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Building Your Website (Part 1 of 2)

Building a website is a challenging and dynamic process.  During initial planning discussions, we address the goals and objectives of the site and establish milestones for each key area of the site.  Our goal of building an effective, flexible site begins with understanding the target audience and ends by meeting all your objectives.



Web Site Considerations

The Web is an interactive medium with content requirements that are different from traditional media.  Commercial messages in traditional media are often an interruption of something else, such as entertainment.  Those messages must get in, get people’s attention, deliver their content, and get out quickly before they lose interest.  Web visitors are intelligent, curious, and want the site to give them access to large amounts of content.  They are using the Web to seek out that information -- it is not an interruption, and good content will hold their attention.

The best measure of a site is not its price or its page count but its effectiveness.  Our task is to help refine your purpose and goals for the web site, polish the copy and presentation of the site, and create an easily navigable, content-rich, readable site that attracts repeat visitors.

There are at least three goals an organization might have in setting up a website:

  1. Direct Action - as a result of visiting the site, users will do something, such as place an order for a product.
  2. Delayed Action - as a result of visiting the site, users will remember the site and come back when they are ready to take action, such as buying product or obtaining industry specific information.
  3. Indirect Action - as a result of visiting the site, users will do something that does not necessarily involve the Web, such as subscribe to an offline newsletter or attend a seminar.

Our site-building techniques include learning about your industry to form an opinion on the best type of presentation for the site, visiting similar websites, mailing lists and Usenet groups that relate to your industry, examining surveys to determine what your industry can expect on the web, and producing a rough storyboard (called a Web treatment) of the proposed site.

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The Style Guide

Once you have reviewed and approved the Web treatment, we create a final style guide for the site.  The style guide does three things.  First, it ensures that the site has a consistent look and feel.  If users follow a link out of the site, the change in sites should be apparent to them.  Second, it gives the Webmaster and the client a starting point for building a strong foundation for growth.  Third, the style guide is a checklist to help make sure that the page developer hasn’t forgotten anything.  Although we may deviate from the standard, each page should contain the basic structure, image and navigational tools presented throughout the site.

The style guide will address the following elements:

  • Size of graphics
  • Acceptable graphics formats
  • Typical page size
  • Rules on color scheme
  • Navigation information, such as buttons that link to other pages
  • A contents page or section header and a "home" page or search engine
  • Copyright information and disclaimers
  • Contact and support information

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Site Construction

We will provide you with a private "development" area on one of our servers so that you can review the site during construction.  We find that this practice is helpful in correcting errors or making modifications in a timely manner.  Since all browsers are not the same, we design the site to be "browser independent".  We repeatedly test and validate the site for all the major browsers, saving time and energy later when making modifications.

At WebMasters, we frown on the use of "Under Construction" or "Best Viewed With Netscape, etc." messages.  If the site isn’t ready to be released to the web, we would prefer to wait until it is -- before serving up the domain.  Some sites go to great lengths to tell the user which browser to use and how to configure it.  Since it isn’t extremely difficult to build a site that takes advantage of many Netscape features without sacrificing quality when viewed by a non-Netscape browser, notices such as "Best viewed with Netscape" can legitimately be interpreted as a sign of inferior work.  Additionally, in the near future, it is likely that browsers and servers will use a new technique called "content negotiation" to decide how to display different types of Web data.  Pages that have advertised themselves as browser specific will have to change the presentation and the construction of their code throughout the site.

When the site has been reviewed and approved, we will then release the site to the Web under your domain name and begin the announcement process.  We will have the site listed in databases and directories -- not just the usual ones, but also in industry-specific listings.  Your organization should present the site everywhere -- on business cards, stationery, print ads -- anywhere you normally advertise.

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Site Maint

One of the main reasons we build each site to be browser independent is because, regardless of why it occurs, changing a product that is already out in the field is expensive.  Writing the site in standard code rather than browser-specific code makes it less likely that a change in a particular browser will force the developer to re-code the pages.  Reducing those costs allows the Webmaster to offer site development at a lower cost, and the site owner can spend more on content maintenance -- which builds traffic.

The most effective web sites are those that invite two-way communication with the visitor.  Good content is critical to the success of your site.  Web visitors crave information from your site, and one way to draw them back to the site is to offer new, fresh information regularly.  If a company posts new information every few weeks, people will bookmark and return to the site regularly.

Another reason sites need maintenance is to adapt to changing requirements -- both user and technology driven.  The Web doesn’t stand still, with browser improvements and new technology released at a phenomenal rate.  If the site is effective, then people are finding new ways to use it and might want new features and capabilities.  In many ways, a request for an enhancement is a sign of success -- the user wants the site to become even more useful than it already is!

Each client and site is different.  Our ongoing maintenance plan is determined in the initial stages of the project and is typically dependent on the client’s in-house resources.  Although we accept changes electronically, we would prefer the use of our standard change form.  Some clients prefer to call and discuss the proposed changes via telephone or during an on-line conference.  In that case, we will document the changes and ask the client for a sign-off before beginning any work.[ Return to the top ]



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