Beginning with a Plan
Before you fire up the software and start cranking out Web pages, take a step back from the process, and ask yourself what you’re aiming at by designing this Web site. You can get help in answering that question by asking yourself five more questions. Just turn to journalism 101, and ask yourself the 5 basic W questions: Who, What, When, Where, and the all-important, Why.
- Who is designing this site?
- What are the goals of the site?
- When will the site be completed?
- Where is my target audience?
- Why am I doing this?
Who is designing this site?
In this case the answer would be you. You’re responsible for everything from the creation of the graphics, to the typing of the text: even to the compression of the video. Since you know Dreamweaver, the construction of the site... from the ground up, is all up to you. At least you think it is...
For example, you might know Dreamweaver from top to bottom, but do you also know some of the other applications you might need to use, such as: Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and Fireworks; just to name a few. If your knowledge of other essential applications is lacking, you might need to bring other experts into the mix. In addition, many Web designers can assemble Web pages with their eyes closed, but lack a fundamental understanding of how to load and manage the site out to the server. And what about marketing your site? Did you ever hear the expression, build it and they will come? Well, a lot of people built Web sites and nobody comes. Why? No one knew they existed. The question: Who is designing this site helps you focus not only on the end game, but who is going to help you get there.
What are the goals of the site?
You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many people want to build a Web site, but have no clear goals as to what they want the site to accomplish (just talk to some of my clients). A Web site is about communication, plain and simple. For example my goal for this book is to teach you how to use Dreamweaver in a logical and creative way, plain and simple. We could say that the goal of our fictional Web site is to obtain more business, that’s what most business sites are designed to do. However, we also want an element of the site devoted to pure and free information; maybe an area devoted to tips and tricks on taking good photographs. A Web site can have more than one goal, but it’s important to define them at the get go. If you don’t have any clearly defined goals for your site, how are you going to be able to tell if you’re successful? When my dad would take us on one of his famous across-the-country vacations, my sister and I would be in the back seat singing the mantra of all children everywhere: Are we there yet? Without a good, well-defined set of goals, how are you ever going to know if you’ve arrived? Later we’ll talk about how you monitor those goals; for now just set them. If you don’t know, or understand, the ultimate goals of your site, then stop right now, and don’t move forward until you can define them.
When will the site be completed?
While this may seem trivial, I’ve known many a good Web designer who have gone out of business because they promised and never delivered. Since you’ll be designing this site on your own, this question becomes even more important because it gives you a date to strive. Believe me it’s very easy to let other considerations interfere with the completion of the site. And here’s another good reason... in the business world a make or break for many is the holiday shopping season. From the end of November to the end of December many retailers make most of their money.
You believe that you can sell a lot of your photographs during this time of the year, so you plan for the site to be up and running for the holidays. But what does that really mean? In truth it means having the site up and running by August, at the latest. This gives the site time to be indexed by all the search engines, and it gives you time to iron out any possible kinks in the operation of the site. The worst thing you want to happen is to get the site up by mid November, and then discover that your shopping cart module is full of problems. Set a reasonable, reachable date, and then work toward that goal. Reasonable and reachable is obtained based on your knowledge of the site, its complexity, how long it will take you to do things, and how much time in the day you have to devote to the project.
Where is my target audience?
How are you going to know what to put into your site unless you understand where your audience is coming from? By coming from, I don’t mean their geographical location (although that can be important). When I design a Web site for a client, I want to get to know the people that will be visiting the site. In reality, that’s not very practical. After all, you’re not going to knock on the front door of each and every possible visitor, sit down with a cup of tea, and discuss his or her likes and dislikes.
What I’m looking for in the discovery phase is a general idea of who my visitors might be: What kind of people would buy my photos and videos? Once I’ve got a handle on the demographics of my audience, I can design the site around those parameters. For example, I would design a Web site for six-year olds much differently than a site for a major corporation such as: General Electric, or Williams-Sonoma. We’ll talk more about how you’ll accomplish this later in this chapter; however, it’s important to understand your target audience.
Why am I doing this?
While this may seem close to the goals for the site, it’s simply a motivating tool. For example, the goal of the site is to increase my business, but in the end my goal is to share my photographic work with the world. It might also be security. For example, you work for someone else as a photographer in his or her studio, and because business is not that great, you feel that you could be in the unemployment queue before long. Your objective for designing this Web site is a personal goal you’ve had for years: To start you own business and become a photographer in your own rights.
Designing a Web site is not just about making money. You would be surprised how simply asking yourself the question: Why am I doing this, will motivate you to not only to get the job completed on time, but to do the absolute best job possible. Hey, this could just be your dream come true.