Before creating and uploading a website, it is important to take the time to plan exactly what is needed in the website. Thoroughly considering the audience or target market, as well as defining the purpose and deciding the content will be developed are extremely important.
It is essential to define the purpose of the website as one of the first steps in the planning process. A purpose statement should show focus based on what the website will accomplish and what the users will get from it. A clearly defined purpose will help the rest of the planning process as the audience is identified and the content of the site is developed. Setting short and long term goals for the website will help make clear the purpose and plan for the future when expansion, modification, and improvement will take place. Also, goal-setting practices and measurable objectives should be identified to track the progress of the site and determine success.
Defining the audience is a key step in the website planning process. The audience is the group of people who are expected to visit your website – the market being targeted. These people will be viewing the website for a specific reason and it is important to know exactly what they are looking for when they visit the site. A clearly defined purpose or goal of the site as well as an understanding of what visitors want to do/feel when they come to your site will help to identify the target audience. Upon considering who is most likely to need/use the content, a list of characteristics common to the users such as:
• Audience Characteristics
• Information Preferences
• Computer Specifications
• Web Experience
Taking into account the characteristics of the audience will allow an effective website to be created that will deliver the desired content to the target audience.
Content evaluation and organization requires that the purpose of the website be clearly defined. Collecting a list of the necessary content then organizing it according to the audience's needs is a key step in website planning. In the process of gathering the content being offered, any items that do not support the defined purpose or accomplish target audience objectives should be removed. It is a good idea to test the content and purpose on a focus group and compare the offerings to the audience needs. The next step in the process is categorizing the content and organizing it according to user needs. Each category should be named with a concise and descriptive title that will become a link on the website. Planning for the site's content ensures that the wants/needs of the target audience and the purpose of the site will be fulfilled.
Compatability and restrictions
Because of the market share of modern browers (depending on your target market), the compatability of your website with the viewers is restricted. For instance, a website that is designed for the majority of websurfers will be limited to the use of valid XHTML 1.0 Strict or older, Cascading Style Sheets Level 1, 1024x768 display resolution, and a size of around 32 KB. This is because Internet Explorer is not fully W3C standards compliant with the modularity of XHTML 1.1 and the majority of CSS beyond 1. The screen resolution and internet speed averages around 1024x768 and 768 kpbs, respectively. Since the ideal loading time of a webpage is 0.3 seconds or less, a connection of 768 kbps (DSL/Cable) would mean a size of 32 KB or less. The maximum time a webpage should load is around 1 second, so a max file size of 96 KB would be appropriate. This is part of the reason why Wikipedia pages are suggested to be under 32 KB, or else they are considered long. A target market of more alternative browser (e.g. Firefox and Opera) users allow for more W3C compliancy and thus a greater range of options for a web designer. With the availbility of broadband around the same prices as dial-up, faster connection speeds will allow pages to be larger in size and still load in a reasonable time.
Another restiction on webpage design is the use of different Image file formats. The majority of users can support GIF, JPEG, and PNG (with restrictions). Again Internet Explorer is the major restrction here, not fully supporting PNG's advanced transparency features, resulting in GIF still being the most widely used graphic file format for transparent images.
Storyboarding is the process of taking into account the purpose, audience and content to design the site structure that is most suitable for the website. In this process the organized and categorized content is used to develop a diagram or map. This creates a visual of how the web pages will be laid out and interconnected which helps decide how the content is portrayed. There are three main ways of diagramming the website organization:
• Linear Website Diagrams will allow the users to move in a predetermined sequence;
• Hierarchical structures (of Tree Design Website Diagrams) provide more than one path for users to take to their destination;
• Branch Design Website Diagrams allow for many interconnections between web pages.
In the process of storyboarding a record is made of the description, purpose and title of each page in the site and they are linked together according to the most effective and logical diagram type. Depending on the number of pages the website will include, methods include using pieces of paper and drawing lines to connect them or alternatively, creating the storyboard using computer software. Storyboarding can be considered like a creating a prototype for the website – a model which allows the website layout to be reviewed, resulting in suggested changes, improvements and/or enhancements. This review process increases the likelihood of success of the website. Some people refer to this as a "tree" because it branches from the main page.