I’ve been asked, “How do I design a successful website?”
I often respond, “Do you know the fastest way to ruin a new web site
design?” As you might suspect, the answer is, “Lack of proper planning beforehand.”
Let’s put it another way. In programming, there’s an old axiom, which states: “The sooner you start your coding the longer it takes to finish.”
Planning out your site before you build it is essential. To borrow a technique from the film industry, I recommend that you create a storyboard, which is a type of a flow chart of your new site design. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to draw out your idea, but it’s essential to create it on paper first.
On each piece of paper, the goal is to have room for an image at the top, plus space underneath for writing down information. As you might suspect, the first page to start with is your home (or welcome) page, which will typically have the most information as it will contain the page the people visit before they enter your site and as people go through your site, the will encounter more information (in tiers) as they go down.
Typically, the home page links to 5-15 pages below that, which we could refer to as Tier 2. Each of those pages links to another 5-15 pages, which you could call Tier 3.
If you use all of these pages, you’ll wind up with an extensive site, of at least 226 pages (including the home page).
It’s during this process that all sorts of problems will crop up. But it’s much easier to solve them on paper than in the middle of coding rather than when you are finished.. If you don’t, you might run into a major problem along the way that would require a “back to the drawing board” complete site re-design.
Working things out on paper will give you a much better idea of how things will work and how to fix problems. And, if you have knowledgeable friends, get a second opinion.
Once you’ve completed the on-paper process, and you or your web designer is satisfied with the results, you’re ready to translate it into code. Unless you or your programmer is a pro, I would recommend using a “template”. These are ready-made design formats. You can choose from several templates by typing “template source” in most search engines. Many of them are free.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q: For a Web site, do I have to employ a pro, or can I call the guidance counselor at my local high school and ask for the names of some computer whiz kids that I could call to help me out (for a fee)?
A: It really depends on what you want to do. If all you want is 1-2 pages , you can learn how to build the Web pages yourself. If it’s an intensive site with many pages, I’d recommend student or a pro (if you have the budget).
Q: I see a lot of photo-oriented web sites that have a black background. Is this the best color to use?
A: Not necessarily. It’s a matter of opinion and personal taste. White can work just as well. I don’t recommend the use of other colors as they can compete with your images.
Q: Is “Flash” or audio acceptable?
A: If you absolutely need Flash to demonstrate an animation, then by all means use it. If it’s for a fancy trick, I recommend leaving it out. It’s similar with sound. Unless it adds to your site, don’t use it. And if you do use sound, give users an option to turn it off. If you don’t, you’re likely to lose visitors.