Being Part of the Website Design Process
What's Needed From You and How You Can Participate

Effective website design requires continuous communication between the developer and you. Refining your expectations of the website and collecting content can be done before you interview your first potential developer. This essay can be used as a basic checklist to maximize the developer's efforts in developing your website. All of this is flexible and should be discussed up front with your developer to avoid duplicating efforts. A good developer will welcome active participation or can be completely responsible for developing design and content of your website.

What is the purpose of your website?

What do you expect your website to do for you? What is the website to provide its visitors? Is it information, entertainment or products? What is the most important? What is the least important? Avoid generalities. A focused and explicit purposed up front will yield a website design that maximizes results. Those results can be customer loyalty, sales and company image. The more detailed the purpose, the better. The purpose may evolve as the website is developed and continue long after the website is created. A clear purpose will help define the content requirements for your website.

What will the website have in it in both content and features?

Create an outline of the website's contents. It can be like a wish list. You can even add items that might not be within your budget. It is easier to design a website for future expansion than it is to rework an existing ridged design that doesn't easily allow expansion for new types of content. This will help you and the developer see what is needed in terms of design, functionality and content. Having a well-defined purpose will make this task easy.

Gather What You Can To Fill the Website

Collect Content — you'll need to collect product descriptions, explanations, narratives and other information that will populate your website. Check it for spelling and grammar. Check it for ease of understanding and for being concise. This can be very time consuming and difficult. A good developer should have excellent writing skills and be able to help with concise, clear writing.

If selling products, collect ordering info such as:

  • Additional Fees
  • Sales Tax
  • Shipping Rates
  • Return Policies
  • Guarantees

Write a Privacy Statement — Today's web users are concerned about their privacy. A privacy statement shows that you care about their privacy too by telling them how you use information collected from visitors to your website. Establishing and stating a policy on your website is good business. It isn't required but it does serve to help enforce the image of your business. Most developers can draft a sample for you to use or you can use an example statement from multiple sources online by searching for "privacy policy generator."

Create a website Legal Notice — This is strongly recommended. This will explain your legal responsibility for use of the website and its contents. It may also include copyright and trademark information and, warranty information about information or products being offered on your website. Example notices from multiple sources can be found online by searching for "website legal notice generator." It is recommended that this be reviewed by a lawyer.

What impression do you wish to convey to the visitor?

Think of a website theme (scholarly, business, wildlife, humorous, juvenile, etc.) Think of what atmosphere you want your website to convey. You want your website's visual impression to convey your image. What "mental image" or "emotion" do you want the look of your website to convey? The image can be general or specific but it should be the representative of the products or services of your business.

Avoiding Wasted Efforts

Many customers want to be part of the design process in the look of the website. However, most choose only to approve a developers work and not to design. Customer design participation can yield both good and bad results. Wasted efforts are realized when a customer does design work without knowledge of professional website design practice or effective, efficient website design technique. Communication with your developer before any design work begins will help you play a positive role in your website's development.

The better the planning, website focus and content provided, the better the website. This is a joint process done with the customer and developer with continuous communication. A detailed plan before any site development begins will yield a website that will result in optimum performance. The performance is not just measured by the number of visitors but by how positively visitors find your website. This positive opinion directly translates into sales and improved customer relations.