Web Site Design Decisions

Before launching a web site project, consider the following decisions. Planning and preparation will save time and expense.

1. Purpose

Who is your audience?
What will be the result of a visit to your web site?
Start by clearly stating your goals: business or brand exposure, qualified customer list, direct sales, customer support, entertainment . . .

2. Examples

There is no shortage of examples out there. Millions of dollars are being spent on the creation of sites that are critical to the survival of the world's largest businesses. Create a list of links to web page components you like.

3. Structure

A web site is your online identity. Organize it to achieve your goals. Don't worry about limits yet. Sketch a storyboard to illustrate your site. Here are some possibilities:

* First, and most important, is the "home" page (see item 4). It provides a first impression and serves as a guide to the other areas at the site.

* Navigation - alphabetical index, category index, or other map to the site contents. All areas must be easy to navigate, with a consistent structure and simple devices like buttons for moving to other locations.

* General Description - vision or mission statement, history, philosophy.

* Product Description - images, text, features, applications, examples, catalog, price list.

* Customer Support - technical information, specifications, frequently asked questions (FAQ), parts lists, diagrams, troubleshooting decision trees.

* Purchasing - informative procedures, shopping carts, or forms that send formatted email to a designated order processing address.

* Immediate Value - dynamic content that will ensure regular visits to your site. Regional or industry news updates, special offers, images, interesting related links.

* Contacts - email, phone, postal address.

4. Home Page

You will have about five seconds to present a reason for someone to stick around at your site. Here are a few ideas to consider:

* Keep the home page as simple as possible.

* Conservative use of graphics - company logo, product images.

* Multiple images can be combined creatively to provide hot spots for navigation. Consideration must be given to the tradeoff between image size and load time. The home page is an area where there is a risk of losing those who don't wait for slow graphics or animation.

5. Questions

Contact barton@leftblank.com



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