- 13th Jan, 2014
Without taking the time to perform website planning and architecture your website most likely will end up looking like the Ettamogah Pub.
Website architecture and planning is the most important phase in developing a successful and profitable website. Just imagine what it would be like trying to successfully build a house without firstly having a draftsmen or an architect take care of the plans? You would have no idea what the house might look like, nor would you know which windows are going let the best light or breeze in, you would have doors and light switches wrongly positioned. The list goes on, but most importantly you would have no idea of what the cost might be.
The same principles apply when building and developing a website. Sure, if it’s a small website with little functionality, comparable to a small garden shed, then of course little website planning might be required. However for any site with substance, website planning is a prerequisite.
Too often website developers and individuals alike don’t bother developing a website plan first and consequently this is why so many websites fail. More often than not we come across 3rd, 4th, 5th generation websites simply due to poor advice and a lack of planning.
So where do you start? Take paper, a pencil and a good set of ears. You or your web developer should write down, or draw a mind map, of everything you know about your business, its market and its customers. Ask yourself the following: What do you want the website to do? How will it help your business? How do you want customers to be able to use it?
The next step is to make sense of it all. It is essential that the structure of your website is then mapped out so that you can visualise what pages will be required and how they will link together. A site map will make it easier to see the hierarchy of the website’s pages and how the user will navigate between them. One of the main causes of delay in a website development can be due to the interruptions caused by stopping to gather more content, a site map will also help you work out what content is needed for each page. Plenty of text will make the website search engine friendly and images can make the pages more visually appealing. But don’t forget that too many large images will make the web page slow to perform and could mean you lose any potential customers with short attention spans!
Once you have decided on the website’s structure and content, then you can make decisions about the visual design. Consider whether you have existing corporate colours and a logo that need to be included. Or is now a good time to have a revamp of your branding to tie in with that brand new website?
When you have decided how the website is going to look, you must also consider how it will be managed. For example, page text, shop items or an events calendar will need monitoring or updating from time to time and it is important that the person responsible for doing this is able to easily access the administrative part of the website (also known as the ‘back end’) to do so. A large e-commerce site with a lot of customer interaction could consist of as much as 90% administration and as little as 10% ‘front end’ website viewable by the customer. A well organised administration section will need as much careful planning as the ‘front end’ to keep the site functional and robust.
Now that you have made these crucial early decisions you will have a clear idea of how long the development will take, and more importantly, how much it will cost. Website planning should be a team effort and the more the website owner and the web developer put into the website plan, the easier and more efficient the website design and development process will be. A good web developer will work with you to produce a good website plan. You can rest assured that, just like a well designed house, the foundations will be securely in place for a consistently reliable and scalable website.