Design By Joyce Website Development Resources

Planning Your Website

You've decided you'd like to have a website for your club or business or products, but don't know where to begin. These are all items to think about, to work on, and make notes on before you meet with a designer.

What is the main focus of the website? Is it going to be a platform for blogging, strictly informational or an online storefront to sell products? What do you want to achieve with the site? Make some plans. Write some notes.

consider your target audienceTarget Audience
Think about your visitors and their demographics. Do you have a current customer base you're creating this for? Are you trying to appeal to potential customers, employees or investors?

Categories for Content
Divide your content into similar categories. If the content doesn't seem cohesive in your mind, write chucks of data on index cards, lay them all out and then look for similarities and items that could be grouped under a particular page title.

Number of Pages
Once your content is somewhat organized, you should have a good estimate of the number of pages needed for your site. Do some web surfing to similar or competitors' sites to see what all they've included. There may be pages you hadn't thought of, like a disclaimer, or privacy policy, or a site map.

Number of Products

If your site involves e-commerce and a shopping cart, it's helpful to know the approximate number of products you'll be selling by category.

Look and Feel
No doubt you've seen websites you really like, either for layout or colors, and some you absolutely dislike. Jot down some URLs of designs that appeal to you and either sketch or think about your site's overall design and how you want it to look. Are you going for a strictly professional design, or does your site call for a fun or artistic look?

Websites, unlike books, do not have a table of contents and visitors may enter your site at any given page from search engine results. Navigation should be clear, concise, easy to use and consistent from page to page and is an extremely important element of the site. The dynamic, drop menu is being used widely now.

Text Content
Existing information, whether it is in the form of printed documents or brochures, needs to be transferred to a digital format for the web. Check to see if you have or can get the document electronically so that you, or your designer, do not have to type in all the information.

Beautiful and relevant photos help to make your website more interesting. A travel site could show images of exotic destinations. A real estate site should include a variety of photos showing off homes for sale. A spa site would benefit from soothing, zen-like photos. Great stock photography can be used to help convey your ideas and add appeal. Many sites offer free or low-cost solutions.

The right logo for your business or organization is one key to success and can make you instantly recognizable. The proper logo should resize well, work in color or black and white and be simple and not over-drawn. LogoYes covers all three of those aspects with a fun, innovative do-it-yourself logo creator with 20,000+ built in symbols to choose from.

Domain Name
Try to choose a domain name that gives the visitor an idea of the website's content. Shorter domain names are good, and if they're clever, easy to spell and easy to pronounce, they're even better. Try to avoid a domain name with dashes as most people will forget to type the dash when visiting your site.

Simple Suggestions

Think before starting - Defining the problem is half the task. Consider making a pencil and paper prototype using sketches or storyboards. At a minimum, plan out the heirarchy of your page flow.

Simplicity rules - less is more! A design that is too busy with excessive graphics, fonts or colors distracts from your intended message.

Be consistent - Establish a pattern for your layout, navigation, color scheme and typography and carry that from page to page. This allows users to adapt quickly to your site.

Content over form - Focus on the goal of communicating a message first, and then decide on how you want to present the information and how it should look.

First impressions count - Get to the point on the first screen visitors see, which is your MOST valuable real estate on your website. Don't make viewers go hunting. You must make an impression within seconds these days on the web.

Be inspired - Draw inspiration from things you like and objects around you. See my inspiration page for some hints.

Limit the number of colors you use. Three or four colors throughout your website usually suffice. If you have trouble choosing complementary colors, try a monochromatic scheme with one accent color. See some color combination examples.

Use graphics sparingly and wisely. Try to keep images small enough to load quickly and reuse them when possible to take advantage of caching. Make sure they are relevant to the content of your site.

Consider whitespace. Make sure you leave enough negative, or open space between design elements in your layout. This "breathing room" will help to guide the reader's eye from one point to another.

Keep text content short - Web users tend to scan the text on a page, so keep paragraphs short and concise and don't use overly wide lines of text which are hard to read. Use columns if necessary, or use bulleted lists to grab viewers' attention.

Make it easy to navigate. The goal of any navigational system is to offer the user a clear and simple way to access all pages in a site. Don't hide your navigation under images that must be moused over to reveal their destination. Also don't bury information too deep - no page should be more than 3 clicks away from any other page.


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