Map your goals and strategy

Designing a website is a collaborative process. It should involve content developers, designers, programmers and information architects. Each one of them should understand the purpose of the site, the goals and the strategies; only then will they be able to come up with a site that projects a single, unified message. This basically means agreeing on what the site has to deliver in terms of design, display, user satisfaction, search engine requirements, navigation and marketing. This also makes life easy for everyone -- because everyone then works towards a common goal. The technical head knows what is expected of him, and hires people who have the necessary skills. The content head knows the kind of content his team is expected to generate; and the web designers are clear about the focus of the site. The marketing team too chips in with its inputs, which are no less valuable. In fact, their inputs are most critical for the appeal of the site. There should also be clarity on the technology that needs to be put in place to achieve the goal. Maybe, a simple document could be drawn up to state the processes to be followed along with deliverables and deadlines. The document should also list answers to the following questions: What is the purpose of the website? Will it dispense information? Will it be used to conduct sales? Will it capture information? The site's planners also need to define the target audience. This is important because the site of a children's toy store will be very different from a website selling cosmetics for women. Each will use different colors, different design and different content to reach out to its target audience. In fact, the success of any site depends on how well the site's owners know the target audience. Also, there should be a concerted effort to find out every bit about the target audience, its background, its biases, its likes and dislikes. Even inputs like the socio-economic status and educational background of the target audience can be critical in designing the site. Site owners who do not provide these critical inputs to their designers are making a big mistake. Their site will never be able to reach out to the target audience. There is a great possibility of the site design being altered again and again to make it more representative. To avoid such a scenario it is essential to plan the site in advance.

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