Planning Your Website for Success

An important element of design must take place long before the first html tag is typed. Planning! Would you build a house without a blueprint? No? Then why build a business without one?

Once upon a time, everyone knew that the earth was flat, and that crazy ideas like electricity in our homes, space travel and sending voices across air waves were nothing but the pipe dreams of crazy people.

They knew those things because "everyone" told them so. And "everyone" can't be wrong, can they?

Fortunately for us all, there were innovative thinkers. People that were able to "think out of the box."

"Thinking out of the box" means challenging conventional thought instead of blindly accepting what "everyone" says just because "everyone" says it.

In school, your teachers taught you that the best way to "plan" things (such as a written report) was by making an outline. Wrong. Creating an outline comes after the planning, it is not the way planning should be done.

The human brain does not think "in order". Your mind bounces thoughts off other thoughts - like a pinball machine, or a game of Pong! A technique frequently used by innovative thinkers is "mind mapping" or making a spidergram. Mindmapping (making a spider gram) allows you to capture the ideas bouncing around in your head without trying to force them into an ordered list because making a list constricts your brain.

Spidergrams and mind maps are also the most effective way to plan a website.

To develop an effective website, you need to be able to determine what the customer wants and needs before the customer asks for it. Before you build the website, even.

Let's say you want to design a resource center for writers. Draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. In the middle of the circle, write "writer's resources." This is the theme of your website.

Next, think of categories, like the departments in a department store. Commercial copywriting, perhaps? Non-fiction? Fiction? Ghostwriting services? Write those down, and link them to the "theme," as illustrated below.

As you look at the spidergram emerging, your mind will bounce! You will find yourself thinking of ideas that spin off the existing ideas. You'll add them in the appropriate spots. Your mind map might look something like this;


A smaller website, or a website with a smaller scope, will have a smaller spidergram, or blueprint.

Regardless of the size of your website, or your spidergram, you still need to preplan for the needs of your customers. What questions will they have about your product or service that they would ask if you had a brick and mortar store with a smiling sales clerk? Do you answer those concerns?

There is no question about it; website visitors like to find a website that has exactly what they were looking for, and answers every wquestion they have, too.

The only question is; will that be your website... or your competition's?

This article was written by, and republished with the permission of Linda Caroll.