How to analyze a website is the first, and most important step, in the website design process. It requires answering several questions about this website you’re going to create. Now’s the time to start a journal. Write down the following questions and give some serious thought to your answers.
Why are you creating this website?
Your answer is important. It will determine the content, design and development of your pages. Do you have some interesting information you’d like to share? Do you have a product or service to sell? Do you want to display your artistic/creative talent? Do you have some terrific website links you want to let the world know about? Really think about this and then write down your thoughts.
Another way to think about this question is what is the goal of this website? Is it to entertain, instruct, inform, persuade, share, sell or display? The answer will provide you with direction and focus as you design your site and help you to develop your theme.
Who is my target audience?
What type of visitors do I want my site to attract? What are the demographics of your audience. What will be their age, sex and education? Will they search out my site because we share a special interest, do the same kind of things or are they looking for specific information? Is my target audience the business community, stay-at-home moms, artists, or sports enthusiasts? Or is it a combination of several groups?
Be as specific as you can about this. Try to pinpoint a certain type of individual then learn as much about them as you can so you can tailor your website to suit them. The key to website success lies in your ability to express your message in such a way as to create interest for your visitors. You can’t do this unless you know who they are.
How can I communicate effectively?
Once you know who the audience for your website will be, what is the best way to communicate with them? Are they looking for a fancy site with lots of interactivity? Do they want all the information on the first page? Would they prefer the content be categorized so that they can access only the section they want? Do I need to include an order form? Would a message board be a good way to communicate?
The way your visitors perceive your message will determine how they react to it. If you are seeking to sell something to your visitors make that clear from the start. People don’t like to be fooled into taking action. Be clear and forthright in your method of communication and your website will stand with the best of them.
What information do I need?
If you are designing a site for a client, you will need to know the answers to the preceding questions as well as what their vision is for their site. Do they have a logo they want you to use, do they have specific colors in mind, do they want to include phone and fax numbers on their pages? If this is your own business site, these are questions you should answer also.
When creating a personal website, such as one providing links to other sites, it is considered good netiquette to contact the site owners and let them know you are linking to their pages. An advantage to this is that often they will provide a reciprocal link to your site!
If you are using someone else’s graphics and/or pictures, you should request their permission and plan on providing a credit link somewhere on the page where they are displayed. Are you going to have a message forum on your site? Are you going to have an e-mail list for informing visitors of updates or new content? These are all things you need to consider…and make note of in your journal.
What content (data, graphics, photos, etc.) will be included?
This is the big job…gathering all the content that you want to include on your website. Are you going to use photos? What kind of graphics do you want? And what information or data are you putting online! Are you going to provide tutorials? Right now, just make a list of the items you think you will want to have on your website…you don’t need to gather it all together yet.
Make notes about what you need to do such as scan photos or documents, locate or create graphics, write tutorials, sort and organize data. This is a good time to create folders or binders for your website project so that you can keep the content organized. You might need one folder for Graphics, one for Photos, one for Data, one for Tutorials and one for Miscellaneous information. Your content will determine the folder titles you need. Don’t let all this overwhelm you…it will all fall into place.
Planning your website
Time spent on this most important phase of website design will pay dividends in the long run. The planning that you do now will make things much easier once your website is online. There are a multitude of details that go into the design of a professional site and solid planning in the early stages of design will help eliminate problems down the road. Remember to spend as much time as necessary planning your website.
Planning and organizing are the most crucial steps in designing a website. Once you have a clear picture of what you are trying to say it will be easier to devise a plan to present this information to your visitors. Planning your website is the key to creating a website that is robust, effective and easy to maintain.