First of all, you need to think hard about what you want to achieve with your website. Do you just want to have one because everyone seems to have one nowadays or have you thought about it for a while and how it can benefit your business?
- What do you expect from your website visitors?
- Do you want them to buy products online?
- Do you want them to phone you and arrange a meeting?
- Do you want them to simply know about your business?
- Do you want them to fill in a contact form, or do you prefer them to phone you?
- Do you want to generate business with your website?
- What do you want to tell your website visitors?
- Do you want to tell them who you are?
- Do you want to tell them what you do?
- Do you want to tell them what you sell?
- Do you want to tell them what you specialize in?
- How do you want your business to come across? Progressive? Laid-back? Professional? Crazy?
You need to think about your business first before you start any design process. If you do not know where you are going, how can you ever arrive?
So let's set the scene (examples):
Let's set the goals first … (the website goals of this particular business are highlighted in Italics .)
What do I want to achieve with my website :
I have started a new Marketing Consultancy business and I want to raise awareness about my business in the local area and the services it offers. I am hiring to build a client base and want to encourage website visitors to contact me online by using a contact form or to phone me . Potential clients should find useful information about Marketing Services and reasons why they should make use of my services.
What people will most likely visit my website?
Professional people from small to medium-size organizations who are looking for marketing services because they want to increase their exposure and prefer to work with a local contact they can meet on a face-to-face basis.
What look and feel of my website will these people expect?
My website visitors will expect a professional and progressive look to my website. They will expect a logical navigation and lots of information (and images / examples if possible) about the services I offer. They will not expect playful things like music, movies etc. They want information served quickly .
What color should I design my website in?
Have a look at websites that offer color charts with complementary colors. This will help you decide on colors you can use for your website.
What structure should my website have?
This is the time when you start thinking about the services your business offers. In our marketing example, you will probably offer things like copy writing, preparation of sales literature, product marketing, advertising and PR. If these things are your core services, have links or buttons to them on your homepage. Do not hide them under "Services" – this is already one click too many. Your website visitors do not have time. What do they look for on your website? Information Information. Give them the information fast – with the least number of clicks you can.
From a website structure point of view, try to visibly separate additional company and legal stuff from your services. For example, have all your services (copy writing, preparation of sales literature, product marketing, advertising and PR etc.) as links on the left, and have company information (about us), contact form, sitemap and such like at the top of your homepage. Your website is not about YOU, but about your clients – how can you help them, what solutions can you offer to solver THEIR problems.
Horizontal Navigation vs Vertical Navigation
If you separate company information from products / services, you can have two types of navigation on your website: horizontal for links to company pages (about us, contact, legal etc.), and vertical for all your main services. If you expand on your services, it is always easier to add to the vertical navigation. You will have trouble adding to a horizontal navigation because it is limited in space. Try not to have the width of your website exceeded 760 pixels – this is the width of 800×600 resolution screens minus scroll bars.
If you prefer horizontal navigation, then you should think of the navigation options as categories, such as "products", "services", "company", "downloads". By doing that, you have the chance to split these categories into sub pages later on.
Header – Logo – Strap Line
Think up a strapline for your business, such as "Photography and Art Online" or "Web Design for Small Businesses". The strapline summarizes your core business activities in a few words. Your logo can include the strapline or the logo and the strapline can form the header of your website.
Footer – Required?
The footer should really be displayed for all web pages because it finishes off the website and does not leave the content hang in "limbo". The footer should contain a copyright note together with the first year when your website appeared online and the current year. The footer should also include a link to the website Sitemap and maybe a link to your website's terms & conditions. It may also include an additional link to the contact page if you want. Website visitors are now used to a certain layout of a website and expect certain parts to appear in certain places on a website. By adhering to the common expectations, you are "spoon-feeding" your website visitors and do not make them search for the pages they are after.
Each website consists of header, navigation, content, footer. Each of these parts consist of different kinds of information. Think about your business goals first before you start implementing an all bells-and-whistles flash website with music playing and blinking images. The website you design will be the first online impression for your website visitors. Do not turn them away by an unsuitable website design. Do some research first – including your competitors – what works, what does not work and try to structure your goals before you start designing your website.