Okay, you’ve decided you need a website (or you need to re-design your current site). The next question you must ask yourself is; what is its purpose? Is to promote a personal interest? Are you an artist looking to promote your work? Are you looking to promote your business? Will you be selling goods online?
A website can help you do all of these things but determining its purpose is critical to determining how to proceed and what kind of technologies will be needed.
The following questions will help determine the course you should take:
- What do you want your website to do for you?
- Who are your potential visitors?
- What are you offering your visitors?
- What can you offer that is different or better than similar sites?
- What is your budget?
One of the first things you must do is determine what you want your site to do for you. What is your goal for the site? Determining this before the planning stage will help clarify your website’s needs. It will also speed the development process and determine the technologies that will be needed.
Another important factor is determining who your potential visitors are. Are they young and hip? If so, you will need a more colorful and vibrant design with more interactive features than most conventional sites. Are they likely to be older? If so you may want to consider a larger text size. Are they likely to be technologically savvy or not? If they are they will be able to navigate a more complex design. If not, the navigation should be as simple as possible to understand (always a worthwhile goal anyway).
With so many websites out there (a 2012 Netcraft survey said there are 644 million) you can be sure that others are offering the same things you are. So the question is: Is what you are offering better? Can you do a better job of presenting it? Can you make it easier to find the things you are offering than your competitors? Whether or not you are able to do so will determine how successful your site is.
You need to determine what your budget is before you can do effective planning for your site. There’s no sense in putting in the time to plan a site that is going to cost four times the amount you can afford.
Fortunately this is a great time for those who need a website. The hosting business is very competitive, which means that there are a lot of hosting companies fighting to provide the best service at the lowest cost. There are free open source solutions that allow you to build highly functional websites. The downside is that they are often complicated to learn, requiring a significant investment in time to master. What this means for most people is that they will still need a web developer. The plus side is that developers can often use these solutions to create powerful features at a far lower cost than if they had to code them from scratch.
Hopefully these questions can get you started on the right path to planning your site. Be sure to check back for my next post in which I will be discussing the pros and cons of a Static site vs. one done with a CMS (Content Management System).