This article features a step-by-step guide to working with the Site Map to create the basic outline of the site so you can visually framework your site and the relationships between the pages. Also learn how Dreamweaver makes it simple to ease into server-side work. (This is from the book Dreamweaver MX 2004: A Beginner's Guide, McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 0-07-222996-9, by Tom Muck and Ray West.)
Planning the Site - Establish the Purpose of the Site (Page 2 of 7 )
It should go without saying that you need to understand the purpose and goal of the site you are designing, yet too little attention is paid to this basic element of Web site creation. There are several questions you must answer to truly understand the purpose of the site you are creating:
Is this an information, education, entertainment, or commerce site?
Is the site intended to display cutting-edge technique or to reach a broad audience?
Will the site service a company, regional, or global community of users?
How will the site be used?
How will traffic be driven to the site?
What competition is there for the niche this site will service?
When you can answer these questions, you will be well on your way to developing an understanding of the work you are about to undertake. However, it is important that your answers to these questions are the same answers as your client’s. Too often, a designer spends hours on a snazzy Flash introduction only to find that the client doesn’t like Flash. Work with your client to discover the answers to these questions.
The Focus of the Site
The focus of your site will cross the lines between information, education, entertainment, and commerce. Many sites, such as Pepsi’s at www.pepsi.com, seek to entertain while educating their visitors about their products and generating sales. Still, whether your site will have a single focus or a combination of purposes, you should be able to boil them down to a statement or two that will serve as the “mission statement” under which you will work.
For instance, let’s consider the site that we are going to work on in this book. The site is for a fictitious online company called eFlea.us. eFlea.us is a site that will serve as a “flea market” or “swap meet” on the Internet. Users will be able to post things for sale and make purchases of items for sale. It will be sort of like eBay without the bidding—everything has a price. Naturally, the business model consists of the site being able to keep a small percentage of each sale.
We can also make some assumptions about the site. Because this will be a corporate presence for eFlea.us, we can assume that it should be a professional presentation. People should feel safe and secure that anything they place on the site for sale will bring together reputable sellers and buyers in secure transactions. Buyers should feel safe that anything they buy will have the eFlea.us stamp of approval on it. This kind of Web presence can take time to establish, but we’ll assume for the purpose of these exercises that the Web presence won’t be a problem.
To tie all this together, we might come up with the following “mission statement” to guide us through the development of this site:
“The eFlea.us Web site will be a central marketplace for the average consumer to be able to buy and sell used or new merchandise, as in a flea market or swap meet. Sellers will have to sign up and establish a history with eFlea so that the buyers can feel secure in buying merchandise from them.”
This statement may change as we go, but it is a good place to start, and it provides a cogent picture of the site.
How the Site Will Be Used
Just as different sites have different purposes, visitors use sites differently. Some sites are free flowing, allowing navigation to any page from any page. Others guide the user through a series of steps toward a goal, and to allow deviation from that series of steps would interrupt its effective use.
The eFlea site, as with many sites, is a combination of these. Although the casual visitor may jump from place to place browsing the products for sale, a user who decides to participate as a seller will need to be walked through the steps necessary to create an online presence and establish credentials as a qualified merchant of eFlea.
Unless you are one of the rare few who create an industry, your site will likely have competition, and you are well advised to pay attention to it. It is entirely acceptable to offer services in a different way than your competition, but it is not acceptable to do so without a clear purpose. Learn everything you can about what is happening in your industry. It can only help you serve your customer base better.
Your Target Audience
The need to understand your target audience cannot be stressed enough. In the big world of the Web, it is likely that any one site will appeal to only a small percentage of users. If you do not know who is in your percentage, you have no hope of finding them and getting them to your site. You need to know several things about your target audience before you can figure out how to reach them over the Internet, such as the following:
Does my audience have computers?
How much time do they spend on the Web?
What browsers do they use?
How do they hear about new Web sites?
How computer savvy are they?
This chapter is from Dreamweaver MX 2004: A Beginner's Guide, by Muck and West (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004, ISBN: 0-07-222996-9). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.