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Who will design and develop your website?

The choices are:

  • You or your staff
  • A friend or family member
  • You, with some help from a web programmer or other specialist when needed
  • A web designer – individual or company

Another approach is to hire a consultant to help you make the major decisions (and understand what the questions really are) and then select a design company to do the actual work.

Some things to consider when making a decision:

  • Is the person’s or company’s knowledge and experience appropriate for your needs?
  • Does the person have time? Do you have time to do it yourself?
  • What is the time really costing you? (Especially if you’re doing it yourself.)
  • Do you need the level of expertise available through a design company? A simple site may not require a great deal of expertise.
  • If you choose a design company, will you be locked into using their services for maintenance or can you do some of it yourself if you wish?
  • Does the designer produce usable sites, not just good-looking ones?
  • Does the designer understand what you are trying to achieve, or are they trying to sell you their latest programming tricks, whether or not those are appropriate to your needs?

Some very important design considerations

  • Think of your audience and their needs. Don’t get talked into an inappropriate design.
  • Maximise loading speed by not using too many graphics, especially large ones, or a lot of non-essential programming (such as Javascript).
  • Cater for a range of web browsers; don’t require your audience to have the latest technology before they can view your site.
  • Consider how important a fixed layout is for what you are trying to accomplish. Would your audience be better served (and happier) with a minimalist layout that allows them to easily choose their own font size, screen resolution, browser window size, and so on? Are you trying to influence them (or sell them something), or are you trying to show off your design?
  • Provide alternatives to graphics whenever possible, to assist people who don’t or can’t display graphics.
  • Remember that not everyone uses a large colour monitor. Some people access the web through laptop computers or even their mobile phones. Does your audience include them?
  • Consider your audience’s purpose in visiting your site. How will they use the material? Read and interact with it online? Download it to read later? Print it to read later?
  • Ensure that the first page of the site provides something of value to the visitor (not just a pretty picture and a button that says “Continue”) and clearly indicates what’s on the site and how to find it.
  • Ensure that all pages provide clear, easy to understand, consistent navigation aids.
  • Organise the site navigation in a way that is logical and meaningful to the audience, not just to you or your company.
  • Write newspaper style to assist skimming.
  • Be sure to include contact information, preferably on every page.
  • And one non-design issue: Be sure the "behind the scenes" stuff, like the META tags, are done so you maximise your chances at being properly indexed by the search engines.

Do you need to know HTML?

No, you can use a package such as Microsoft’s FrontPage or Macromedia’s Dreamweaver (or any of the dozens of others) that hides the HTML from you. However, I recommend that you learn some HTML, for several reasons:

  • If you’re doing your own design using a package, trouble-shooting problems with the pages can be difficult if you don’t know any HTML.
  • If you’re dealing with a designer, you want to be able to tell when someone is bullshitting you on what you need or how much it will cost.
  • You want to understand why some things don’t work, or why they work the way they do, so you can have intelligent technical conversations with your designer.

Last updated 27 March 2002

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