Blueprint to Develop a Great Web Site

Article excerpt

I teach courses in designing and developing Web sites. Every semester, many students come to class and think developing a Web site involves merely learning the mechanics of a Web authoring program -- not so. Just like building a house, building a great Web site requires a blueprint. No one would ever think about building a house without a blueprint, or without knowing what tools to use to build the house.

This article will serve as a blueprint to developing a great Web site. The Web blueprint has two components: Systematic Planning and Design and Development. The Systematic Planning and Design and Development components include the following elements:

A. Systematic Planning:

1. Web audience 2. Goals and objectives 3. Sketch out the Web site 4. Select a Web authoring tool

B. Design and Development:

1. Navigation structure 2. Design elements 3. Homepage and page construction 4. Graphics

Both the Systematic Planning and Design and Development elements of the Web blueprint will be discussed using a systems approach. First, we will discuss the systematic planning component of the Web blueprint.

Systematic Planning

Just as planning is important in building a house, planning is also very important in developing a Web site. Planning can ensure a quality Web site, save time and make the content of the Web site easy to navigate. A systems approach to Web development is an overall plan that gives attention to all the essential elements in designing a Web site. The following questions will guide the systematic planning of your site.

1. Who are your Web site visitors? (Target Web audience)

2. What are the content, depth and breath of information in your Web site? (Goals and objectives of your site)

3. How are you going to arrange the topics and subtopics of your site? (Sketch out Web pages using index cards or flowchart)

4. What are you going to use to construct your Web site? (Selection of a Web authoring program)

The Target Audience

When beginning the planning process, it is important to identify the specific audience that will be coming to your Web site. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who am I developing this Web site for?

2. Does age, gender, financial status, marital status or education affect my site audience?

The audience guides every aspect of your Web design. The design of information, selection of graphics and visual elements (which include color, text, and graphics) are directly related to the target audience.

Goals and Objectives

Goals provide the general frameworks of your Web site and are broad statements that indicate the purpose of the site. For example: the purpose of developing my Web site is to provide school districts, corporations and individuals with information regarding computer training. Objectives are precise statements about specific Web site content. Objectives organize site content information and depth and breadth of site information. To help frame and write your Web site objectives, answer the following question: What specific information do I want my Web users to know? The following is an example of objectives for a Web site:

* The home page will provide an overview and links of services provided.

* The about us page will inform visitors of the creator's biography, which should include education, experience and research.

* The pricing page will provide information on the rates of services provided.

* The contact us page will provide a form in which clients will be able to send information back regarding their name, address and comments.

* The about courses page will inform visitors of courses offered and course content.

After the objectives are completed, build a topic and subtopic outline from your objectives.

Design and Development of the Web Site

An effective technique for sketching out the framework of your Web site is to use 5 x 8' index cards or a flow chart to organize and simulate your Web data for each objective. …