Planning Your Site Design Before Placing the Order with Your Web Design Company
If you plan on building a new site from scratch this article will give you a fluent action plan to follow so that your goals are meat entirely. So where do you start? The first step of every undertaking is to come up with a strategy of blueprint for what you want to achieve. Developing a new site is no exception. Without a definitive set of priorities your site will turn into an unorganized volume of information lacking a narrow and specialized subject matter to give it an edge over the competition in that market.
Planning must cover three essential web development pylons: design, structure and technical details.
Planning the Design
Given the huge amount of options available today, many for free, it’s quite challenging to decide on one site design. I mean, you have to choose a generic template, a content management system and the template provided by it or have a web design company custom build a unique template. Not to mention the thousands of choices to be made in any of these three categories. In order to come up with the right answer you first need to ask the correct set of questions:
- What’s the ultimate purpose of my site?
- Who is my readership? Is it comprised of mostly women, men, adolescents and what are the generic behavioral traits for the social category they represent?
- Why will they consume my content? Do these priorities transcend my entire audience or will they look to satisfy various needs?
- What general tonality will my website have? Is it serious, technical, comic, sympathetic, etc.?
- What will be its sources of content? How frequent will be updated?
- Will each visitor have access to the entire site?
- Based on the above answers what are the primary functionalities the site will be equipped with? (membership, shopping cart, forum, blog, etc.)
To absolve you of second thoughts along the way, your top 10 alternatives should be filtered down using the questionnaire above. Don’t be stingy to extrapolate a little bit if you consider added questions will further refine your decision making process.
Now that you’ve identified your needs, it’s time to go looking for creative ideas. Analyze your competition and extract from their sites both strong and weak points. Also consider what could be improved and imported into your future website for maximum impact. Scrape ideas related to site elements like navigation bars, sidebars, header and footer structures, widgets serving different purposes like surveys, social syndication etc. Don’t rely only on visuals for inspiration; a deep understanding of your market we’ll give you enough innovative ideas for apps and features to entertain your audience.
Once you have enough working materials to crystallize your future site layout, go to the drawing board and begin sketching. To better express your ideas to the designer, print out different page sections you like and glue them together into one encompassing picture of your future site. That way the web developer knows exactly your expectation for the designing project. Whatever your brainstorming approach may be, know that the site design is the first thing that hooks visitors and prolongs their staying. Blatant awend expired layouts will not inspire anyone into becoming a faithful consumer of your content, not to mention becoming a buyer.
Defining the Site Structure
The site structure is important because it controls visitor’s movement throughout the site. It also dictates which are the important parts of your site and where the traffic should be ultimately channeled.
What specific pages should be in place in order to fulfil the site’s purposes? Do you need a shopping cart or squeeze pages? If so will you go with customized ones or will you rely on third party solutions? Is there room to embed page elements that strengthen your credibility? What type of navigation should be used? Will you work with pages organized into categories?
To better structure your site, we suggest that you work with a mind mapper software like Mindmeister or use index cards, one for each web page. Topic related web pages will be stacked together into categories which in turn will form the navigation bar. Not only will this give your site fluency in navigation but in also boosts your SEO efforts. In the SEM community the practice of organizing information is called silo structuring and its effects are materialized in the occurrence of sitelinks in the search engine listings (e.g. take the case of apple.com).
Remember to leave room for growth. New ideas and reconsideration’s of the existing structure pattern will must surely happen. Also don’t be cheap with the size of content boxes. Widgetized areas and advertisements should come second in the overall layout. The content is one of your most valuable commodities online, so keep it airy and within reach.
Handling Technical Aspects
By now you should have all the designing and structuring details all figured out and tied together into one comprehensive sketch of your future website. Now it’s time to go under the hood and handle the technical aspects. This includes the file directory structure and basically every detail pertaining as to how each feature of the site will be implemented. To give you clarifying example, take the case of membership sites. One task would be that of filtering the content based on what pages are available for guests and registered users.
A site is much easier to maintain on the long whole if it’s properly organized right from its conception. The same methods used to structuring the site and its navigation can be imported into this development phase as well.
Of course if you opt for a content management system like Joomla or WordPress the technical work is done for you automatically. If you decide to go with a custom website these things must be handled by professional web developers.
Planning a web site from start to finish serves the same purpose as any other business plans – it constantly reiterates your chief goals, points out the exact ingredients for their attainment, while offering enough flexibility for adaptation to the business environment.