In the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the process of determining IF you need a Web site, and of determining what your goals are for the site. Now we jump into design, right?
Not so fast there, turbo. It’s important that your site look good, sure – but if you don’t know what content your site is going to have, it’s going to be awfully hard to determine how your site should look. Consider building a new house: the developer will want to know how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, how many levels, what size garage, and on and on. Skipping to the design of the house without considering these important foundational things would be foolhardy.
Every step of the process of creating a new Web site builds on the last step, like a big electronic pyramid. Now that we’ve got our goals in mind (think of this as the base), we can figure out on the next tier what we’ll say and do to achieve those goals.
- In our example of an e-commerce site, the main goal is to sell product. Our content, then, will focus on showcasing the product: pictures, reviews, descriptions. We’ll need a shopping cart interface, a checkout system, and terms and conditions.
- A professional services site will want to convince visitors to fill out a contact form or pick up the phone. This site’s content will feature the services offered, client testimonials, a case study or five, and of course contact information. The About Us section will also be crucial to building trust and rapport with site visitors.
- The site whose main goal is to get users to sign up to use the site will be all about promoting why this site is the best thing since sliced bread. Screenshots of what you can do here, videos showing just how cool it is, user testimonials, and statistics (“87,259 customers and growing!”) are all elements you might include in this site.
The three examples above show just how very different content can be between different kinds of sites. Each case necessitates a layout that’s different from any of the others, and different sets of page templates as well.
With the overarching content strategy more or less fleshed out, you can move on to creating the actual content. At this stage it’s helpful to also start thinking about some high-level design ideas. Say you think you’ll have a slide show on the home page: you’ll need to have photos and text content to fill it with. What information will go in the footer? Will you have a persistent footer across all the different pages, showing important content? (MWD Web for example has a three-column footer on every page. Don’t believe us? Scroll down) And so on.
Next week we’ll take a brief break from the lecture style and tell you a fable about two business owners who took two different approaches to writing content, and how that went for each of them.