by Suzi Batta
Planning to build a Web site or re-design your existing site? You need to start with a plan. The first question you should be asking yourself is, "What is the purpose of the Web site?" Is the Web site an extension of your company, for educational purposes, entertainment or e-commerce? Outlining your goals and objectives is the first necessary step in creating your Web site.
Step two is the budget. There are still a few places where you can create a Web site for free. Many of these free services aren't really free. You pay a fee for an Internet connection and one of the benefits of using the service is free web space. The 'free' Web site is also provided by companies that benefit from running advertisements on your pages. If your Web site is for entertainment purposes, a hobby or not-for-profit, then these providers may be the right solution.
If you want to be serious about your Web site, a professional Web site costs money to build, host and maintain. When establishing your budget, you should consider if you are going to do it yourself, have it designed in-house or hire a Web development company to design it for you. Then factor in the purpose of your site. If your site is geared to generate revenue, then you might consider spending more money on e-commerce functionality and secure transactions. If the site is going to be used to handle customer service inquiries, then figure out the cost-savings or expenditures associated with this online extension of your business. Finally, getting visitor to come to your Web site is the marketing aspect - traditional and online marketing. Advertising your Web site needs to be factored into your plan and budget.
Next is the content. No matter how well designed your Web site, if the content is not interesting to the visitor, they will not remain at your Web site for very long. You can create a site map to outline the navigation and layout. A storyboard can be used to illustrate the placement of text and images. Content taken from company literature can be used as the foundation for your site. Since the Web is a flexible medium, you can customize your content according to the needs of your visitors. Keeping your content fresh and up-to-date is key to a successful Web site.
Finally the design. First impressions are lasting. What the visitor sees when they first enter your Web site will determine their actions. They may take a look around your site, choose to interact, bookmark the site or simply click away. Designing a site that reflects the message you want to convey with a tasteful look and feel can only improve your chances of success. Your Web site should be consistent in design and simple to navigate. Flash intros and high-tech design are appropriate for companies that need to convey a high-tech message. The money spent on a flash intro may be better spent in the functionality of the site or invested in the online marketing. Gettting visitors to come to your Web site, interact and come back to your site should be the primary goal of your overall plan.
Good luck with your Web site design. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about creating and planning a successful Web site.