If you do some searching on the web, you will find out that there are numerous iterations of what could be described as a web site development process that I presented previously (see Process & Developing Your “Eye” For Design…). Some have many more phases than what I will be discussing here and some are more simplified. Although, they all basically say the same thing, e.g., gathering initial information, the creation of your web site, and finally to maintenance to keep your web site up to date and current. When I teach web design courses I like to categorize these into six phases we mentioned previously, e.g., planning, analyzing, designing, developing, reviewing/testing, and publishing/maintaining.
So what should a designer do? How can we move forward with our clients? In the “planning” phase, the web designer/developer gathers information from the client and other relevant parties involved. We try to put together the pieces of the puzzle so to speak. Many things need to be taken into consideration as the initial design of a site takes shape. Start by asking a lot of questions to make sure you understand the needs of the site and of course it’s users. The following are some suggested considerations that could be adapted for any initial planning consultation:
What is the purpose of the site? Do you want to provide information, promote a service, sell a product… to the user?
What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site? Two of the more common goals are either to make money for a client or share information to the user.
- Target Audience
Is there a specific user that will help you to reach your goals? It is helpful to picture the “ideal” user that you want to visit your web site. Consider their age, gender, and interests. This information will help you determine the best design style for the site.
What kind of information will the target user be looking for on your site? Are they looking for specific information, a particular product, or service…?
As web site planning is the first phase of the Web Development Life Cycle, it involves the elements above, e.g., identifying the goals or purpose of the site.
- What do you think would happen if these were not determined at the onset of design and development?
- What in the world would end up taking shape?
- Would it be what the client wants or what the users need? Probably not. So good luck getting a call back is this information is not gathered.
The first step is to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this web site?” As you may already know, there could be any number and a variety of reasons. Perhaps you, an individual, might want a web site to share your hobbies? Perhaps showcase your experiences and have an online portfolio of sorts? Often organizations would have a web site to keep their members informed of upcoming events or to recruit new members. The same if true for a business that would have a site to carry on their business and perhaps business activities, e.g., sell products, customer support, advertise, etc.
The second step is to answer the question, “What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site?” For those who are instructional designers reading this, we need to think of these as measurable objectives. We may be asked to show exactly how their web site can accomplish these goals. Perhaps provide evidence after a predetermined time to show that these were accomplished. At this time we also need to distinguish the as goals for the site. As you progress with the WDLC you will be looking into goals of the user.