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Preplanning Your Website, The Secret To Success

Before you start to design a website you need to do some checking and planning so that your site will meet both your needs and the needs of your visitors. I've known several people who put together a website, and within a month or two had to do major redesigns and rewriting of the copy. They wound up spending twice as much time as was necessary just because they didn't preplan. I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of time.

First, you need to decide who your target market is. Will your site be geared toward kids, adults, business executives or some other group? It's essential that you know this so you can design a site that will not only meet the specific needs of that groups, but will look right for them. You wouldn't show secretaries and business meetings on a kid's site any more than you'd show clowns and cartoons on a business site.

A site must have the proper look to make your visitors feel welcome. Kids want to have fun, be entertained and have the needs of their high-energy lifestyle met. Business executives will want a site that looks professional, knowledgeable and be a source of information that will help them advance in their company. So knowing the needs and expectations of your clients will let you create a site with the proper layout, graphics, features and services.

I'm in the process of redesigning the website design portion of my site for this same reason. I'm going after clients in a very specific market sector, so I'm creating new graphics, website templates and changing the copy on my site to be more focused on this group. The whole process may take a couple of months, but it will be worth it.

You also need to consider how your visitors access the Internet. Are they using high-speed or dial-up connections? This will let you know how graphic intensive your site can be. I've read a variety of surveys on this topic, and no one puts the number of high-speed users in the United States above 52 percent.

I know people who live in housing tracks of multi-million dollar homes who can get only dial-up because the high-speed companies don't provide service in their area. So don't assume that because your clients have money that they have high- speed connections. If they are located in major cities, they may well have high- speed, but if they're in smaller towns or in the suburbs, they may only be able to get the slower dial-up service.

Try and find out how experienced your clients are with computers and the Internet. The more experienced they are the more complex your site can be. However, I always recommend that a site be designed for the lower end of your user group. So I feel a site should be easy to use and load quickly for people who have dial-up connections and minimal computer experience. By minimal computer experience, I mean don't create a site that requires people to locate and install the latest version of some software program, or make them hunt down a codex.

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