Planning a Website

by Selwyn Bergman of BMSC-Online

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This is a 6 part tutorial on how to plan your website. It speaks about:

  • Why you should plan
  • How to plan
  • The Technical Side of Website Planning
  • The Content, Navigation and what to avoid
  • Graphics, Music, Animations and Website Validation
  • Summary

Before you start

Not a technical tutorialThis is not a technical tutorial on how to write code involving HTML, CSS, Javascript and the like.... its far more important. This tutorial deals with where and how to focus your available resources when building your website. Its a guide on "how to plan" and if used correctly it'll help you build a website that gives you a better chance of getting a good Return of Investment (ROI). The reason this tutorial exists is because too many website owners make the mistake of devoting large proportions of their resources (both time and money) on the "bells and whistles" of the website while spending too little time focussing on the services that their website should offer to their users.

Why should you plan your website?

Many companies devote sometimes significant portions of their resources to develop a Web site, and end up not getting what they want out of it. Besides leading to disappointment and disillusionment with the web in general, it is also a waste of effort and money.

...too many website owners make the mistake of devoting large proportions of their resources (both time and money) on the "bells and whistles"

Plan your WebsiteOften the problem is not with the Technical Aspect of developing the website (ie writing the code, setting up the server and the MySQL databases and making sure that all the internet community can access them), it is rather in the Planning Stage, where the results and goals that is required from the website have not been clearly defined, or realistic steps to take in order to achieve those goals have not been laid out. When plans are "made up as one goes along" the result is frequently a mess of mixed messages which does not clearly say what is intended. Look at the images below, and try and say the colour of each word, without paying any attention to whats actually written in the text.

Mind trick

In the above image, the box on the left represents an unplanned website and the box on the right represents one which has been planned. Because the messages are not properly aligned in the left hand box, it is actually more difficult to read and thus has obstacles in the way of its communication. Planning what you want, allows you to align your messages so that they are easier to read, and hence understand.

the more time you spend planning, the less money you waste by not having to redo things later.

In a Project Management Course run at the University of Cape Town, the lecturer, Mr. Gordon Lister, informs his students that the amount of effort spent at the beginning of a project is inversely related to the costs that come about at later stages. In other words: the more time you spend planning, the less money you waste by not having to redo things later.

Actually, developing a website is a project, according to the generally accepted definition of the word "Project" as used in Project Management Theory. The tools taught in Project Management can go a long way in assisting you to develop your own website.

Next: How to Plan
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