Web design is a complex, but essential ongoing activity. Before creating and uploading a website, it is important to take the time to plan exactly what is needed in the website. Thoroughly considering the audience or target market, as well as defining the purpose and deciding what content will be developed, are extremely important.
It is essential to define the purpose of the website as one of the first steps in the planning process. A purpose statement should show focus based on what the website will accomplish and what the users will get from it. A clearly defined purpose will help the rest of the planning process as the audience is identified and the content of the site is developed. Setting short and long term goals for the website will help make the purpose clear and plan for the future when expansion, modification, and improvement will take place. Measurable objectives should be identified to track the progress of the site and determine success.
Documentation is used to visually plan the site while taking into account the purpose, audience and content, to design the site structure, content and interactions that are most suitable for the website. Documentation may be considered a prototype for the website – a model which allows the website layout to be reviewed, resulting in suggested changes, improvements and/or enhancements. This review process increases the likelihood of success of the website.
The first step may involve information architecture in which the content is categorized and the information structure is formulated. The information structure is used to develop a document or visual diagram called a site map. This creates a visual of how the web pages or content will be interconnected, and may help in deciding what content will be placed on what pages.
In addition to planning the structure, the layout and interface of individual pages may be planned using a storyboard. In the process of storyboarding, a record is made of the description, purpose and title of each page in the site, and they are linked together according to the most effective and logical diagram type. Depending on the number of pages required for the website, documentation methods may include using pieces of paper and drawing lines to connect them, or creating the storyboard using computer software.
Some or all of the individual pages may be designed in greater detail as a website wireframe, a mock up model or comprehensive layout of what the page will actually look like.
Web design is different than traditional print publishing. Every website is an information display container, just as a book is a container; and every web page is like the page in a book. However the end size and shape of the web page is not known to the web designer, whereas the print designer will know exactly what size paper he will be printing on. 
For the typical web sites, the basic aspects of design are:
- The content: the substance, and information on the site should be relevant to the site and should target the area of the public that the website is concerned with.
- The usability: the site should be user-friendly, with the interface and navigation simple and reliable.
- The appearance: the graphics and text should include a single style that flows throughout, to show consistency. The style should be professional, appealing and relevant.
- The structure: of the web site as a whole.
Many sites require frequent content changes and new content publishing at short notice. Content Management Systems (CMS) allow non-technical contributors to maintain and update site content without programming knowledge or special software tools. Typically content on the website is editable using a “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) model. In addition to maintaining existing content, CMS administrators can upload images or videos, create pages, sections or categories, and add or edit menu structures.