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Pre-Planning Your Website

Like any project, the Web requires a certain amount of pre-planning. Define the scope of your project early. Determine whether the project is something you can do yourself, if you will need a team of people, or perhaps some training. Defining your target audience will simplify your requirements.

The development of a successful Web site is an ongoing process. Never look at a Web site as a finished entity. The beauty of the Web is that its content is dynamic, immediate and fresh—or so it should be.

Though you should keep an open mind when developing your site, as stated above, it is still necessary to list a realistic set of goals and adhere to them until your first version is "live" online. Create a definitive outline of your site. Do not be tempted to add more features during development, because unless those features are thought through thoroughly, it could do more harm than good. People are waiting for content now, so it is important to set realistic goals.

Plan now to gather feedback from visitors and listen to their needs when your first version is online. It will enable you to compose a list of goals for your next site revision. This iterative approach allows you to make your site as intuitive as possible and enhances "The User Experience," which is how the user navigates your site. The "User Experience" is explained more in a later section of this guide.

Here are some items to keep in mind while pre-planning:

Know your audience
Ask site visitors of your current site for what information they might be looking on your site. Also ask them what they think is missing or difficult to find. Your perceptions may vary dramatically from their perceptions. In addition, make your site accessible to every user. Use new technology wisely. If you add something to the site that requires the user to install "plug-ins" it is possible that they will not be able to access it and simply leave.

Define the scope and content of your site
If you know a little about what your audience expects, it will make it easier for you to cater to them. These expectations may even determine how content is presented to them. How specific do you need to get on your first release?

Draw an outline, or "site map"
Using a pencil and paper, draw your home page with the links that you will have on it. Keep the number of links to a minimum and keep them general. You can get more specific on later pages. See Figure 2-1 below.

Figure 2-1: Typical framework of a Web site outline, or "site map."

You do not have to draw the framework of the site like this. You can simply construct an outline with which you've always been familiar. Items indented once are "Tier 2" links. Items indented twice are "Tier 3" links and so on.

When you have a site map that represents your end goals, sign off, carve it in stone, and move on.

Article By: Xavier University - Visit their style guide for more articles like this one.
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