Common Website Planning Mistakes

Learning from the mistakes of others is better than going through them yourself.

Build a better plan by avoiding these traps.


Everyone makes mistakes when doing something new or if they don't have easy to use instructions. There are many areas in a web project where either side of the client/developer relationship can have issues, handle issues poorly or simply do things wrong. If you are more aware of what isn't great behaviour then hopefully you won't make that mistake.

The first and most obvious mistake is not having any plan at all. Moving past that most of the website planning mistakes listed are either in the selection stage of choosing who to work with, or in how you might make decisions that previously you would have considered 'your brief.'

Some stem from being overworked or time poor and taking the fast and lazy approach to writing a brief; others are because you just don't know any different.

This guide on how to make a better website brief is designed to help you avoid these traps, read over them and see if you have done any before or are tempted to say or request one of them. Then with that in mind work through the guide, and you will understand why they aren't going to help you get a better result.


brief mistake traps

1 No Plan

The biggest single mistake you can make is to start the process of designing and building the site without a plan.

No plan = No method to get it right.

Even after nearly 20 years of helping people build web applications and sites I still have conversations with individuals who haven’t put together any plan at all.

If you want a better website, then you need a plan. Plain and straightforward!

Follow the steps in this Complete Website Planning Guide and you will have a plan that works!

2 Copy that site

This is the easy way out. You see a site you "like the look of" and want your business to look like that.

You get your dev team to copy it and they do, making it fit how your brand is represented. It looks pretty good, but it's just like selecting a theme and not applying any thought to what you need.

You have no idea if that site produces results, many 'good looking sites' might win awards but don't impact the business meaningfully.

It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with 'copying,' many sites are of course copies of ideas seen elsewhere. Use other sites as inspiration and to help convey to your team what you want. If using a theme matches your budget, and you can get the right website at the end of it then that's a design and financial decision.

Copy that site isn't a website plan or brief.

3 I want a site just like (insert major brand here)

My favourite one of these is "Make it look like Apple/Facebook only better".

Seriously we hear this type of comment regularly. You aren't Apple or Facebook, why would you want to copy them. Steve Jobs didn't get to create the products he did simply by copying other people.

Gather insight, ideas and intelligence from great sites. You don't even know if that 'great website' you are looking at actually performs. You can't see their analytics data or sales data.

Be realistic too about your budget. These sites you might dream to emulate probably have funds that might match significant portions of your business revenue. Unless you can spend that on the website, focus more on what you need.


4 I have $X what can you build for that

Having a budget is, of course, imperative. So is knowing what you can afford to spend.

As any good business owner or marketing manager should know that you first need to understand what you want, what it might cost and also what type of return it could bring you.

You might be able to afford to double what you propose to your developer if you knew it was going to help you get more business.

If you have a realistic plan and a budget, when you get quotes higher than what you can afford, you can have a sensible conversation with developers on what can they take out that won't break everything now, and that can be added back later.

That is a better way. Also maybe you just can't afford what you want or need. But that's a different conversation topic. Better you know up front before you start a project to find out it isn't what you need.


5 Stay out of the Ballpark

Oh no not the ballpark.

Invariably we have all asked someone at some point in our lives "Can you give me a ballpark cost for that?"

Except you won't ever again when seeking quotes for any other sites you are going to build.

Using our Builder analogy imagine expecting to get a realistic ballpark for a house with no drafts or plans. "I think I want a two story three bedroom house, can you tell me how much."

I would hope you wouldn't build a house like that, and I implore you to stop trying to get a price like that for a site you don't have any idea about.

If you have a scope or plan and want an estimate before a full fixed quote gets done, that's not unreasonable before you waste everyone's time but if you turn up with nothing but a rough number of pages, then you aren't going to get a brilliant result.


6 Can you do two designs so we can choose developer

Hopefully, most agencies or design team would politely send you away at this point, but people still expect to get 'design' work done without payment or without giving a full briefing.

You will learn that visual design comes a long way down the path of planning a new site if you follow our guide, and you also shouldn't expect to get quality design work done without it being part of the paid work.

Your ideas will be concise so that your design team will bring together one style you have already agreed on rather than expecting to get multiple coherent designs knocked up as part of a pitch.

Do the work to create an excellent brief and you will find it easy to pick development teams and get great results.


7 Brief Briefs

An overly thin brief is one where you think you are giving useful information but are only providing a simple conversation outlining what areas of your site need to change.

E.g. We will want to change the About Us section, and we will give you new stuff later, or We want the homepage to be different if you can make it feel more modern that would work.

This isn't a brief. It might provide an overview which could be clarified, but it is way too 'brief' to be useful.

You will see why in later chapters.

8 Here's our old site just make it new

Where you hand over a list of pages as your sitemap with a few notes about how you want it to look like X site.

A sitemap isn't a list of what you currently have or a list of uncategorised URLs from a site scraper, nor is a long list of pages even if it is organised into groups.

A scope or brief will include a form of sitemap like this, but it will provide a lot more information than just pages.


9 I don’t want much content on it; no one reads content

Firstly as you review and understand what users want you will see how important content, in all types, is for your business and marketing.

You also need to realise that in building your website for your business it is not about you and your opinions much at all. The biggest mistake many organisations make is building from the inside out rather than the outside in.

You will need content, high-quality content and you will need to plan that content in advance. That's one part of how you will create an awesome website that works for your business.




better website brief

These are just some of the mistakes you can make when planning a site.

If you have a mistake, you have heard or even said in the past email it to mistakes at ireckon dot com and we will add the best ones to this list.

The next chapters start the actual process of building your scope and turning it into a Great Website Brief.



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