Website Design Lesson 1
W W W +1
So you have decided to take the plunge and build your own website? Great! Here we will be looking at some key concepts and pre-thoughts that you need to think about before you get started, including:
Why do you want to build a website?
Who is you website aimed at?
What will your website be about?
When will you be publishing your website?
So I am hoping the title of this first lesson is really speaking for itself! This first small lesson is really the cornerstone of what you are about to do. It’s probably the most boring part of the process as it doesn’t include any website building whatsoever. It is, however, the main part of your website design and what I like to call “website pre-thought”.
So what is website pre-thought?
It’s think about those W’s. It’s sitting down with your blank document page (I like to use good old fashioned paper still!) and writing down what it is you want out of your website – plain and simple.
I know what you’re thinking – “well that sounds easy!” It’s not. Or you’re thinking – “yep I know what I want, just get to the website building bit please”. Oh ye of little faith. Have patience as the work you do now will or could make the difference between you succeeding and failing! How many websites are started and just left by the wayside, never to be touched again and left to rot until they expire and start the whole rebirth again? How many? LOTS!!! We will be going into detail about domain name choosing and the likes but do you think Web2Nation is new? Nope. It’s already had a life before I picked it up – and I specifically chose it for many reasons which will become clear the further you go in the lessons.
Anyhow I digress.
Think of website building and designing as a process and not just an end result. You can do that by looking at some simple rules – WWW +1.
The first ‘W’ of website design and building– Why?
Oh why indeed. Many a SEO (search engine optimisation) and web tech/dev folk will be looking at this and knowing exactly what I mean when I ask “why” – why is it that you want to build and design a website? Have you even thought about this question? Many of you may be asking it in retrospect after already starting your site and it’s not until you read or watch the rest of my lessons that you will be thinking “Oh Oh” as there could be many points you have missed!
Why? – Well, let’s say for the sake of argument you have, like millions, wanted to make money from your new website. Through Amazon affiliation? Google Adsense maybe? Or you want to start your own dropship store or sell your own things? Great! Are you aware of the work you will have to put in? Or are you thinking you will make money from the off? You need to have a clear understanding of why you want to build your site in the first place.
One of the many reasons people fail is because they don’t understand what their website is for in the first place and so the rest of the site crumbles.
Let’s take this new site, Web2Nation. Why? Because I had a thought that I could share my skills and knowledge with many of you out there, helping you to gain the confidence your own website and venture out into the great WWW with some skills to get you started and give you a chance! Why? Well, it’s not going to earn me money in the beginning that’s for sure! So why? Well, sharing my skills and ideas makes me feel good – it is something I can actually talk about and write about that I am interested in and if I am interested then other like-minded people, like you, will be interested too. If I write about something I’m not really into, then others will sense that and the venture, the site, is doomed.
Ah – key phrase! “I am writing about something I am interested in “ – something that I know something about and can share confidently. The golden nugget that is ‘why’.
So on your piece of paper or Word document you should now be asking yourself ‘why’ and completing that before asking yourself ‘Who’?
Who – Who exactly are you aiming your site at?
Again – STOP – and think for a minute. Have you actually thought about who you are aiming your site at? Let’s say you have a great plan to write about your dog, Fluffy, and what it likes to do everyday. That’s just lovely, but whom is that aimed at? Dog lovers? Your Aunt Marge? The whole nation Zimbabwe? Who?
This is again another area that people fall or trip over as they think that their brand spanking new website is going to bring in millions of visitors all wanting to look at what ‘Fluffy’ is up to. Forget it. You will be lucky to get one visit a day and that’s me being honest. These lessons are not to bring you down or any work you have done so far, but maybe to help you think and refocus if you have already started you site.
It’s key to think about who you are wanting to reach. The group of people, the countries the languages, the ages and so much more. Who is going to your audience? Who is going to want to visit your site? Is the content aimed at the right people? The right audience? Again, I will be looking at content writing and audiences in more detail in upcoming lessons, podcasts and posts but do take the time to write down the ‘who’ in as much detail as you can.
Again, think about this site. Is it selling anything? No. Is it wanting you to look at videos of Fluffy the dog bouncing around the garden and ruining my Pansies? Definitely not. Is it offering advice to would be website beginners and novices that will be able to understand the simple nature (non technical) of the information being given. Bingo! That’s my ‘Who’. That’s ‘you’ – my visitor. My reader. Think about why you are looking at this text right now. Why you came to this site, this page or my YouTube video or podcast. Think about your actions in reverse and you will start to understand the ‘Who’ of website design ‘pre-thought’.
Are you still with me? If you are then I can tell that you are seriously thinking more deeply about your website. For the others that have been scared off already because the simple concept of Why and Who is just too much – good riddance. The WWW is full of really poor websites, spammy in nature and just terrible or even false information. So I am glad you’re still with me and wanting to actually be much more than those that have scarpered. They will likely fail and you have a much better chance of succeeding already.
So let’s swiftly move on to:
The ‘What’ of Website Design
What is it you want from your site? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to create for others? What do you want to write about?
Ah – already there are lot’s of questions! The ‘What’ pre-thought section is obviously a very important part of your new (or present) website design, building and planning. Again, this is where people really do come unstuck because thy have just not considered what they want – or what others, the visitors, want.
So let’s you an example of Fluffy the dog again. The website builder, and designer, has taken some videos of Fluffy around the garden and wants to share those videos on the website – alongside some text like “Fluffy ruined my Pansies……again!!!”. So what is the ‘What’ of this website? The ‘what’ is to share videos and small amounts of text. The ‘what’ is to get people to look at those videos, maybe to share or laugh at them, and to relate to owing a dog. The ‘what’ is the written content topics and videos themselves. The ‘what’ is the aim. The ‘what’ is the posts and pages of the website.
So let’s think about our Web2Nation. You may have notice that I said ‘our’ Web2Nation there and not ‘my’ Web2Nation? That’s because part of my ‘What’ is to get you, the reader, the visitor, to give your input. You have so much to offer that you don’t even realise it probably! You have either come across problems you can share with others in the comments section below or have valuable insight into what I can add to these posts to make them even more user friendly and relevant. An I mean that! YOU are my ‘What’! Ah but is that not a ‘Who’. Well yes, kind of. You see I am not relating to ‘you’ as a person this time but more the understanding and experiences you have and got. You have ‘What’ I want and I have ‘What’ you want!
Web2Nation’s aim, it’s purpose, is to share information. Ideas. Thoughts. Tools, Tips. Not just from me but from you too. The ‘What’ is to give that information freely on to others. When I say freely I don’t mean you can copy this information and use it on your site by the way! Content copying (and why not to do it!) is covered in another lesson.
The ‘What do I want to achieve’ is to get visitors to my site and to read the content. To get visitors to add input. To ensure the site is engaging and has content that people actually want to read and will find useful! The ‘What for’ is just that. To ensure that people are able to get that information to enable them to gain confidence in starting their own site as mentioned before.
Now – like all websites, they cost money to run. So my other ‘What’ is to try and make the website pay for itself by introducing some ads in the future and other monetizing ways – again, which will be covered in a later lesson.
You now need to start thinking of the ‘What’ part. What do you want your site to do? To achieve? What will be it’s real purpose? Try and focus on the ‘what’ and the main aim of your site otherwise you will lose that focus and try to build a website that is all things to all people. Remember – am I sharing videos of Fluffy the dog on my site? No. Am I branching out to make you click on a link that will ask you to complete a survey for some fancy phone that will never appear? No! So you think about ‘What’ my site is doing. What is for – and then think about your own. Keep focused!
…and finally the ‘When’ of website design
Why is the ‘When’ a + 1 I don’t hear you asking. Well the WWW is just that so I had to be creative with what I was writing as you will start to be! Seriously though, the ‘When’ is a +1 because I don’t think may people think about it! Let me explain. You’ve done the right thing in thinking about the WWW (Why/Who/What) and you’re eager to get going on your site OR you have already got a site and you have landed here retrospectively as your site is not getting anywhere? No visitors? Lacking in content? Needing inspiration? The good news is that you are here at all as that at least means you have some interest in looking at what others, I/We, think. I have been there many, many times I can assure you!
Let’s think about ‘When’. Sorry, but Fluffy the dog returns. The web owner has the idea about Fluffy because Fluffy is just so cute and naughty! Owner goes to a well know web building site (free or paid) and ‘creates’ a site called FluffysNaughtyGardenCapers.dog. Great. Another generic site hits the WWW straight away. It has one page (home page) and 5 videos. That’s it. It hits the WWW straight away and does not get indexed so does not show up in the major search engines (will be looking at indexing in a later lesson). The owner can’t understand why it is not being shown in Google or Bing. Where is it? A few weeks later it shows up, but no one is visiting the site! The owner has tracked visitors (something we will again go through later in the lessons) and can’t understand why no one wants to see Fluffy jumping around the garden. The owner loses interest in the site and it slowly ends up in the graveyard of doomed sites. Fluffy was never seen by another human on the WWW again.
So why did that happen? Well….many reasons really but let’s, for the sake of argument, say that the site was just rubbish. Lacked content and ideas. Lacked that ‘Why/What/Who’ that we have already covered.
It lacked the core elements of a website in so many ways and was released (the ‘When’) to the WWW only to be doomed from the offset. Who wants to visit a site that is created by a mere mortal about a dog? Yes – YouTube and the likes are full of such videos but very rarely does a single personal site have the capability to bring in the masses unless it went viral for some reason. I’m digressing again.
Let’s get back to the ‘When’. Let’s think about ‘our’ Web2Nation.com. As soon as I bought the domain name did I release a website? No. I thought about the things (What) I wanted to have on the site. ‘Who’ was it going to be aimed at and ‘What’ was I going to write about? What would be the content and purpose of the site? ‘Why’ was I really doing it? All the core things we have already talked about! You see – you can now understand the important of those pre-thoughts!
You will see that our Web2Nation has pages already populating it. The main ‘home’ page, ‘about us’ page and policies. Why? Because when you submit your site to Google or Bing (again we will cover this in later lessons) they will be looking for some core parts of your site that makes it ‘valid’ and justifies them adding it to the search engine – called ‘indexing’. Before I let them know my site is ready I am making sure I actually have something on it by adding those pages.
Next, I start to add content. What you are reading now is literally the first page of the site. The first piece of true content.
I added links to my Twitter and YouTube channel to make sure the site is working properly as there is nothing more frustrating than when a person clicks on a link only to land somewhere they didn’t want! They will just leave straight away (called bounce rate!). I wanted content that could at least be worthy of someone visiting my site and I did not want to let others know about it until then.
I use WordPress for my site and it’s what the core lessons will be geared around. Before I released my site (When) I made sure that I had the correct plugins installed. Was my website responsive (can be used on all technology) and was the speed good. Was it safely protected from hackers and did I have the core elements of the site ready such as my logo and overall design concept before someone else even glances at it.
Even before that – was I happy with the domain name? Was it full of spammy links (again for a later lesson) as it had been used before? So ‘when’ I start building my site I am already happy that the domain name is safe in the eyes of Google and Bing et al.
So the ‘When’ is very important in terms of letting the world know you are ready to show your site as you can see!
‘When’ You are ready to start, I hope you have thought about the WWW + 1 – Why? Who? What? + When?
Like I mentioned, our site is being slowly built, adjusted and content created as the lessons grow but I hope this first lesson is not too boring for you! Yes – it does not actually contain any visual web design or build exciting content, but it is a core part of what you are going to do – to succeed.
Leave out the core elements – the pre-thoughts – and you may regret it later in the process!
So welcome and thanks for being part of my journey and letting me be part of yours. There is an amazing world out there both in reality and virtually and you can add to that virtual world too!
Leave your thoughts and comments below as this is your site too and I could not make it without your input! Did you find this useful? Does it help? Could you add anything? Please do get talking!
Be fab – be you – be creative.