So, you want to design a website?
Everyone and everything is using the web and all the resources it has to offer. Some use it for recreation, some use it for revenue, and others use it for reference or utility. I am one of those who use it for each of those and more. Being an amateur web designer [extremely amateur], I have run into many problems and difficulties involved with putting up a website. Their are many important steps to take before even beginning to put the site together. As I have learned from many others, building a website is very similar to building a house.
First of all, do you really need to build a house? What is your purpose for building this website? Let us say you are building a website to inform your audience of your organization be it a business or non-profit or cause or whatever. Establish a goal for yourself. Now comes time to draw up the floor-plans.
Will this be a D.I.Y. project or are you willing to hire someone. If you decide to hire someone take your time in finding the right person to get your idea across. DIY is a different story. You should decide and plan out what you want your site to have and be able to do. Evolution and growth is of the utmost importance as many websites which are not built with growth in mind tend to confuse and irritate their users when down for maintenance and updates.
Will your site be dynamic in nature or fairly static? A static site involves a simple, in comparison to the dynamic alternative, framework which leaves ample time to concentrate on aesthetics. Dynamic sites often find themselves using what is called a Content Management System or CMS. Many are available free of charge on the web such as Mambo, Joomla, Xoops, Lotus Workplace, Fluid CMS, Blogger, SixApart, etc. These handy systems are usually powered by PHP, AJAX, and XML markup languages. The reason these languages are special and more powerful than the traditional HTML markup language is that they use combinations of variables, strings, and flexible rules [programming lingo] all the while incorporating HTML to "build doors, windows, hallways, and rooms for your house".
Draw out a site map. Start with the ‘home’ page in the middle and work your way out from there. Remember to loop connections back to the ‘home’ and other important pages. Here is a quick example I drew up in paint.
This should give you a good idea of what your site will be made of. How many pages, what pages contain, and where you have room for expansion [hopefully everywhere]. It also closes up any holes you may have because nobody wants to walk down a hallway that leads nowhere.
There are many applications and software available which streamline web design into an easy-to-use graphical interface, for example MS Frontpage, Dreamweaver, etc. Do a simple search for "web design utilities" and there will be a few hundred hits available. I do recommend the Adobe Creative Suite but I am merely saying this because I enjoy their layout and interface. Frontpage is for the basic users who want basic results. It can be used to create super pages but is often referred to as the AOL of web design apps.
We now have the base of our plan. We will continue to build on this framework a little more before beginning actual construction. To be continued…