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How to Plan Your Web Site

© 2002 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

If you are considering creating a Web site, you should plan the Web site the way you would plan a nonfiction book. Before you consider the design, the graphics, the navigation, or the colors, you should go through a simple two-step process. The first steps in developing a Web site are:

DECIDE ON THE GOAL FOR THE SITE.

Do you want to sell books, sell artwork, give the media a place to retrieve information, give meeting planners a reason to book you as a speaker, etc.?

DECIDE ON THE TARGET MARKET FOR THE SITE.

Readers of romance novels, readers of history tomes, interior designers looking for interesting art, agents, editors, publishers, meeting planners, etc.?

Yes, these steps are the same as some of the steps followed in writing a book proposal. If you want your site visitors to understand what you are offering, you must be completely clear. When you have the information listed above, you are reducing the likelihood that you will develop a site that misses the mark entirely.

THE GOAL FOR THE WEB SITE

Knowing your goal, you develop the Web site around the goal. You develop the entire Web site to carry one message the main message of the site.

Goal = Sales
Every page will lead the visitor to the sales page. The site will give clear information on the items for sale.
Goal = Media
Every page will lead the visitor to the various media relations pages. The site will contain all information commonly requested by the media.
Goal = Speaking
Every page will lead the visitor to the contact page. The site will contain several pages clarifying why you are the best speaker for their meeting.
Goal = Art Gallery
Every page will display your artistic talent. The site will include a tour of the available art.

As you can see from the examples, your goal determines the content of the site. As soon as you have your goal, you can quickly gather the content you need for the site. Then you can simply decide on a sensible way to divvy up that content into separate Web pages.

THE TARGET MARKET FOR THE SITE

Knowing the target market helps you to decide on the general look for the site. For example, a site aimed at parents of small children will have a fuzzier, cozier look than a site aimed at economists. A site aimed at mothers might use pink liberally, while a site aimed at skateboarders would tend more toward black or neon colors. You want the general appearance of the site and the specific colors used in the design to reflect the tastes of the target market.

The language level of the target market is also important. Stodgy, pedantic writing can work for an academic site, but such writing will turn consumers away. Mothers appreciate warm writing, while the general shopping public just wants clear, concise descriptions.

Think about whether your target market is a consumer market, including a large percentage of AOL users. If so, you are dealing with a number of naïve Internet users. You site must come up immediately in the browser, and it must have no confusion factor. For AOL users, you want to keep the site slim and trim, so that it will load quickly. You also want to keep the site as simple as possible so the each visitor always knows where he is and how he can get where he wants to go. When you have a large number of AOL users, you never want to spend time or money adding the jazzy extras like Flash movies or the latest JavaScript. Viewing such things requires visitors to download a player or to download the very latest browser. Many new Internet users don't know how to do such things, so they simply leave sites requiring extra effort.

When you pull it all together, THE GOAL helps you to determine the focus for the site. THE TARGET MARKET helps you to decide on the colors and the general design of the site. Now you can gather your materials and create a site really aimed at your target market.

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at virginia@spawn.org or visit her Web site at http://www.cognitext.com

 

 

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