Crucial First Steps in Planning Your Website

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So you've decided to get your business online and you're pumped, ready to plaster your catalog and brochures across the web. In the middle of all this enthusiasm you realize the possibilities are truly unlimited and you come to a major dilemma: Where do you start and where do you stop?

This is the most crucial phase of building your website. Your site's design must be focused appropriately to be effective. Before you type a single line of content, before you edit a single image, before you draw a single storyboard, you must have a clear understanding of the purpose of your site in terms of its goals and audience.

Your site may have several goals. For example, the purpose for your site may be to save time spent answering questions on the telephone. One of the goals of the site then, would be to educate your customers about your products and services. You may also want to increase sales volume. Another goal then, would be to pre-sell products or services featured on your site. Every design consideration will rest heavily on the purpose and goals for your site.

The audience for your site should also have a great influence on the design. You should have a clear understanding of your site visitors and their goals in visiting your site. Are they professionals seeking the service of other professionals? Are they teens seeking career guidance? Are they teachers seeking better tools? The tone and design of your site should appeal to your audience and encourage them to explore the site further. Knowing who your audience is and what their goals are is crucial for this objective.

Once you know the purpose of your site in terms of goals and audience, write them down. Try to condense this information into a single sentence. This will help you keep your design tightly focused, allowing you to reflect on that single statement to determine if your design choices are appropriate.