There is a lot of material written about website design and layout. However, the most important component of a successful website is the content. Content planning is perhaps the most important step. We find that few of our clients spend the time to do that before they sit down in front of our template system to create the pages. Failure to think through website content is the primary reason that most of our clients never actually launch their “vision”.
The first step is to write a sentence or two that describes the overall goal of your website. You should keep coming back to this as you move through the process as that will help you stay focused on that goal. If you revise the goal as you create the site, go back and re-write that goal statement to retrain your focus. As an example, the goal of all of the articles of our blog is “Helping the technically challenged with their online presence.”
The next step is to create an outline of the content your want to place at the website which will achieve that goal. Go back over that several times and keep organizing and focusing that content in the outline. Now start to think of each section of the outline as a separate website page with each page having a single focus. Over time, you may create more and more content to help you achieve that overall goal of the website. However, for the initial launch, think about only what’s essential to achieve the goal. Over time, you can add more pages to the web site.
Now that you have a web page content structure, use a word processor program such as Microsoft Word to actually write the copy. Don’t worry about the layout of the page; just write the copy. Once you have the copy, now start to think about images which will help you express the copy. Your first source for images should be photos that you took on your own camera. If you cannot find the right image, there are a number of online sources that sell you the rights to use images on your website for a couple of dollars each. I’m sure that some of you will be tempted to “borrow” images that you find on the Internet. I assure you that’s a really a bad idea. There are services such as Getty Images that have very sophisticated programs to catch anyone using their images. If you’re caught, you’ll receive a letter from their attorney explaining that you either pay them a lot for the past use of the image or face consequences. Click here to read our blog post about, how to properly format your photos for the Internet.
Now that you have the images and the copy together, you can start to look at various page layouts to display that. Almost all of your will use templates to drop in your photos and copy. That will be a lot easier than building pages from scratch.