I have been fortunate to have developed multiple websites from scratch. I have found some things useful and others not. One of the most important aspects of a successful site is planning. Here is the planning process I have used.
- Take notes on your initial unbiased impression of the client’s current website (if one exists)
- Get input from the people who have used the current website- what do they like/dislike. What problems does it have?
- Do competitive research. How does this site compare to the others- what parts is it strong or weak in compared to the competition?
- Do keyword research. How does the current website rank in Google/Yahoo/MSN. What pages bring the most traffic? Can this be improved even more? Is there ‘low hanging fruit’ to capitalize on (in respect to optimizing and building content)?
- How is the current traffic and web stats? What is the behavior of the current visitors- do they bounce immediately away from the site, or are they reading multiple pages of content
- Make a schedule- based on your research, how long do you expect to complete the website. Estimate with an extra ‘cushion’ of time to compensate for unexpected problems or delays. Also, you may ‘break down’ your schedule into component parts- such as this outline.
- Make initial design ideas
- Sketch designs on paper
- Close your eyes and visualize yourself visiting a new website with a fresh and innovative design- what does it look like? What elements would make it impressive and stand out? Try to capture this through your mind’s eye and sketch it out on paper.
- Make at least 10 designs- and make them all very different. Keep it general and don’t get stuck on a particular design solution yet.
- Pick the top 3 designs and then make more design variations from each of those 3 versions- perhaps at least 3 of each. 3×3=9. Then, of the nine versions, choose the top three.
- Now, get outside input. Ask others which of the 3 sketches they like, and what suggestions they have.