Getting Started: Your Website Planning Checklist

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1. Make a list of things you want to accomplish with your site.

For example, you may want to communicate your market knowledge, learn more about your customers, or showcase your product line. Determine whether you want to sell products and services via the site, or whether your site will simply provide information about your products and services to support an offline sale. Prioritize this list, so that the developer knows which elements to focus on

2. Write a description of your ideal site visitor.

Consider whether your primary site visitors will be current customers or prospects, people who spend a lot of time online or Web neophytes. This customer profile is crucial because it will shape site language, navigation and site features.

3. Review other sites for ideas for look and feel.

By pointing a developer to several sites that you like the look of, you enable him or her to hit the mark for you. These sample sites will prevent you from having to put into words what you hope your site will look like. The URLs you provide do not have to be in the same industry or be similar to your business in any way. They just have to share the look (or elements of the look) that you want for your site.

4. Think about the kind of art you want.

While the beauty of working with a developer is that you don’t have to come up with ideas for the site’s creation, you should be prepared to talk about where you stand on art work. Your developer will likely make a recommendation, but it will help you to know that there are three primary choices; photos, clip art and custom images. Photos can bring a site to life, but are slow to download. Clip art is cost effective because it often has no fee associated with it, but custom art, while potentially expensive, can create a unique element for your site.

5. Write site copy.

Each page on your site will contain some words, and creating this text will help you determine how many pages you need for your site. If your developer has a copywriter who will help you, then all you have to do is determine what topics you want to see covered on each page.

6. Think about other features.

The time to think about site features is before the design process begins, so that the site can be created with all of its elements in mind. Features you may want to consider include an e-mail newsletter sign-up, registration, automatically generated "contact us" e-mails, and a "send this to a friend" capability.

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