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How to plan a website

by Lee Smith

There are many steps in planning a web site. I would like to take you through the process.

  1. The first question is why do you need a web site?  This is one question you must answer first and clearly before spending a penny to have your web site built.
  2. Create a business plan - this will take time, but it is extremely useful. The reason a business plan is useful, is because it becomes a blueprint of your business. This will provide the information about products and services for the keyword analysis. I think it is important to understand the cash flow forecast from the website as well.
  3. Select a Domain Name- Using your Main Keyword Phrase and develop many combinations of names that you would like to use. Then begin the task of checking if the domain is available. Network Solutions, Go Daddy and many other Domain registration sites are available to register a domain. You may find that your ideal domain may be taken.
  4. Locate a reputable web hosting company. This is a tough one, but speak with people whom have web sites to see if they are satisfied with the service they are getting.  Look at Network Solutions, or one that I like and is reasonably easy to use is Host Gator.
  5. Who will build your web site? Will you undertake this task or is it easier to pay someone to create and maintain the web site. If you need a web designer, you are welcome to contact me.
  6. How will you market your web site? Will you spend the time to study how to market the web site or will you hire a search engine marketing company? Remember, people do not just show up once you build a web site.  It's not like the movie - "The Field of Dreams", where they say "if you build it, they will come" - that is not going to happen.  If you need further information on Website Marketing,   we can provide a quote for your web site marketing.
Initial Planning
  • Why do you want a web site?
  • Create a business plan - layout everything. The business - the website - cashflow - expenses - even what you expect to profit.
  • Look at other web sites and find out what layout you like
  • Run a Keyword Analysis to get an idea of traffic based off the keywords or products and services you will offer.

Developing a site specification

  • Write down what you want the site to do.
  • What do you envision your web site to look like
  • Will you conduct e-commerce?
  • Selling items or services?
  • Collecting information?
  • Online Brochure?
  • Newsletter services
  • Offer news services, blogs, message boards, or other content providing ideas

Site definition and planning

  • Take the written ideas and refine them
  • Outline them and expand a couple of paragraphs for each idea or web page

Information architecture

  • What platform will the web site be design for? Windows, Linux, Unix
  • Which programming code will be used - html, php, asp, perl, etc.
  • What other framework requirements would be best to operate the web site
  • Is the web site for the Internet, intranet (internal corporate network) or extranet (corporate and the outside world)?.

Web site design

  • Select a design theme - look at other web sites to get an idea of what you like again
  • Use unique graphics - beware of copyright violations
  • Carefully written content - Spend time writing out what you want people to read. You may want to use a copywriter if writing is challenging for you.
  • You cannot borrow images or content from other sites - unless you are begging for a copyright lawsuit. Either take your own photos or purchase Royaty Free photo stock from an online graphics site.

Web site construction - how it all connects

  • Creating a site layout - one web page at a time
  • General design considerations
  • Menus and submenus - User friendly navigation
  • Balance text and graphics
  • Define pages
  • Search features
  • Contact information
  • Contact Forms
  • Blogs
  • News Articles
  • Forums
  • User feedback forms
  • Using Cascading Style Sheets & Javascript

Content - All the written descriptions that will be created for each web page

  • Main page
  • About Us
  • Products or Services - group them - then break them out
  • FAQ's
  • Contact Us
  • Privacy Policy - if you have a form or collect e-mail addresses
  • Terms of Use - Every site should have one
  • Sitemap
  • plus other web pages for services or products

Web Graphics

  • Photographs, artist renditions, clip art
  • Copyright considerations - ownership of the images and artwork
  • Browser-safe colors
  • What screen resolution are you building the web page for?
  • Be aware of graphics size and monthly bandwidth allocations
  • Graphic file formats
    • GIF files
    • JPEG graphics
    • PNG graphic

Multimedia

  • Web multimedia applications and strategies
  • Audio Files
  • Slide shows
  • Video files
  • Flash images
  • Animated graphics
  • Preparing multimedia
  • Processing animated requests
  • The delivery of the multimedia file - streaming or download

E-commerce

  • Selecting a package for the shopping cart, cataloging and displaying of your merchandise with an administrative back end for adding, managing or deleting products
  • SSL - a secured socket layer for secured online ordering
  • e-mail notification of orders
  • Online inventory
  • Shipping and handling considerations
  • UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL
  • Tax collection considerations
  • Which credit cards will you accept?
    Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover
  • How will you process the credit card charges?
  • Determine which Merchant Account you want to use along with the fees for credit card processing.
  • Return policies
  • Privacy Policies

Other web site considerations:

  • Using Blogs for daily or weekly online content
  • Article Manager - Enter articles on a regular basis
  • Offer a Newsletter with a sign up page
  • Email campaigns on a weekly or monthly basis
  • Press Releases when you really have something to shout about
  • Open a message board for your customers or visitors - talk about a subject you know
  • Online Catalog of your products

Check W3C compliance

  • Testing for coding errors and omissions
  • Clean up the code, making the page load quicker and search engine friendly

Web Site Review

  • Once finished review the whole web site
  • Does the site look balanced or is it cluttered?
  • Does the web site say what you want it to say? Does the web page answer who, what, where, when, why, and how?
  • Are your images too large - are they taking too long to load?
  • Is the menu system easy to navigate?
  • Every link needs to be tested - be sure there are no 404 errors.
  • Do your forms work? Send an e-mail and see. Is there a thank you page?
  • Test the shopping cart system - buy something and make sure the system works as you want it to.
  • Check the blog and be sure you can post - be very careful about turning on the comments - monitor closely
  • Adding more content on a regular basis

Search Engine Optimization

  • Use the Keyword Analysis - to find out what is best to use
  • Select one keyword phrase for each web page, service or product
  • Optimize each web page
  • Use known and acceptable techniques to make each web page search engine friendly
  • Review the statistics regulary

Search Engine Marketing (on going)

Review your web site and update it - It is a living document

 

Planning a website is a long process if you want it to be successful. Take your time and seek help if you need it.

Good Luck


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