How to Build a Successful Website Part 1: Planning and Preparation
Most successful businesses in today’s market have a website to help connect them to their customers. Once you’ve made the decision to create an online presence, it’s wise to formulate a plan regarding the creation of the site itself. It’s best to begin by coming up with solid ideas for the foundation of your site, including design ideas and a general blueprint of what you hope to achieve and how best to connect to your audience. From the conceptualization stage to the finished product, your success will be ultimately dependent on formulating a strategy from the beginning.
The Web design process is a complex one, and is growing ever more so as technologies evolve. Like many Web-based disciplines, you cannot simply jump into the design process without knowing exactly how the site will look and feel. Imagine if you were going on a road trip, and you decided to leave your GPS and atlases at home. Sure, you could drive down the road, but getting to your destination is tricky without a road map. Planning the Web design process will only make your site look and function better for users.
The Planning Stage
Start by making a list of what you want your site to accomplish. In other words, what’s the main goal of your site? Is it to showcase a portfolio? To deliver blog content? Are you making an e-commerce site? From there, you’ll need to start another list. This is where the map illustration comes in handy. On this list write down what pages you want to build and the type of content you want on each page. It also wouldn’t hurt to draw a visual diagram – not unlike a trusty roadmap – of each page on a large piece of construction paper. Having physical evidence of your vision for the site can help you stay on track going forward.
Inspiration: Step Out of the Online Box
After you’ve written down everything you want to include on your website, it’s time to gather some inspiration as to how you want the site to look. This can include everything from color schemes to logos to creative design functions. In this process, don’t be afraid to step away from the Web for a minute to gather inspiration. Read design books and magazines, or consider visiting an art museum. Pay attention to specific elements of design that you like, and try to come up with ways to interpret them for your own site.
Following Proven Concepts
Stick to design tools that work. There’s a reason designers use similar techniques to achieve great results on the Web. Look around at other sites you enjoy and whose designs you find appealing. What works? What doesn’t? You’ll probably find that the elements of these sites that work well are similar to those on other sites. If you’re just starting out, there are plenty of classes available to help you create dynamic web pages. But until you have a solid understanding of the craft, follow in other designers’ footsteps. In other words, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
You Can Never Plan Enough
You’ll find that most mediocre sites are subpar because of poor planning. This comes through in how the pages are laid out and how the site content is produced. In fact, you don’t have to look very hard to spot these problems. Keep this in mind when planning your site. Be as detailed as possible when compiling your lists and painstakingly thorough in your research of other sites. It’s important to realize you can never plan enough—in fact, the more you plan the better your end product will be.