There are a number of things that are important about creating a website – and the order in which they’re addressed is equally important.

  • I’ve worked on sites where the designers have started work with no site map to work with – which can result in a website that’s a maze for the user.
  • I’ve worked on sites where the web designer is highly artistic – but doesn’t understand how the user will read the information, making the message hard to get.
  • I’ve worked on websites where several separate people are involved – for design, development, copy, SEO – and the site owner is trying to project manage with no real knowledge of how the website works. It’s a bit like a committee trying to design a horse – they get a camel.
  • My recommendation is to get one person to project manage your site – ideally someone who really understands what all the elements do and how they work together. However, if you’re determined to do it yourself here’s my recipe for a website that works:

  • Decide what you want it to achieve for you – and be realistic!
  • Develop a site map that guides people to the key areas you want them to visit in the order you’d like them to visit.
  • Know what the purpose of each page will be.
  • Research why people buy your products or services – it’s probably not what you think and is worth investing the time to do it.
  • If you’re planning to do search engine optimisation then this is the right point to consult with your SEO expert and develop the keywords.
  • Get your copy written – yes, before the design is done; the copy will have an impact on the vehicle that carries it. Ensure that the copy is written with your key words in mind.
  • Brief the designer and get at least 3 designs to look at.
  • Choose the design that reflects your image best and addresses your stated aim for the site clearly.
  • Avoid anything that is likely to distract or confuse the visitor and make sure the key elements are in the places where they are most likely to get action.
  • Have the site developed (that’s the coding that makes it look as it should on the web – web designers can do this, but graphic designers may not be able to).
  • Check the test site out – or better still, get someone else to do that with a fresh pair of eyes. Click on every link, menu button and make sure they all do what they’re supposed to do. Read the copy carefully for typos, misspellings and stray or missing words.
  • If everything is in place – hit the ‘go’ button!

    A word of warning – this is not the end of the story. Websites need constant updates, checking to ensure no links become broken, fresh information, new content – that’s how they get on the search engine rankings, so a good content management system is a smart move.
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