First of all, the developer must determine who the audience is for the site. This is critical, because many design and content decisions depend on this. Is the site for children or adults' Does the target audience access the Net from work, school or home' How fast is their Internet connection' Do they want to be informed or entertained' The developer must make sure that he knows the answers to these types of questions from the outset.
The site must be well organized, both for the benefit of it's visitors and to make it easier to maintain. Mapping out the site in storyboard or schematic form, perhaps as a flow chart is considered useful. One can consider using index cards to represent the prospective web pages as they can be rearranged very quickly. It really helps to have some way to visualize the structure, whether we are working alone, with colleagues or professionals.
Spending as much time as one can surf the Web at this stage definitely helps. The developer must take a close look at the websites he likes. Many sites credit the design company and link to its website so that all can see what else the developer has done. If one decides to hire outside help, he must make sure the company is experienced with projects of that size and scope.
One thing to bear in mind is that a website is a perpetual work-in-progress. Most websites change fairly often because the technology makes electronic publishing rapid and relatively inexpensive. A well-planned site simplifies this process. New content and features can be easily added without having to redesign the site.
The content of a site will most likely be a combination of information that one currently has and information that one will have to create. This may be a time when we may want to hire a creative writer, or for businesses, a Web-savvy public relations pro to help us put into writing some of the concepts inherent in your company and its products and services.
One kind of content is customer service information. What questions do people ask most often' If we don't have a list of frequently asked questions and answers, then we must sit down alone, or with our staff, and write one. Then we must post this information on the website. The more the customers can get answers from the site, the less time someone has to spend answering those same questions on the phone or in writing.
A content manager or project manager should be charged with the task of keeping track of the text, graphics, and programming necessary to create the content and get it online. This kind of help can be hired on a temporary basis if we don't have the expertise in-house. This may also be a service that a "one-stop" web development company can provide.
No matter how well organized and interesting the content, graphics set the tone. We can create a good impression with some well-designed graphics on the home page. Also one needs to repeat a few design elements throughout the site to create a sense of continuity. This is just one of many common sense guidelines to follow in creating appealing pages. A good designer can be of enormous help.