Plan your website

What do you want to have on your site? The path between “Hey! I need a website” and “I know exactly what the site should have; it should have this… and that…” has moments of murkiness. And some meandering.

In my experience, it’s easier to define things for others than it is for yourself. Many of the decisions you need to make are marketing decisions. What are you offering to the rest of the world, and what is the best way to make that offer?

Web site decisions, marketing decisions. Whatever. Still, they’re decisions that need to be made, no matter what, before your site is created. And you’re the decider.

Here are some thought experiments to help get you started with a plan.

Imagine the website working for you, successfully.

Think forward in time. Your site is done. It works. In fact, it works very well. What does that look like?

Your visitors are happy they arrived, because they… (fill in that blank)

You’re happy with where you are with the site, because you now… (fill in that blank)

Okay, what do those pictures look like? What do those pictures tell you about what you need to have on your site?

Who is your site visitor?

Focus for a bit on your happy site visitor. Who is that person? What does he or she do? What goal does that person have? and How does your site help the visitor meet that goal?

Here are some ideas. The visitor:

  • needs to be entertained, inspired, informed.
  • needs to know you’re legitimate. You have web presence to help establish your bona fides.
  • needs to find your location, your hours, how to reach you.
  • needs to see samples of your work (portfolio/tear-sheets/movie clips/audio clips)
  • needs to become aware of your expertise.
  • needs to learn about products your offer
  • needs to learn about services your offer
  • needs to discover that making a web site is within reach, and that the bulk of the work can be done in one day. (well, that’s my reason ;))

Write as many statements about what your visitors want and need, and how your site will help them.

What does this thought exercise tell you about what you need to have on your site?

Surf With Intention.

Go surfing. Not randomly, but consciously. Surf to sites that are like the one you wish to have. Visit the sites of your competitors. Or colleagues. Or contemporaries. What do they have on their sites?

What do you like? What don’t you like?

Keep a list. It may look something like this:

I like site XYZ’s layout. Text is big enough to read. I can find my way around. Site PQR’s color scheme looks sophisticated, but the low contrast makes it hard to read the blocks of text. I went to site ABC and found myself immediately hunting for a Contact Us link. I looked and looked and it was only later that I found the Company link that had a sub-page where I could contact them. It was right in front of my face but for some reason, I couldn’t see it!

Pay attention to your observations. You’ll see what you like, what makes a site easy (or not easy) to visit. You’ll get a better idea of your preferences, and you’ll discover some standard conventions shared by web sites of that type.

Look at structure. Look at pages. Are there some standard pages?

Here are some common names for pages or sections of web sites:
About | Contact | Samples | Testimonials | Find Us | Terms of Service

Think about that visitor, the one who is so happy to visit your site. What does the visitor want to know? What page is there that makes it easy for him or her to find it?

Search Engines and Directories

How does your visitor find your site in the first place? What search terms might your visitor use? What do you find when you use those terms? If your visitor were to use a directory (such as the open directory project, yahoo’s directory), how would that person find your site? Be sure to note the search words or phrases: you’ll want to make sure those are a part of your site.

Go to search engines (Here’s a list of em. Another list) and to directories and see what happens when you enter search terms that might be useful for your realm.

About this site

Formerly “All Things Bryce” this site is home to the professional consulting business of Susan A. Kitchens, AuntiAlias & Associates.

What is AuntiAlias, anyhow?

AuntiAlias is a pun on the word antialias. In computer graphics, anti-aliasing is the process of adding what seems to be blurry in-between pixels to smooth the image so it won't appear so "jaggy." The pun came about in the early days of Bryce, the 3D landscape software. Bryce's final rendering pass is anti-aliasing. On the software's support boards, I'd sign my posts as "Auntie Alias." I thought, "Hey, I'll make that into a screen name!" The 10-character limit resulted in this spelling you see here: auntialias.

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