How to plan for an outstanding website
Many people think of websites as being something that can only be clearly defined by a web designer. This leads many of the people that contact us to either try to get overly technical or focus on very specific things like background colors. But the best thing that anyone looking to have a website designed can do is to take a look at what the site should be from a bird’s eye view. You know better than the designers what needs to go on your site because it is tied to your organization.
A large portion of your site is not governed by code and markup languages and it needs to be “designed” first, the initial plan. This plan will outline what the users are going to gain from the website and how they will interact with the content the will find there. These concerns are addressed with user experience and user interface design, and while they do have a highly technical aspect, they are driven by things that need to be planned out both by the designer and by you the client.
Focus on the forest not the trees
There are hundreds of lines of code written in php and lots of markup and CSS rules that let you see the words as they appear on this page, but as the person reading the article do you care about any of that? I’d be willing to bet that you don’t and that is because you came to read the site and find out what there was to be learned here. Think of a website as a book and you can see that author didn’t have to worry about things like how the book was going to be bound or how it would be distributed to create a great story. Actually the more that an author thinks about those kinds of issues the harder it would likely become to write the story.
Start by thinking in broad terms about what people will be coming to your site, and what they should find there. What will they be looking for? How should the users navigate, a straightforward nav bar or maybe something more inventive? Do you want to spend time explaining the origins of your organization or get straight to the point.
Get a simple outline
Get pen and paper and start a simple list of pages that you know you will want to see on the site. Make the names descriptive enough to work with, but don’t worry about final names at this point. Use the same broad stroke approach to start getting an outline of what content will go on your pages. Here’s an example of the initial plans that we had for some of our pages:
- Featured articles
- Social bookmarks
- Service explanation and why us.
- Web Design
- Explanation at top
- Links to pages that go into our services and packages in more depth.
- Why Carbon 3
- Intro paragraph
- Sidebar with links to key pages
- List of reasons for C3S, include:
- Local Michigan business
- Easy to understand
- Graphic design too
- Include Testimonials
As you can see we didn’t get lost in detail yet, really just created an outline. This can be filled out with more and more details until you start to have your content figured out. Now you can start to think about how the user will interact with the content and what their experience will end up being like. Write all of this into the description of each page. In the end you should have a plan that will outline the pages, what content should be on the page, and a concept for how it should be displayed.
Bring in the designers
At this point you have a plan for a site and the design team can start figuring out how the site will look. Once you approve the look of the site it will be time for the coding to begin and after a short time you will have your website.
As you can see the whole process starts with you deciding what the site needs to say, who it will be speaking too and how you want those people to feel once they have heard the message. A well designed site should be an agent of your organization; Moving people toward some understanding or call to action, Promoting your brand, helping the user and making your job easier. With the right initial plan you can help to ensure your design team will succeed.