How to Plan Your Website
Planning your website takes some effort but it doesn't have to be a complicated process as some people may think. It's all about knowing what you want to do and how to organize the steps from concept to completion while maintaining your personal sanity. In most cases, you can get a solid game-plan in place within a day so you can save valuable time and focus on the content (the really important part).
From Ideas to Concept
I've personally created and designed many web sites over the years and always improving on the complete process. There is one very important aspect that I encourage everyone to follow because it will help you understand your ideas more. When you decide to start a personal or business website, the process is the same because you begin with the idea in the mind. However, thinking about the idea and jumping right into the design and development may seem like you are saving time, but the reality is that you are not and only making it harder and sometimes even discouraging those who have never done this before.
The best way to begin is to start with the idea being written down on paper. You will be surprised how focused you can be when you start with a pen and paper because you can make notes as you brainstorm your new concept, whether it's for personal or business. Writing your ideas down will keep you focused with a good sense of direction as you visually see things in front of you rather than try to remember what you just thought of 5 minutes ago when you have so many great ideas coursing through your creative thoughts. Here are a few of many things to consider:
- What kind of website (or business) is this?
- Who will you be marketing to?
- When do you need your website finished and live online?
- Are you capable of managing your website yourself or do you need the help of others?
- Are you providing information, selling products, or offering services?
- Will you be the one designing and developing your website or do you need the services of a designer?
- How much time will you be able to put towards this new project?
- Do you have competition?
- Is this a personal project or will this be your source of income?
Features and Specifics of your Website
After you get a better idea of what you want to do, the next step is to determine what features and functionality you want your website to have. This is important because it helps add to the vision you are developing for a successful website by offering visitors engagement. Here are a few of many things to consider:
- What are your "must have" features?
- What are your "wish list" features (things that are not required)?
- Do you need user interaction from visitors, customers, or clients?
- Do you need any form of e-commerce like your own storefront or "buy buttons" for third party purchasing?
- Is social networking important to have?
Building Your Website with a Flexible Foundation
In the past, most people would build their website presence with a static HTML website - coded in HTML - but things have changed because of the growing popularity of free content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and many more. I won't go into the specifics of each cms, but nowadays for most websites, a cms is used from personal blogs to full social networking websites. However, for the sake of this tutorial, I will give you a few things to consider when you are deciding between an html or cms website:
- Have you ever used a CMS before?
- What is your skill level with html, css, and other forms of coding?
- Do you plan to have just a few pages for your website or do you plan to create a larger scalable website by adding new concent, editing content, and/or making other changes on a regular basis?
In most cases, if you plan to have a small website where page content does not change or at least very little changes, then you may want to consider a static html website. These are simple to create and manage and does not require extensive resources. However, if your site needs to be scalable over the long-term, or you will require flexible content management, then a CMS is ideal because it makes things a lot easier. Generally for blog based websites, most people use a blogging platform called WordPress, but if you need more than a blog, a CMS like Joomla is best suited. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Putting it all Together
I've covered the basics to help you understand more about your new website, but there are still many more things to consider when planning your new concept. The questions presented within this page offer a starting point to make things easier by writing your ideas and options down on paper. This lets you see your thoughts visually before you begin the actual work and will definitely save you a lot of time, but it also lets you fine tune your ideas so that when you do begin work, you have a solid game-plan in place. Think of it as a personal guide to follow that helps you develop your website from concept to completion. A pen with paper is the starting point for all of my projects.