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How to Create a Website Outline: A Complete & Step-by-Step Guide

how to create a website outline

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. i.e., if you sign up for their paid programs, I will get a commission, at no cost to you. Please rest assured that I only recommend software/ products I genuinely believe in, and trust to be good for you.

Have you ever started a project only to find yourself lost halfway through?

Building a website without a clear plan can feel exactly like that.

Imagine trying to construct a house without blueprints – you’d end up with a lot of frustration and wasted time.

A well-crafted website outline acts as your project’s roadmap, guiding you smoothly from concept to launch.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to create a comprehensive website outline and structure that will save you time, keep you organized, and ensure your website meets its goals.

Related: Web strategy

What is a website outline?

A website outline is essentially a roadmap for your site. It helps you organize the structure and content, making it easier to plan your website’s look and function .

A website outline includes pages, categories, and subcategories, helping users and search engines understand your brand message.

A simple yet efficient website outline template looks like this:

A Free Sitemap Template

Why is a website outline important?

Creating an outline before you build your website can save you time and effort. Here’s why it’s so crucial:

1. Clarity and direction

It keeps your project focused and clear. For example, if you want to get more leads, your outline will ensure you include forms and contact buttons.

2. Content organization & user navigation

A website outline helps you lay out your information so visitors can easily find what they’re looking for. A well-organized website helps your audience browse your site easily and find what they need.

This in turn creates a better user experience and helps keep people on your site longer.

3. SEO benefits

Planning your content and structure with an outline can help improve your website’s visibility in search results. You can focus on using the right headings, keywords, and a clear structure that search engines like, which helps people find your site more easily.

4. Efficiency

An outline helps you plan ahead, which means less time fixing things later. This can save you time and money because you avoid costly changes and redesigns.

5. Team collaboration

When everyone knows the plan, it’s easier to work together. An outline ensures all team members understand the website’s goals and design, which helps everyone cooperate better.

A good website outline prevents problems like confusing layouts, inconsistent designs, and unexpected project delays. This means you can build your site more smoothly and have a better result.

How to make a website outline in 10 steps

Your website outline is the roadmap for your website, so it should be perfectly developed. Here are the steps involved in the process:

  1. Identify your target audience and website’s goals
  2. Conduct research
  3. Create a user persona
  4. Categorize your information
  5. Lay out the sitemap (structure & hierarchy)
  6. Create URLs based on your website hierarchy
  7. Develop relevant content
  8. Focus on the design
  9. Add internal links
  10. Refine the User Experience (UX)

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 determining your target audience and your website’s purpose. Unfortunately, many small businesses get so involved in satisfying search engines that they forget the real reason for creating their website: human visitors.

Who are your visitors, and what do they need? Understanding your audience helps tailor your content and design to meet their needs.

Then comes the website goals.

Do you want to increase website traffic, boost sales, attract partnerships, or build a community? 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.

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 would mostly focus on categorizing their products, ensuring easy navigation for visitors, and smoothing the checkout process.
  • Health & wellness businesses could build a website to enhance their online visibility and attract more leads.
  • Services businesses would potentially want to penetrate the market by educating the local audiences about their offerings.
  • SaaS companies usually build their site around the tools they offer and how they can provide value to the people.
  • Review websites would focus on boosting their reputation and authenticity.

Step 2. Conduct research

Before you work on your website, take a look at the competition.

This step is crucial for differentiating your website and ensuring it meets industry standards and user expectations.

Start by identifying your main competitors. These could be businesses that offer similar products or services or websites that target the same audience.

Look at their websites to see what you like and what could be improved.

  • Take note of features, layout, and content strategies that work well. This could include online ordering systems, search features, and customer reviews. How are these integrated into the website, and how do they improve the user experience?
  • Look at the layout and design. How are the navigation menus structured? Are the images effectively used to complement the content? This will help you think about how to structure your site in a user-friendly and visually appealing way.
  • Analyze the type of content competitors publish and how they present it. What kind of blog posts, product descriptions, or multimedia elements are they using? This analysis will aid in planning your content categories and help you decide on the types of content you’ll need to create.
  • Pay attention to the overall user experience. Is the website fast and responsive? Is it easy to find information and complete tasks?
  • Test the site on different devices to see if it’s mobile-friendly. Try completing a purchase or contacting the business to evaluate the ease of use.

Make a list of what you like and dislike about each competitor’s website. This will help you understand what elements to incorporate into your site and what to avoid.

For example, you might love the competitor’s vibrant images and detailed product descriptions but find their navigation confusing or their site too cluttered.

While competitor analysis is essential, don’t limit your research to your industry. Look at websites from other fields for fresh ideas and innovative features.

Step 3. Create a user persona

You now know your website’s goals. Now, you must match your business website to your audience’s needs.

It all starts with creating a user persona.

A user or buyer persona is a detailed profile of your typical user, including demographics, behavior patterns, and goals. It helps you design a site that meets their needs.

A buyer persona also helps you think from your target audiences’ perspectives to identify their preferences and needs and the information they might look for on your website.

Here are a few factors to consider when developing a user persona for your website:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Income or buying power
  • Pain points: what are their problems, and how can your products solve them
  • Interests
  • How they spend their free time.

Create fictional characters representing different segments of your audience, detailing their background, needs, and how they will use your site.

For example, “Tech-savvy Tom” might be a 30-year-old IT professional who visits your site for in-depth gadget reviews.

The buyer personal template below will help you start creating your user persona.

 

Step 4. Categorize your information

At this stage, you should think about how you want to categorize all the information and content you want to share on your website.

This step helps you determine the different sections of your site and organize information logically. Once you have a clear idea of the categories, sub-categories, and pages, you can create a website hierarchy that reflects this structure.

Here are some steps you can follow to categorize:

1. Identify main content areas

Begin by listing the main topics or areas your website will cover. Think about the primary services, products, or information you want to provide to your visitors.

For example, for a small bakery, the main content areas might be “Cakes,” “Pastries,” “Bread,” “Special Orders,” and “About Us.”

2. Break down into subcategories

Within each main content area, identify subcategories that further organize the content. Subcategories help break down broad topics into more specific sections.

So, in the bakery example, under “Cakes,” you could have subcategories like “Wedding Cakes,” “Birthday Cakes,” and “Custom Designs.”

3. Use clear and descriptive labels

Label your categories and subcategories with clear, descriptive names that are easy for visitors to understand. Avoid using jargon or overly technical terms.

Continuing with the bakery example, instead of “Gourmet Baked Goods,” you might want to use “Specialty Pastries” to make it more relatable and straightforward.

4. Prioritize user needs

Consider what your visitors are looking for and prioritize the content based on their needs. This user-centric approach ensures your categories are relevant and useful.

If customers frequently ask about custom orders, ensure “Custom Designs” is a prominent subcategory under “Cakes.”

5. Plan for growth

Consider how your content might evolve over time and plan your categories to accommodate future growth. This flexibility will help you maintain a well-organized site as you add new information.

If you plan to add a blog in the future, consider how you will categorize blog posts, such as “Recipes,” “Baking Tips,” and “Customer Stories.”

Here are some tips to consider while categorizing your content:

  • Don’t aim for too many categories, which 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 home decor listed.

Check out this clean and straightforward web design structure template of Nike:

Nike’s Website Structure Template

Related: Website design checklist

Step 5. Lay out the sitemap (structure & hierarchy)

Hierarchy defines your website’s structure, including all the pages, categories, and sub-categories.

After organizing your content into categories and subcategories, the next step is to create a detailed site hierarchy and sitemap.

This visual planning tool will help you see how all the pieces fit together, ensuring a smooth navigation experience for your users.

Your website hierarchy template must look something like this:

An Excellent Website Hierarchy Template

Here is an example using the bakery business content we saw earlier.

Simple example of a sitemap website hierarchy

You could create your sitemap in PowerPoint, or use a simple digital tool like Canva.

For example, I found some simple website templates and outlines from Canva. Feel free to use any of these and edit them to meet your website structure.

Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 1
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 2
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 3
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 4
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 5
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 6
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 7
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 8
Sitemap & Website Outline Template Example 9

Review the visual sitemap to ensure it supports intuitive navigation. Key pages should be easily accessible, and the flow from one page to another should make sense.

For example, make sure the “Contact” page is linked from multiple places like the “Home,” “About Us,” and “Special Orders” pages to ensure visitors can easily find it.

Share the sitemap with your team members or stakeholders for feedback. Make adjustments based on their input to improve usability and navigation flow.

Step 6. Create URLs based on your website hierarchy

This step is a bit technical. You must create URLs and permalink structures for every web page based on the hierarchy.

You can include categories in the URLs, which may make them longer. The same goes for the subcategories. It is fine to exclude categories and subcategories from the URLs and incorporate them only into the permalinks.

Search engines will still understand your content from your sitemap.

When creating a website outline, keep both permalinks and URLs SEO-friendly. That’s your key to ranking higher on the SERPs.

Step 7. 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 the 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 its contents.

Outlining website content will help you easily delegate the tasks to your copywriter, graphic designer, and web developers.

Step 8: Focus on the design

Aesthetics matter the same as functionality when designing web content.

Once you have a clear structure for your website, focus on the design aspects to ensure it’s visually appealing and functional.

Start by selecting a color scheme that aligns with your i and enhances readability. Ensure that your text is easy to read and well-spaced.

Integrate graphics and images that complement the content and engage users.

However, the most important factor to consider is the layout and flow.

Organizing content intuitively to guide visitors through your site with ease is crucial. Ensure mobile responsiveness: that your website looks great on all devices.

Take the example of Warby Parker’s website, for instance.

Layout is crucial for website outline

The homepage lets you choose the category you’re interested in with clear CTAs.

The layout is clean and straightforward, with a strong focus on usability.

Navigation is intuitive, with clear categories and a prominent search bar.

They also incorporate interactive elements like the “Try-On” feature, allowing users to upload a photo to see how different glasses would look on their faces.

Related: Brand kit examples

Step 9. 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 include external links to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy, improving your rankings.

Step 10. Refine the User Experience (UX)

Designing a user-centered website involves understanding and catering to your target audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Focus on making the site easy and enjoyable to use.

Ensure your site is accessible to all users, that it has good responsiveness across devices, and has a straightforward navigation.

For the bakery website, ensure that the menu is easily accessible and the ordering process is straightforward, whether accessed from a desktop or a smartphone.

Gather feedback from real users like your customers. You don’t even have to do big tests. Ask them to complete a task, like placing an order. Note any challenges they face and areas where they hesitate. Adjust your design based on user feedback.

Pro tips:

  • Remember the 3-click rule: No page should be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage.
  • Simplify navigation: If users find it hard to navigate, streamline the menu or add a search function.
  • Enhance readability: If users struggle with reading text, adjust font sizes, or improve color contrast.

For example, if, after trying out your website, your customers report that the checkout process is confusing, simplify it by reducing the number of steps and providing clear instructions at each stage.

Recommended: Create a wireframe

Once you have created your website structure, I recommend creating a wireframe before you start your website design process.

This step is not entirely necessary, but it definitely helps to create a smooth website outline and flow.

A wireframe is like a visual sitemap with simple visual guides and the placement of elements that outline your web pages’ basic structure and layout.

It indicates not just the site structure and the content a page should contain but how the content should be laid out.

See below an example of a wireframe for a blog page that I also did on Canva. There is a placeholder copy, image, CTAs, etc.

website wireframe template

Here is an example of a wireframe for the homepage:

  • On Top: A banner reflecting any ongoing sale, newly launched category, 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.

Several tools like Balsamiq, Sketch, or Figma can help you create wireframes, edit them, and share them with your team.

However, you don’t even need fancy tools to create a wireframe.

You can create a rough sketch using paper and a pencil. Then, you can move it to a simple design tool like Canva or start directly on Canva. Better still, if you have a website designer, they will probably create a wireframe for you anyway.

I actually create my wireframe on Elementor. As you may know, I swear by WordPress for its flexibility and customization options, and WordPress is my favorite page builder.

So I start with the default Elementor wireframe and customize it as necessary.

Website Outline Wireframe Example Elementor scaled

Website outline examples

Here are two website outline examples of real, live websites.

Example 1: My own website outline (weignitegrowth.com):

1. Guides

  • Small business branding
  • Small business websites

2. Services

  • Branding package
  • Website & SEO content
  • The solopreneur package

3. About

  • My mission
  • My story & partners

4. Blog

  • Branding
  • Website design & optimization
  • Content & SEO
  • SEO writing
  • Marketing tools

5. Resources

  • Free brand story template
  • Free website content template
  • Free DIY SEO course
  • Free checklists
  • Offers & promotions

6. Book a Meeting

  • Write to me
  • Let’s connect (social media handles)

Here’s a graphical illustration of what this outline looks like:

website outline of weignitegrowth.com

Example 2: SE Ranking website outline:

1. Why SE Ranking?

Scalable solution

  • for Enterprises
  • for Agencies
  • for SMBs
  • for Entrepreneurs

Trusted by users

  • Case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Our data

2. Features

  • Keyword research
  • Competitive research
  • Backlink analysis
  • Website audit

3. Plans & pricing

  • Plans and pricing table

4. Resources

  • Blog
  • Webinars
  • Academy
  • Agency catalog
  • What’s new?

5. Sign in

6. Start free trial

Here’s a graphical illustration of what this website outline looks like:

website outline of SE Ranking

7 Key tips for creating an effective website outline

To effectively create a website outline that satisfies humans and search engines, here are some important tips to take note of:

1. Create a logical hierarchy

Organize your content in a hierarchical structure.

Start with broad categories and then break them down into more specific subcategories. This helps search engines and humans to identify pages on your site easily.

2. Make user experience (UX) a priority

A detailed website with all the necessary information is almost nothing if it’s not user-friendly. Your website visitors will get overwhelmed if the information is not organized in a hierarchical structure and their journey on the site isn’t intuitive.

You must prioritize important content and ensure users can easily navigate to key site sections.

3. Use a mobile-first approach

According to Statista, mobile users have accounted for half of global web traffic since 2017.

In 2023, it peaked at 59% of users.

This means that most of your website traffic will come from mobile. So, it’s only logical that you design your website with a mobile-first mindset.

4. Prioritize key pages

Identify the most important pages on your website and ensure they’re accessible from the homepage.

This is essential for helping users navigate to these pages, mostly your site’s conversion points.

5. Use consistent navigation

Maintain consistent navigation elements across all pages on your website to provide a cohesive user experience.

Using clear and descriptive menu labels helps users locate pages on the site easily, thereby reducing the churn rate.

6. Integrate SEO best practices

To ensure your website ranks well on search engines, you must integrate and make good plans for SEO in your website outline.

Incorporate relevant keywords into your page titles, headings, and content. Also, ensure your URLs are search engine friendly, as they help rank pages higher on search engine result pages (SERPs).

7. Consider multimedia elements

Visual representation is important on websites. When users can easily relate to your website’s visuals, converting them becomes easier.

Therefore, you must plan to include images, videos, and other multimedia elements on your site. They help enhance the user experience and create that emotional connection with your audience that you need to convince them to purchase.

Creating a website outline: The final takeaway

Keep your website outline simple, comprehensive, and relevant by following the above 10 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.

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