Tuesday, 30 April 2013 12:28

How to plan your website

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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. Media-Slave has years of experience in web design and can guide you through this process. We use the processes and headings ourselves to run your project. We also make this information available to you as the project and tasks progresses. The complete project can be tracked with notes, files and timelines online at any time. We make sure that our web design and web hosting clients know exactly how their project is progressing.

The steps outlined below are very similar to the planning stages for branding, graphic design, advertising or any communications project. We implement and consult on the planning stages as much as we do on the final product. This is very important especially in the Inverlcyde and Greenock area where people are not yet very savvy with how to use their website properly.

Purpose
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. Also, goal-setting practices and measurable objectives should be identified to track the progress of the site and determine success.

Audience
Defining the audience is a key step in the website planning process. The audience is the group of people who are expected to visit your website - the market being targeted. These people will be viewing the website for a specific reason and it is important to know exactly what they are looking for when they visit the site. A clearly defined purpose or goal of the site as well as an understanding of what visitors want to do/feel when they come to your site will help to identify the target audience. Upon considering who is most likely to need/use the content, a list of characteristics common to the users such as:

  • Audience Characteristics
  • Information Preferences
  • Computer Specifications
  • Web Experience


Taking into account the characteristics of the audience will allow an effective website to be created that will deliver the desired content to the target audience. We clearly market our site to Joomla web design, web hosting and web design services for Scotland, Greenock, Inverlcyde and Glasgow. Although we do business throughout Scotland and the UK, we have optimised our website to cater for the Scotland central belt audience and potential web design clients.

Content
Content evaluation and organization requires that the purpose of the website be clearly defined. Collecting a list of the necessary content then organizing it according to the audience's needs is a key step in website planning. In the process of gathering the content being offered, any items that do not support the defined purpose or accomplish target audience objectives should be removed. It is a good idea to test the content and purpose on a focus group and compare the offerings to the audience needs. The next step is to organize the basic information structure by categorizing the content and organizing it according to user needs. Each category should be named with a concise and descriptive title that will become a link on the website. Planning for the site's content ensures that the wants/needs of the target audience and the purpose of the site will be fulfilled.


Compatibility and restrictions
Because of the market share of modern browsers (depending on your target market), the compatibility of your website with the viewers is restricted. For instance, a website that is designed for the majority of websurfers will be limited to the use of valid XHTML 1.0 Strict or older, Cascading Style Sheets Level 1, and 1024x768 display resolution. This is because Internet Explorer is not fully W3C standards compliant with the modularity of XHTML 1.1 and the majority of CSS beyond 1. A target market of more alternative browser (e.g. Firefox and Opera) users allow for more W3C compliance and thus a greater range of options for a web designer.

Another restriction on webpage design is the use of different Image file formats. The majority of users can support GIF, JPEG, and PNG (with restrictions). Again Internet Explorer is the major restriction here, not fully supporting PNG's advanced transparency features, resulting in the GIF format still being the most widely used graphic file format for transparent images.

Many website incompatibilities go unnoticed by the designer and unreported by the users. The only way to be certain a website will work on a particular platform is to test it on that platform.


Planning documentation
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.

First, 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 will be interconnected, which helps in deciding what content will be placed on what pages. There are three main ways of diagramming the website structure:

  • Linear Website Diagrams will allow the users to move in a predetermined sequence;
  • Hierarchical structures (of Tree Design Website Diagrams) provide more than one path for users to take to their destination;
  • Branch Design Website Diagrams allow for many interconnections between web pages such as hyperlinks within sentences.


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. This is often done in a graphic program, or layout design program. The wireframe has no working functionality, only planning.

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Helmut Watterott

Designer and web strategist @media-slave.co.uk. We also run web hosting Scotland for all your web hosting and domain name needs.

 

Website: www.media-slave.co.uk

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Media-Slave is a small, highly creative design & communications agency. We specialise in branding awareness campaigns for small to medium sized businesses through the web and traditional. We work discreetly and creatively to deliver graphic design and brand communication solutions, which increase the efficiency of your existing branding, whilst truly connecting with your clients. 

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