First Basics of Website Design – The Specification

So what can be so hard about specifying a website design, put some text together, throw in a few graphics stick them on an html page and bingo, job done.

Afraid not, there is a little bit more to it than that, especially if you want to get the right look, feel and functionality in an easy to use website that lets your visitors flow through the content to the information they landed on the website to find in the first place.

A few things to consider: –

  • What do you want your website to be e.g would it be just a catalog that you could point people to for example from a high profile advertising site or alternatively a website you would like to be found on the web in it’s own right to promote you and or your business.
  • Who is going to be your target audience and where geographically will you find them.
  • What consideration have you given to your domain name, are you looking to create a brand, do you want the name to be a potential search engine inquiry (keyword based) or simply the name of your business.
  • How do you intend to categorise your website, this is important in determining how many individual pages you will have and the links required for those pages. The easiest way of sorting this out is to produce a site map in a flowchart form. In doing this you not only work out the pages you need but also define how visitors will navigate through the website and interact with it.
  • The contents of your website will very much depend on how you have answered or considered the points above, the text may need to be keyword rich for instance, graphics and dynamic data may need to appeal to a young or old audience and the colours you choose will be extremely important to help you put across the image you are seeking to portray. A good way to get a handle on the look and feel you are trying to achieve is to look at what other people have done with their websites, not that you need to copy those sites you would, I think, want to be original, but you can get an idea of what might work and what definitely does not work for you. It is a good idea to liaise with your designer(s) at this stage and get some ideas sketched out or put into an electronic medium so that everyone involved can get an idea of proposed layouts and style. This is known as a comp or comprehensive artwork and can range from a pencil sketch to something produced in Photoshop or Fireworks, the latter items are generally better for getting an actual web page mock up.
  • Performance may be important to you, possibly all you might want to know is how many visitors a day you are getting or perhaps you would like to know who is referring to your website, what pages they visit most, which pages they leave your wesbite from. There is software available that can give you pretty much any level of sophistication you are looking for but adding it and setting up the reporting is part of the design brief.
  • Then there are the aspects the designer is responsible for, conforming to current standards, making sure the website is consistent across different browsers, loads quickly and is search engine friendly with, invisible to the viewer, header information in place. Something you should be aware of even if it is not strictly part of the public aspect of the design.
  • SEO (search engine optimisation) starts at the name you choose for your website and to be honest never really ends, particularly if you want to be on the first or second page of the search engine results listing. Some of the aspects that need to be considered are covered in my posting on ‘Tips to work from home’ which is actually about working on the internet and getting the most from your websites.

Two of the most common and widely used software programs for website development are Dreamweaver and Photoshop. and these packages are generally considered to be the industry standard, Dreamweaver for developing the website code and Photoshop for the graphics.

For dynamic media the industry standard used is the Macromedia Flash program and it can be used for animations, movie clips, dynamic menu functions and more. An important consideration if you decide to use Flash is whether your visitor computer has Flash installed because if it doesn’t then your Flash based design will not be available, this is less of a problem in recent times as most computers do tend to carry Flash software, a more likely problem is that they are running older versions of Flash and you need to cater for that and don’t assume the latest versions will be available.

The last thing I want to discuss in this post is the selection of a good hosting site, there are many out there some are free (don’t forget you get what you pay for however) but whoever you choose they need to support your website to the required level. I can help you with your selection but at the end of the day the choice will be yours and you decide how much you are prepared to pay and the level of service you need.

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