steps to create a website outline. So, let’s dive in!
Related: Web strategy
What is a website outline?
A website outline maps out the structure of your website. It tells you how your site will appear in front of the users even before you have built or launched it. Search engines use the website outline to identify your site’s pages, categories, and subcategories and understand your brand message.
A simple yet efficient website outline template looks like this:
Why is a website outline important?
It’s important to sit and brainstorm unique ideas around “how to create a website outline.” When done right, the website outline will help:
- Develop a site map, which is a vital part of SEO.
- Facilitate your human visitors to navigate through the pages easily.
- Search engines crawl your web pages, starting from the homepage and proceeding through the entire website.
- Search engine bots understand your website’s content and rank it higher on the result pages.
- Search engines show your website to the right audience at the right time, leading to a low bounce rate.
You must create a website outline to make your website a delight for humans and robots alike. Related:
How to make a website outline in 8 steps
Your website outline is the roadmap for your website, so it should be perfectly developed. Here are the steps involved in the process:
- Identify your target audience and website’s goals
- Create a user persona
- Categorize your information
- Lay out the hierarchy
- Create URLs based on your website hierarchy
- Develop relevant content
- Focus on the aesthetics
- Add internal links
To create an outstanding website design outline, let’s understand these steps in more detail.
Step 1: Identify your target audience and website’s goals
When developing a website outline, the first step is to determine who your target audience is and what is the purpose of your website. Unfortunately, many small businesses get so involved in satisfying search engines that they forget the real reason for creating their website: human visitors.
Specifying your target audiences must be the primary step when creating a website outline. Then comes the website goals. Do you want to increase your web traffic or sell your products faster? Defining your goals initially will help you organize and structure your website later.
This step also determines the content you will post on your web pages. Your landing pages must showcase your brand’s message and offerings to the users at first glimpse. That’s the best way to persuade them to take action.
Remember, a website’s goals vary depending on the nature of the business. An ecommerce store selling pet foods will have a different purpose than a blogging site that informs readers about current affairs. So, their website outlines will also be different.
Here are some website purposes for different businesses:
- Ecommerce stores. They should focus on categorizing their products, ensuring easy navigation for visitors, and smoothening the checkout process.
- Health & wellness. Client acquisition and retention are the two major concerns for these businesses. So, they should build a website to enhance their online visibility and attract more leads.
- Services businesses. They must try to penetrate the market by educating the local audiences about their offerings.
- SaaS companies. These businesses should build their site around the tools they offer and how they can provide value to the people.
- Review websites. Businesses that offer reviews related to restaurants, places, and other services must build their website around boosting their reputation and authenticity.
Step 2: Create a user persona
You now know your website’s goals. Of course, you want your website to be visible and accessible to those interested in your offerings.
It all starts with creating a user persona. You must think from your target audiences’ perspectives to identify their preferences, needs, and information they will look for on your website. This understanding will empower you to create a website online that your viewers will love.
Here are a few factors to consider when developing a user persona for your website:
- Income or buying power
- Pain points; what are their problems, and how can your products solve them
- How they spend their free time.
To keep all this data accessible, you should collect and store it on an easy-to-use platform like Canva, Microsoft Excel, Word, or Google Docs.
Before you build and design your website outline, take some time to think about the users. Figure out what they intend to do on your site and how you can facilitate them. Doing so will help you build a solid framework for your website, ensuring minimal limitations for your users.
Step 3: Categorize your information
Now comes the most crucial step of creating a website outline: developing the site structure. It involves building the infrastructure around your business’ information by dividing the data into categories. This will set the initial sitemap.
At this stage, you should think about how you want to categorize your pages and content. Here are some tips to consider:
- Don’t aim for too many categories, or it may confuse the users when navigating the website.
- Adding too many sub-categories or pages can also make your website too complicated.
- Always be relevant when creating the categories. If a category says “Home Appliances,” it shouldn’t have car tools listed.
To get started, you can go back to the first and third steps — determining your website’s goals and your business and users’ requirements — and outline the structure based on them.
Suppose you own an ecommerce store that sells clothes. You may have a list of products for different age groups and genders that you want to sell faster. For that, you should categorize the items based on your user demographics, such as “For Women,” “For Men,” and “For Babies.”
You can also add filters to target your users’ needs more effectively. For example, adding price and color filters will help them easily find the best product according to their budget and preferences.
Check out this amazing web design structure template of Nike:
Related: Website design checklist
Step 4: Lay out the hierarchy
Hierarchy defines your website’s structure, including all the pages, categories, and sub-categories.
A well-developed hierarchy helps search engines understand your most important pages, categories, and pages that each category contains. It also assists your users in easy site navigation.
You can take help from your sitemap layout when developing an excellent hierarchy. Some factors to keep in mind when creating a website outline include:
- Remember, your website’s hierarchy will play an essential role in satisfying search engine crawlers and users alike. So, be logical, sensible, and practical when creating it.
- Again, don’t make too many pages, categories, and sub-categories, as it may make it harder for your audience to find the information they want.
Your website hierarchy template must look something like this:
Related: UX improvements
Step 5: Create URLs based on your website hierarchy
This step is a bit technical. Now, you will have to create URLs and permalink structures for every web page based on the hierarchy.
You can include categories in the URLs, but it may make them longer. The same goes for the subcategories. So, it’s best to exclude categories and subcategories from the URLs and incorporate them only into the permalinks.
When creating a website outline, keep both permalinks and URLs SEO-friendly. That’s your key to ranking higher on the SERPs.
Step 6: Develop relevant content
By now, your website outline will have a solid structure, sitemap, hierarchy, URLs, and permalinks. It’s time to focus on planning the content outline for website. Remember, your content must be simplified, well-written, and relevant to your audiences.
So, start by going through all your web pages and categories and listing all the essential elements you must highlight in the content. Every page and category will have different text, depending on the items it contains.
Of course, you can also include photos and videos in your website outline. It will create a visual appeal for the viewers, helping you achieve your goals more quickly.
Here is an example of a website content outline for the homepage:
- On Top: A banner reflecting any ongoing sale, newly launched category or product, or discount coupons. It will attract the viewer’s eyes at first glance.
- In the Body: A brief yet comprehensive description of your offerings. You should also include professional and quality photos, but ensure they don’t comprise the website’s loading time.
- Towards the Footer: A gamification pop-up or widget to enhance user engagement.
- At the Bottom: A footer with clickable options like “About Us,” “Contact Us,” “Blogs,” etc.
Here is Best Buy’s web design structure template for the homepage:
Outlining website content will help you easily delegate the tasks to your copywriter, graphic designer, and web developers.
Step 7: Focus on the design
Aesthetics matter the same as functionality when designing web content. So, the next step is to create a visual identity that makes your brand stand out and easily recognizable from the competitors.
What comes to mind when you see a big yellow “M” on a red background? McDonald’s, right? That’s what creating a visual identity is!
You must determine the typography, colors, video tone, and the type of photos that resonate with your brand message. For example, if you own a traveling business, you can use yellow, orange, lime green, or brown as your website’s theme. These colors give the viewers a feeling of relaxation, rejuvenation, and freedom.
Aesthetics also decide for how long a user will stay on your website. So, include this factor in your outline for website content to develop modern yet appealing designs.
Step 8: Add internal links
The last step is to build internal links that connect one page of your website with another. The idea is to find pages with relevant content and link them to the other pages with a similar topic. Doing so helps the search engines understand the page’s topic, group related pages together, and rank them accordingly.
Here is how you can add internal links to your website outline:
- Create a landing page. You can link multiple categories on your website through a brand landing page. This page gives a brief description of your website and its products. So it’s easy to link the right categories or products with those listed on another page.
- Show related items. You should also display related products to visitors when they’re searching a product details page. It will enable search engines to index your offerings and develop an internal linking infrastructure.
- Add featured items to the homepage. Your website’s homepage must have a category page that displays “featured, most popular, or most searched for” items. Make sure to add text links with keywords to the product pictures.
- Include links in blogs. If your website has a blog section, write about your products and include relevant product or page links. You can also create buying guides to help the visitors and feature your products easily.
When adding internal links, remember one thing: you can’t just link every keyword on a page to another. Instead, you should also include external links to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy, which will improve your rankings as well.
Website design outline template
If you have understood all the above 8 steps, you can create a website design outline template on tools like Microsoft Word, Canva, or Adobe Photoshop. These programs help you envision and turn your ideas into an excellent website outline in a few minutes.
However, you can also use a free site map template available online to save time. These templates are designed by individuals experienced in creating efficient sitemap outlines.
Here is a website outline example or site map template:
Just keep your hierarchy (pages, categories, and subcategories) super simple. Only add the page’s description, topic, and URL. Don’t forget that you’re creating a page outline to help search engine crawlers understand your website and humans easily navigate through it.
Creating a website outline: The final takeaway
The main purpose of developing an outline website is to strengthen your SEO strategies. It provides you with a clear roadmap for web development, helping you lay out an effective site structure. This ensures the best user experience (UX) and search engine ranking.
Keep your website outline simple, comprehensive, and relevant by following the above 8 steps. From determining your website goals to creating a visual appeal, the process may seem overwhelming, but it will make things easier for you in the long run.