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Website Design and Development Blog

Your Own Website - First Steps in Design and Development

October 2012

Many people start out wanting to create a web site on the Internet yet they have only a vague sense of where to begin the process. Below I list those things that you should think about and consider in the creation process, whether you plan to develop the web site yourself or plan to have a professional company develop it for you.

Site Name

Your web site name will become a brand name even if you do not legally register it. Visitors to your site will identify the name with the content of the site. Needless to say, a lot of thought should go into what you want to say with your web site, both literally and figuratively, and what its goals are and what name best conveys this. Create a list of possible names. You can test the names by typing them in quotes into a Google or other search engine search form and see what results come up. Narrow the list down to the best one that no one else is using.

Site URL

Once a name has been decided upon you will need to decide on an Internet URL (www.yoursitename.com) and determine if it is already registered by someone else or is available for your use. You also want to look at similar web addresses because you are in a sense moving into a neighborhood comprised of all those Internet addresses that are similar to your own. Visitors may type in your prospective URL incorrectly and end up at a similar site and assume it is yours. Your site also shouldn’t appear to be an already existing site as this may cause legal problems. You may have to think creatively about the spelling of your site address in order to avoid some of these problems.

You also want the address to be easily remembered or follow directly from your company name, for example. Try typing in variations of your possible web address and see if there are any sites already existing with that URL. Once you have decided on one or two possible addresses you can further check the names through a domain registration company or have a web design company check them for you.

Site Uniqueness

When you enter the design phase you also want to look at sites that are similar to the one you are creating. In order for your site to be a success you will want to differentiate it in some way that is unique and different from those already existing web sites. You want your site to be one that people think of in the area that your site covers, preferably along with the other big name sites that already exist. In striving for web site uniqueness you may find some features that don’t exist on the other sites and need to be considered in the design phase of your new site.

Slogan

This is a one sentence statement about your web site. On my now defunct ezine site, NEFARIOUS - Tales of Mystery, I used "Mystery and Crime Fiction on the Web Since 1999 - Here's To A Good Mystery™". You want to make it possible for people to immediately figure out what your site is about. Either the slogan, or statement of purpose that follows, should be prominently displayed for new visitors to your site, usually on the home or index page of the site. Especially if your site has a unique visual design you don’t want visitors sitting there wondering what the site is or what it's about. The slogan helps you be clear about the nature of the site and what visitors should expect from it.

Statement Of Purpose

In a single paragraph explain everything about your web site. This is hard to do and will change over time but it helps you work out an idea of what you want your site to be "about". Most sites have a link labeled "About" and you need to create the information for what your site’s “About” page will show. A good way to get ideas is to check the “About” links on the sites that you regularly go to.

Website Logo

This is a visual "hook" that identifies your site and helps people remember it. A logo helps to distill the spirit of your site into a succinct image that people can remember. As I said above, this will become a brand for your site and needs to be considered carefully. You may wish to hire a freelance designer or design company to create the logo for you. If you are an established business then likely your logo already exists and should be used on the web site for consistency.

Color Scheme

Decide what colors you want to use for the site. What is the main, overall color. What is the highlight or detail color. Do you want black font on a white background or white font on a colored background or what. For long articles in a blog that people read on your site, what is the most readable for the eyes? Consider how long people will be viewing your web pages in one sitting. The website logo and color scheme and other graphics and images should complement each other. If you are comfortable with leaving this to a designer and have no preference in this area then let the designer develop your color scheme.

Photos and/or Artwork

You'll need some photos or artwork for the main page of the site as well as other pages. Here you need imagery that will go into the visual design of the web pages. This is different from the Logo and again you may need a professional designer to develop these for you. You want to consider the overall look of the web pages on the site. When you see an existing site on the web that you like then add it to your bookmarks or make a list. Provide this list to a designer as a way of explaining what you are hoping for visually.

Business Strategy

If your proposed web site is for a business then are there specific business objectives that you have in mind that the site is meant to support? Defining these from a business perspective will help with the following section on functionality. Are you able to picture a typical visitor to your web site in terms of age, income, or other criteria? From a business standpoint what do you expect them to do once they have visited your web site?

Needed Functionality

You will also need to consider what actions, services, and functionality your new website will provide. Do you need a membership system where visitors create accounts and participate in a discussion forum? Do you need to regularly send out an email newsletter? Do you want to perform polls or have a form that is used to contact you? Are you going to sell products through an online shopping cart system?

Think about your statement of purpose, your site uniqueness, your business strategy, and goals for the site and determine what the site will need to be able to do from a functional standpoint. These questions will determine what kind of hosting account you need as well as what kind of web site technology you will need to support the required functionality.

Links To Other Sites

You'll want to come up with a starting list of links to other similar web sites that have similar content and goals to your own. In the case of a business web site these will likely be competitors but for many other sites these will be your new compatriots on the web. One of the ways to improve the popularity of your web site is to link to other web sites and also ask them to link to your web site. After you have the web site up and running one of the main things you'll want to do is announce it on forums or other places where the subject of your site is popular. Of course you want to do it in a polite way without using "Spam" methods.

The best way to build links to other sites is to email the owner of a web site directly and tell them about (statement of purpose) your site and ask if they are willing to include a link to your site on theirs. To return the favor you add a link on your site to their site. This is called "reciprocal linking" and helps your site in search engine ranking. Starting off you want to include links on your site that you feel are the best sites about your area or subject. Later, when your site is more established, you can ask for reciprocal links.

Conclusion

All of the above areas will get you well on your way to having a popular and successful web site. Put your work in on these beginning steps first, before starting the web site building process or approaching a professional to do the work, and you’ll be well ahead of the game.

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