Rxpaola1925's Blog

March 20, 2010

Develop a Site Plan

Filed under: my BUS.IT 5 class — rxpaola1925 @ 4:23 pm

Develop a Site Plan

There are some sites that are built backwards, these are sites made with out plan. Some webmasters that are excited to get online and make money have the tendency to skip proper process, they tend to omit the planning process because it is time consuming. They focus more on designing fancy navigation buttons and flashy banners for their homepage, that is why there are some sites that when you visit them you would love it because of the great looking home page with links that look like they lead to interesting information but what you don’t is that you sometimes end up at ‘under construction’ pages.

Whether you’re building your Web site or outsourcing the job, planning is vital to your project’s success. Carefully planning in the beginning makes for a better end product, especially given the interactive nature of the Web.

Your Web site plan serves as a blueprint for the entire project, detailing the underlying site architecture and forces you to think through potential problems before they happen. Presenting an organized structure makes the Web site logical and intuitive to use for future visitors.

Setting specific goals gives you focus as you plot out the various elements of your Web site. Goals can give you direction for everything from what functionality you need to what color palette to use. They can help you limit the scope of your project and provide criteria for measuring success.

Once you have a high-level understanding of what you want your Web site to do, it’s time to get more specific. Make a list of your short-term and long-term goals. Especially if you’re building the site yourself, you may want to use a phased approach, rolling out basic pages while you work on more advanced features. Or, you may want to test different aspects of the site initially and improve upon them for future roll outs.

Your Web site’s success ultimately depends on attracting and holding the interest of your visitors. To create a good experience that keeps them coming back, take the time to explore your project from your visitors’ perspective.

To map out the best possible user experience, try the following:

  • Identify your target audience. The more specific your audience, the better.
  • Create user stories. Get inside your visitors’ heads by creating characters that fit into the targets you identified.
  • Rank the user experience on competing Web sites. Your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum, so a Web site that looks good on its own may pale in comparison to the competition’s slick site.

When you’ve created a site map and documented the user experience, the next step is to begin to flesh out what content and functionality will appear on each page.

At this point in your planning, you’re probably getting excited about some of the ideas you have for your Web site. It’s time to decide how each page of your Web site will look and what functionality it needs to include to help you accomplish your goals.

You will need your site map for this step. Start with your homepage. What is the first thing you want people to see when they visit your site?

For example, if you’re a photographer, you may want a flash animation of your best photographs as an introduction to your home page. An ecommerce site might have product images for featured items or those that are currently on sale.

Document your thoughts for every page of your Web site. If you plan to hire a professional designer, and don’t know the scripts and code you’ll need to create the functionality you’ll need, just keep this list high-level. Your designer can help you pick the best way to implement your wish list.

Once you have a list, it’s a good idea to assign each item a priority level so you or your designer can focus resources on the most important items first.

Now that you have a Web site plan, you’re ready to gather the rest of the items (if you haven’t already) you need to launch your Web site, a  domain name, Web hosting, content, a design and email accounts.

How many pages will your Web site include? What type of pages will they be? Creating a site map helps you not only answer these questions, but organize your pages into categories (thereby creating a navigation structure).

Start your site map with a high-level list of the types of pages you’ll need. One of the easiest ways to organize your site map is to use an outline frame work. The screenshot below shows the site map for the Web solutions section of the Hostway.com Web site.

Creating your site map is one of the most important parts of the planning process. Once you’re done with it, you have an outline of your entire Web site and a structure on which to build.

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