Step 3 - Plan your site design

Once you have your domain name registered and your hosting provider taken care of, it's time to begin planning your site design. Follow these steps for best results:

Focus on your site's goals

Your site should be laid out so that it's easy for the visitor to do what they came their to do. If you are selling a product or service, the home page should "sell". There should be links to the "buy now" button, and additional links to your FAQ, Contact, About, Terms of Service & Polices, and Privacy Notice. These are all essential pages for every web site.

Organize your site by folders

As your site grows and changes you will want to update your pages and, perhaps, add more products and services. The easiest way to maintain a growing site is to keep it organized from day 1.

Create a folder on your computer for each folder that will be on your website. Create and edit all of the documents for that folder and save them in that folder. Then you will create a folder with the same name on your web server and upload the documents when you are ready.

Each folder should have a specific purpose. All images, for example, should go in the images folder. If you use sound files, they should go in the audio folder. Home page content would go into the root folder (the mail directory on your web site). Your Privacy Statement would go into the privacy folder, etc.

Creating your design

If you are not a graphic artist, you can save a lot of time if you buy pre-made templates for your website. These are ready-to-go designs that include the HTML pages, images, and, sometimes, FLASH and audio files. There are hundreds of template sites on the Internet and you can usually buy a nice one for under $50. Of course, a ready-made template won't have your logo or site name on it, but you can hire a graphic artist to "touch up" your template for a small amount of money. That way you will end up with a quasi-personalized look that doesn't cost you a fortune.

Planning site navigation

Make sure that you have a consistent navigation menu on all pages so your visitors can easily move from page to page without losing track of where they are. Never use JavaScript or other tricks to trap the "Back" button or to interfere with your user closing or leaving a page when they want to. Don't use "cute" names for menu options. Be specific. Links that say "Contact Us", "About Us", "Frequently Asked Questions", "How to Buy" leave no doubt about what will happen when the user clicks. Make sure that you have a link to your "Home" page so the user can return back to the top of your site at any time.

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