Preparing Your Website

Posted Dec 10, 2002
Last Updated Oct 30, 2011

The Internet is a vast realm of potential. It’s also a realm of virtual chaos. If you’re interested in local bands, you can make a website showcasing those bands. You don’t even need any money to do it. All it takes is learning some basic skills to make a compelling site. But making a good site a getting people to your site are two different things.

The chaos is generally on the user side. Web surfers must often wade through countless layers of scattered links to get what they are looking for. As web technology grows and standards converge, this dilemma lessens. But it will probably never go away, since the Internet will continue to grow as more and more people get online and start their own sites.

When you sit down to start your web site there are certain key concepts to keep in mind. You must ask yourself: 1) What is the main content of my site; 2) Who is my intended audience; 3) What is the theme of my site; 4) How big will my site get, and how advanced does it need to be?

The main content of your site is the purpose of your site. If the main content of your site is Family Events, then you should keep your development with this in mind. Stick to your content: in a site dedicated to Family Events, you wouldn’t want to have pages devoted to breeding shrimp. It’s fine to have links to other unrelated sites, but you should only put Family Events on a family website. Build another site if you want to teach people the intricacies of farming shrimp, and place a link from your family site.

Your intended audience is theoretically the whole world. Realistically, you should narrow down the people who will visit your site. Since most of us won’t want to pay for a marketing research company to provide us with statistics relating to who may or may not want to visit our sites, targeting an audience usually begins with guesswork and educated assumptions. You can assume that the audience of your Family Events site will be your family and perhaps some close friends. You can also assume that movie stars and foreign ambassadors will not frequent your family site (unless, of course, you happen to be a high-key member in society). Your audience will limit the kinds of things you will say and your form of presentation. A site provided for deaf surfers should not contain audio presentations.

The theme of your site will set the stage for all following development. It should guide your presentation. If the theme of your site is selling classical art, you will want to design graphics that relate to that theme, such as using subtle colors. If your site is to promote a business selling neon signs, go ahead and use flashy colors. Your theme should be consistent across your site, meaning that your site should follow a set pattern or template. Keep your colors consistent, your links and your logo in the same places. This is generally considered the professional approach to web design, and it makes your site easier to recognize and navigate.

How big will your site get? This depends on your main content, your audience, and your dedication to the content and audience. Deciding how big your site will be will influence the level of complexity required to maintain your site.

For a site with a very narrow topic and/or a limited audience, it is perfectly fine to keep your site development basic. Using HTML (XHTML is my recommendation) alone will suffice in a site that has no more than five pages and the content is rarely updated. If your window-washing site is only two pages, one with prices and the other with services, and these pages remain fairly static, HTML is all you really need to know.

If, however, your site is broad and your audience is diverse, or your content is multi-layered, you will probably have to use advanced features in your site development. Scripting languages and database usage is necessary for a complex and truly interactive site. Scripting languages like PHP (used in this site), Javascript and PERL allow you to display content based on viewer needs. Databases such as MySQL (used here) and ORACLE allow you to store information in a manner that is logical and easily accessible. Using these types of development tools requires more knowledge and planning than does basic XHTML design.

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Deborah Baker

Aug 3, 2007

As a beginner I found this very useful however I would like to see more information about how to plan and layout your site before ever creating it with software.

Thank you Shawn
Angry Teapot Level Design Awards

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