17 Tips to Plan a Website
Everyone wants one.
Everyone wishes they knew how to make one.
SOME have them but don't know what to do with them.
The very few know *what* to do and *how * to do it ... and have success!
What am I talking about?
Some of you might have no idea of all the things you need to think about before you ever put a website online.
Remember the Kevin Costner movie where it was said, "Build it and they will come!"? That worked like a miracle, and it was after all a baseball field ... and it involved a miracle or two.
Don't imagine for a second that you can put your website online and that visitors will miraculously appear and start shopping ... it requires effort, hard work and a great belief in your business or service. Did I mention "hard work"? Yes, it's worth mentioning again if you want your success online as well as offline.
* CREATE A WEBSITE PLAN - grab a piece of paper, draw a square or rectangle at the top which represents the HOME page. Now turn the page over, and write down all the things you want to do with the website, which could turn into the names of website pages e.g. Contact Us, About Us, Products, Services, Prices, Frequently Asked Questions etc. When you have a list of web page names, turn the page over and draw them as boxes under the Home page, in the the order they will appear online. Seeing this on paper will help you tremendously to get a feel for the website. Look at other websites to get ideas.
* Each web page needs to have a TITLE which appears in the top edge of the browser. This is written in the html meta tags. On another piece of paper turned lengthways, draw two lines - one to create a narrow column on the left, and the next two about the same width. Break the length of the page into 8 or 10 sections by drawing lines across the page [one section per web page - use more than one page if necessary]. In the left-hand column, write the Title for each page, in a separate line [leave the other columns blank.] This information will be embedded in the html so that the search engines will display a *different* title for each page. The Title appears at the top of the browser window, above the typing / url line. This is very important and must be different for each page.
* Each page needs a DESCRIPTION which will appear in search engines. On the page with the Titles written on it, you can now write 2-3 sentences about each page - use the column in the middle. This information will be embedded in the html *meta description* tag so that the search engines will display a *different* description for each page.
* KEYWORDS are used to specify what the theme of each page is. In the third column on the page, write keywords of importance in the right-hand column. Some keywords might be the same for the whole website, and some keywords will be different, depending on the theme of each page.
* CONTENT is king! ... or so they say. What this means is that the Content of each page is important, and must grab the visitor's attention. You may need to rewrite your content many times to get it just right. Content = words.
* The PAGE WIDTH is important if you are creating the pages yourself. Each page should be no more than 750 pixels wide, so that people with laptops will not have to scroll endlessly to read all your text - this is a great way to bore your visitors who will leave your site and go surfing on other websites.
* Don't use ITALICS or UNDERLINE on your webpages - on some monitors the italics are impossible to read, and everyone is used to clicking on underlined words as this represents a LINK to another page or website.
* FONT DISPLAY. Some will display differently on different computers [depending on browsers, operating systems etc], so it is best to use an HTML Stylesheet to specify which fonts and sizes you want to use. You will be able to find free tutorials on Cascading Style Sheets [CSS] online. This will make it easy to change the look of your entire website with a few changes to the stylesheet.
* FLASHING IMAGES & TEXT. Forget it. Flashing images and ads drive people crazy and the website visitor will probably click away quickly to go to a different web site in seconds.
* WEBSITE THEME. Is your site going to be an information site, or will it be a duplication of your brochure to show your wares, or will you be selling online? Give this plenty of thought - research your competitors online, see how they present themselves. What would you do the same, or do differently?
* MONEY! Will you need an online payment processor like Paypal? Will you accept credit cards or will you expect customers to fax or post orders to you? Or email an order to you? You need to do some research to work out what is the best solution for you. Join webmaster forums or forums related to your industry, to find out what other people use; ask questions; don't be shy.
* Your EMAIL NAME. It *MUST* match your website name ... please please avoid using a hotmail or yahoo or other free email name. If your email name matches your website name, you *will* look professional!
* PHOTOS & IMAGES need to be a good size to be seen on the website, and also need to be as *light* as possible in weight - 20-100kb is general rule of thumb. You can learn online how to make images and photos ready for the web.
* TEST THE WEBSITE. The way the page looks on millions of computer monitors and many brands of computers and browsers can differ greatly. If you are serious about your website development, you should ask friends with different computers [Macintosh and Windows] and different operating systems [Windows 98 - Windows XP] using different browsers [Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, Mozilla etc] to look at the pages online *before* you tell customers your site is ready! Be willing to accept constructive criticism, thank your friends for their help.
* FASTEST WAY TO GET A WEBSITE ONLINE. In my experience, using a web builder is the fastest way to get online - you avoid hiring a website designer, you avoid paying ongoing website design fees, you avoid learning html or web design yourself. Some web builders come with hosting included in the price - so you don't have to worry about *where* the website will *live*, or *how* to get it online. You will probably be able to buy the domain name from the same company. One company is http://www.BuildAWebsiteTonight.com.
* LAUNCH YOUR SITE! Remember to send an email announcement when your site is *live*, send press releases to local press & radio, announce on forums where potential clients might visit. Work out who your target market is, then decide the best way to approach them.
This is a quick list which I hope will help you to understand some of the basic steps to take when deciding on creating your website. Taking the step to create your website is a great one, which I'm sure you will find very rewarding - remember to enjoy yourself along the way!
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Teena Hughes (c) 2005 All Rights Reserved
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