A Guide to Web Design and Development by Lucas Lynch

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Considerations for planning your website
- from the experts at Lucas Lynch

When creating a new website or updating something that already exists, it is important to properly consider all aspects that will impact upon its success. Below are a series of topics for you to think about - spending the time to properly plan for your website will result in a much more effective online presence that has room for your business to grow and adapt.


1. Consider and plan your Objectives

• Ask yourself, "what am I selling/promoting and why do I want a website?"
• Are you using it to sell products or services?
• Will you just give basic product/service information and contact details?
• Or, do you want to sell your products directly?
• Will you offer customers a combination of products/services and useful content?
• Do you want it to offer up-to-date information and be seen as the leader in your industry?

2. Target Audience

• What sort of visitor are you trying to attract?
• Is there a specific gender and/or age group to which you are marketing?
• What sort of Internet connection speed will the majority of your audience be using?
• Will the audience have any restrictions on their systems preventing the use of Technologies such as Flash, Audio or Video?

3. The Structure/sitemap

• Think about the information you wish to present to the audience
• Separate this information into sections/pages
• Consider which pages need to be in the main navigation area of the site
• Prepare a sitemap to represent the structure of the site and to highlight secondary levels of navigation.
• Collect ideas or suggestions for how the navigation might work i.e. (dropdown submenu options).

4. Representation of brand

• What brand do you intend to promote online? (i.e. overall corporate brand or specific product brand.)
• Are there any alterations/enhancements you’d like to make to the brand going online? (i.e. logo animation or different colour schemes for sections of the site.)
• Are there any corporate guidelines that we will need to adhere to? If so these will need to be supplied before creative work commences.
• Organise assets such as logos, images, product shots and textual content so that they are available in digital format. 
• Where possible and relevant, it may be useful to supply examples of marketing material, such as CD-ROMs or brochures to assist the design team in creating a look and feel that is consistent.
• Are there any specific creative instructions that you would like to give the designer(s) who will be creating your website? It is better to consider this before they begin work.

5. Delivery of information

• How do you intend to present the information you have chosen on your website?
• How much information do you intend to make available within each page of the site?
• Try to avoid long pages of text; users will rarely sit and read through long paragraphs. Try to summarise your information, use bullet points, tables and graphs where appropriate.
• Do you have any specific requirements for the layout and presentation of your information?
• Will it be a mixture of normal text supported by images?
• Are there any areas that can be animated for more impact or audience interaction?
• Is there any content that would benefit from being in a downloadable/streaming video format?

6. Domain registration and hosting your website

• Do you have a Domain name registered for your site?
• If the website is specifically for a product or service, you may wish to register a different domain from your corporate site.
• Do you understand your web logs and web activity reports and how this relates to your websites success
• Will they provide you with the data you need to monitor the progress of your website?

7. Special features, technical considerations and new technologies

• Are there any technical features that you’d like to incorporate into the website? (i.e. feedback forms, SMS messaging, keyword search, e-commerce/shopping basket, databases)
• Are there any special features that you’d like to incorporate into the website? (i.e. Flash animation, video, sound, 3D media)
• These may be things that are not high priority to you at this stage but which should still be discussed so that the design/development team can take everything into consideration.
• Investigate or ask us about new technologies and the benefits that they can bring to your business.
• With mobile phones and PDAs being more widespread, you may need to consider these as an alternative platform on which to present your information.
• SMS messaging from websites is becoming more and more popular, especially with younger audiences and is a great way of attracting people back to your website.
• Is there any content that would benefit from being in a downloadable/streaming video format?

8. Maintenance Requirements

• It is essential that you make regular updates to your website to keep visitors interested and give them reasons to return.
• Keep information up to date and, where applicable, add details of new services/products straight away.
• A news/press section gives you the opportunity to communicate with your audience directly with relevant and topical information.
• You may like to consider using an area of the ‘homepage’ to promote the latest news regarding your company or product.
• Do you require the ability to update the website in-house once it is complete? Many organisations are benefiting from in-built content management solutions that enable their staff to update specific website content quickly and easily.
• Plan regular meetings with your design/development agency to discuss ideas, features and feedback. This will also enable the agency to keep you updated of new technologies from which you could be benefiting.
• Provide your agency with feedback on the website. Visitor statistics and feedback are a great way to monitor whether or not the website is working for you. If done regularly this will enable you to improve any aspects that need attention.

9. Budget

• Do you have a specific budget that you need to work to?
• If you are working to a specific budget it is in your best interests to communicate this to your web agency, they will then be in a position to highlight which requirements fall outside this and advise you on the best way to proceed.
• You need to communicate to your organisation the importance of having budget to spend on your online marketing… it is a major part of communication with both current and prospective clients.
• Ensure that you allocate a budget that will enable you to make updates and enhancements to your website on a regular basis.

10. Promotion of website

• How do you intend to promote the website once it is completed?
• If it isn’t already, the website address should be added to all promotional material (business cards, headed paper, brochures, CD-ROMs, presentations.)
• Search engine registration is an effective way of making your site visible for those who search for products and services online. Prepare a list of Metatags to improve your Search Engine hit rate. Metatags are keywords and phrases that summarise the content and services offered on your site. These are referenced by Search Engines when someone performs a search.
• Online marketing, such as website banners and adverts, are effective in driving visitors to your website. Many organisations and websites now offer advertising space where you pay for each user that clicks on your banner/advert. 
• Email marketing or E-marketing is a great way of promoting your website, products and services to people. A targeted campaign with a response mechanism and tracking procedures will identify interested parties and provide real business value to the company.

Now that you understand the essentials of what you need to think about for your website, please contact Lucas Lynch (See my profile information), or visit our website at www dot LucasLynch dot com for more information and advice.

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