This page is a work in progress. Let me know if you have any comments.
There is a very old saying that “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. (Before you complain about my not providing a citation, I have seen versions of this attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, George Patton, and I believe that that were a number of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers who said something very similar.) Assuming that you want a website, the first question that you need to answer is “Why?”
- Why do you want a web site, and what do you expect the web site to do for you? You must be expecting something from it or you wouldn’t be doing it. Some possible areas are improving reputation, improving public awareness, providing assistance or entertainment to others, providing a place to share information, assisting in the operation of an organization or business, making you feel better, helping you to make money, and helping you to reduce costs.
- How would you describe the typical person you expect to be a viewer for the web site? You may want to provide a few different types of descriptions. (Think novice, intermediate, expert, hobbyist, professional, etc.)
- What do you expect the web site to do for the viewers? If the web site doesn’t have value for the viewers, they won’t use it. Many of the possible areas are the same as the same benefits that the creator of the web site expects to receive.
- How do you expect viewers to find the web site? There are a number of possible methods. Don’t spend money on advertising or boosting the site until you have first gone through the free methods.
- Why should viewers come back to the web site after seeing it the first time? I have seen some websites where I literally have no idea of how to use it, where images and flash animations take so long to load that I shut down the browser before the first page loaded.
- How are you going to assure that people don’t run away from the web site screaming in panic? A blind person will be very frustrated with a web site where all of the information is shown as images, and a deaf person will be very frustrated with a site where you need to listen to a spoken voice?
Don’t try to provide lengthy essays for each question. A paragraph or two is sufficient.
Once you have answered these basic questions, it is time to do some research.
- Try to find some web sites that are similar to what you plan to do, and look them over. What do you like about them and what do you dislike? How are they organized? Try to make a list of the various sections and what they do?
- Find some web sites that you really like and look them over in the same way. What do you like about them, dislike about them, and how are they organized?
- Get a book out of the library on creating web sites and read through it. You aren’t going to try to memorize it, just get some ideas.
- Try looking at a few tutorials (either written or video) on creating web sites.
What are the “use cases” (also known as “user stories”)? These are the things that people should be able to do with the web site. If the web site has user accounts, some of the standard situations would be the following.
- Create a user account
- Allow the user to deal with a forgotten password
- Log in to the site
- Log out of the site
- Change the profile information for the account
- Set a message to the web site administrator
Depending on the web site, some other situations would include the following.
- Participate in forums
- Create and read blog entries
- Join a mailing list and remove your name from the mailing list
- Obtain information about the organization or business, including its products, activities, and events
- Obtain support from the organization or business
- Look up items in a catalog
- Order items from a catalog
- Pay for the items ordered from a catalog (Credit cards, PayPal, etc.)
At this point, you can start making a list of the pages that will appear on the site. The idea is to start with a very rough layout and then refine it in successive iterations. You start with a list of a few pages together with a few sentences about each page. For example, here are some common examples.
- Home page – The home page is the page you see if you enter only the domain name and port number for the server. The main purpose is to let the viewer know within a few seconds that the web site will be useful or helpful to him.
- About – This page describes the organization or business behind the web site in more detail and also includes more information about the web site itself.
- History – The history of the web site or the organization or business that it represents
- Blogs – Blogs are essays that are placed on the site and are of interest to the viewers.
- Forums – Forums are areas where the viewers can have discussions and exchange information
- Online Store
After this you can start designing your web site. This will involve a number of steps that will be covered in later posts. However, the design process can be considered as comprising the following.
- Refining the descriptions of the pages
- Refining the requirements
- Verifying that the pages will satisfy the requirements
You will then be able to start the development. The design and development steps can be combined, but not doing the planning first will cause you to have to redo a lot of work.