Thursday, 10 July 2014

Planning is the Key

A question that is quite common is -  “How do I design a successful Web site?”

As you might suspect, the answer is, “Lack of proper planning beforehand.”

Let’s put it another way, in programming, there’s an old saying, which states: “The sooner you start your coding the longer it takes to finish.”

Planning out your website before you build it is essential. To borrow a technique from the film industry, I recommend that you create a storyboard or mind map, which is a type of a flow chart of your new website design. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to draw out your idea, but it’s essential to create it on paper or using a mind map first.

On each piece of paper if creating the storyboard, the goal is to have room for an image at the top, plus space underneath for writing down information. As you might suspect, the first page to start with is your home (or welcome) page, which will typically have the most information as it will contain the page the people visit before they enter your site and as people go through your site, the will encounter more information (in tiers) as they go down.

Typically, the home page links to 5-15 pages below that, which we could refer to as Tier 2. Each of those pages links to another 5-15 pages, which you could call Tier 3.

If you use all of these pages, you’ll wind up with an extensive Web site design, of at least 226 pages (including the home page).

If you are using a mind map, you will go through a similar process to above, but on one piece of paper as a type of flow chart. A basic example is shown below:

It’s during this process that all sorts of problems will crop up. But it’s much easier to solve them on paper than in the middle of building the site rather than when you are finished, although if you are developing a content managed website such as our ConvallisCMS sites the content can easily be changed, but it's a bit more difficult to change the template design.

Working things out on paper or a mind map will give you a much better idea of how things will work and how to fix problems. And, if you have knowledgeable friends, get a second opinion. Once you’ve completed the on-paper/mind map process, and you and your web designer are satisfied with the results, you’re ready to translate it into code.