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Web Site Design Process

make-a-planIf you want an effective web site you need a business plan. It doesn’t matter how good the site looks or how quick it loads or even how well it ranks, unless you have answered two fundamental questions you ain’t going nowhere. The key questions you need to ask are:

1. What do you want your site to achieve.

2. Who are your potential customers.

Get these two sorted and the whole design process becomes much simpler.

This article describes the process I have developed over the years to make sure nothing gets overlooked when building a web site.

Step 1: Initiation

Decide what you want the web site to achieve

In the haste to get started with coding, many designers forget the reason for building the site. Start by considering why you want a website and what you expect to get from it. If you want to sell cushions then that should be the focus of the site; your background, love of cushions, cushion clubs and collections are all useful but not one of them sells cushions.  So keep this information in the background (but don’t lose it as it is a useful source of keywords).

For whom is it intended?

Do your products have a niche market? Are your services aimed at a specific industry? Are you hoping to catch the casual browser or the specialist? Is your information for the beginner or the expert? Is it for men or women?

Unless you know your target audience you will not be able to focus the content on their needs. Simple example: If the target audience is in the US then you need to publish specifications in imperial not metric units.

Another thing to consider is the size of the market. Selling grooming products for men is is going to be difficult because of the size of the competition. Selling grooming products to men over 50 with sensitive skin is likely to be a much easier market to target.

Step 2: Content Management

Sort out the content

get-organisedThe range of material you want to publish may be useful but not necessarily focussed on your customers needs. Group together similar information and images and give each group a priority. The primary information should be the stuff you want the visitor to read first. The next level of information is the supporting material – articles, advice, FAQ and so on. The third level is the ‘corporate’ information: the ‘about us’, privacy pages, terms and conditions, company details and so on.

Do not discard anything at this stage. There is always a place on a website for the odd snippet of information that you consider inessential, somebody somewhere may search for that information and find your site. And everybody who lands on the site is a potential customer.

Build the site-structure model

This means making sure all the content connects together in a logical order. The end result is a set of very basic web pages that incorporate a simple navigation system and the raw content sorted out in the previous stage.

This process can take a little time as ideas are selected, rejected or refined.

When completed you should end up with a spider’s web of pages all connected together.

Other activities that take place at this time include deciding what information will appear on every page. At the top of this page is my logo and primary navigation and down to the bottom of this page you will see a footer repeated on every page of the site. Every site is different, but is is a good idea to determine, at the very least, your primary navigation.

Optimizing the Content

This is where the creative juices begin to flow. It means making sure the words on the page (the content) are written for the reader. Use jargon for the experts and explanations for the beginners and so on.

The other area of optimization is to make sure all your keywords and phrases are included in the stuff you are writing – if they’re not on the page the search engine won’t be able to find them. It is also a good idea to make sure they appear in the page titles, headers, paragraphs, links, images and so on.

Step 3: Styling the Site

Using Templates

A while back sites were hand built – line by load of code. Using a modern CMS means you can just install any number of templates or themes and have just about any layout you like.

But because you can have any layout you like there is a tendency to keep adding more and more features. Remember the golden rule: Keep it Simple. Only included those features on your site you really need.

And don’t forget that what you think looks great your customers may not. Build the site they want not what you want.

Do not begin your webdesign process with a template and try to make the content fit. It will never work.

Revision of the content

This part of the process is quite normal and usually results after you see the content in place in your chosen theme. It tends to focus on those components that have the greatest visual impact: fonts, colours, positions etc and usually only takes a few moments – it’s tweaking rather than redesigning.

Step 4: Testing

Functional Testing

Make sure the site works on all major browsers and devices. More importantly, make sure the site works on phones and tablets as these devices are used far more often than desktops.

Final adjustment of coding tags to confirm keyword optimization

Mainly metatags, alt and anchor text (all the geeky hidden coding).

And that’s it. The whole design and development process from start to finish in a few sentences. Sounds all so simple but in reality it’s a complex process that needs all sorts of skills.

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