Using flow charts to plan your website

In my previous posts on starting a new website and using mind maps to define your website’s purpose, I’ve talked about the importance of thorough planning to the success of the project. Using mind maps, I was able to sketch out the possibilities for the focus – or multiple focuses – for my site.

While the jury is deliberating on the ultimate purpose of my site, now is a good time to look at where I am in the overall process of creating a sustainable and scalable personal website. To this end, it’s time to embrace flow charts.

What is a flow chart?

A flow chart is a graphical representation of steps in a complex process. Often there are contingency or decision tree statements (if this, then that) that show what course of action to pursue given a choice.

How to make a flow chart

Just like using a mind map, you can draw this out simply on pen and paper. Surely there are best practices (or better practices) than I am going to demonstrate here. However to keep things simple for this exercise I am going to use a software called Lucidchart.

Screen capture of Lucidchart

Lucidchart provides free diagramming software as well as subscription options that unlock additional functions and shape libraries should you want them. I’ve used Lucidchart professionally a few times to create wireframes and flow charts for clients and internal processes. There are other programs out there like balsamiq and, for you Apple users, I’ve heard nothing but good things about OmniGraffle.

Since this is a personal website and I am not building my site by committee with numerous political stakeholders, I am going to use the simplest of flowcharts to define key milestones in my site development process.

Flow chart for developing my website

Website planning flowchart

There you have it. This simple flow chart with nine steps should cover most aspects of getting my website to where I want it to be in a couple of months.

  • Concepting & Planning: Thinking through the purpose and steps involved of making this site fully functional.
  • Content Calendar: Once the purpose and steps are thought out, developing a framework to ensure I keep publishing content I care about and tracking its performance.
  • Information Architecture: Knowing what content I will be publishing will help me decide how to structure the website’s navigation, page templates, and what additional bits of information I will want to convey visually – and how. This will all lead to what is, hopefully, a positive user experience and a Google-friendly optimized structure.
  • Content Management System (CMS) Selection: Once I have the requirements of my concept, content, and information architecture I will be able to choose the right CMS for my site. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve already chosen WordPress, but I will dedicate a post to exploring the different CMS options you should consider when setting up your own personal website.
  • Analytics: Once I have my plan and chosen a CMS, I need to think about how I want to track my website’s progress. I already know two of the platforms I will use at the time of this writing: Google Search Console and Google Analytics. But I may consider testing out others as well. These programs all have requirements to work properly and I will explore getting them set up in future posts.
  • Design: In my previous life as a web developer and project manager, once a concept and plan are established, this is where the work usually starts. The problem I have with prioritizing design before functional requirements are thoroughly established and rigorously defined is that it often results in the work having to be done and redone to shoehorn it into the approved design. Since this is my website, we are going to do it my way.
  • SEO: I am an SEO Director by trade, so you’d think this would be my top priority. However, good SEO has influenced every step of my flow chart’s design. Why have I placed SEO this “late in the game” of the flow chart? Simple: I’m only talking about explicit technical plugins and features that I will want to deploy in the CMS and integrated into the design before I start promoting the site in earnest.
  • Promotion: I’ll be sharing this site “as I go” on social media, particularly on Facebook, Instagram, and possibly Twitter. However these are simply tactics of organic distribution. This is part of what will eventually be my promotion strategy – but only part. We will explore promotion in greater detail in future posts.
  • Iterative Improvements: Nothing is ever finished when it comes to the web. I will change. I will tweak. I will optimize. I may even go back to different steps in this flowchart to rethink and improve on my original plan. It’s all about the emergent strategy.

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