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How to avoid the designers trap

In this article I will identify a potential pitfall that most people new to building web sites will tend to fall into when conceptualizing their first website and how to avoid it.

A point to note, is that the term conceptualizing includes how content is structured meaningfully within a site, what graphics and icons are used and how the contents within each and every individual pages are laid out.

I highly recommend new would be web site owners to read through the book "The Design of Sites: Patterns, Principals and Process for crafting a customer centered web experience.- By Douglas K Van Dyke, James A. Landay and Jason I.Hong" before attempting to work through any sites.

I will term this potential pitfall the designers trap. Below are some tell tale signs for you to know if you have fallen into the designers' trap

  • You spend long hours creating and re-creating content for your site on a editing interface (dreamweaver, microsoft front page, WYSIWYG editors), attempting to remove duplication of contents across different pages and categorizing contents properly.
  • You spend long hours shifting a visual element up and down a page just to get it into a position you find pleasing, but one of which precise location in which you have no idea exactly.

Many unknowingly fall into this and spend way more time than they should conceptualizing and creating a web site.

I will now propose a methodology by which you could follow to drastically reduce the time you spend creating a site.

Step 1 : Always leave the actual creation of the html page and its various visual contents to the very last possible moment.

Step 2 : Get a multiple sheets of drawing paper ready at your disposal

Step 3 : Identify who is the target audience of your site. (Your customers, the age group they will likely fall in, their level of IT aptitude, what needs of theirs drive them to come to your site?)

Step 4 : List factors that will need to exist to allow visitors to your site to fulfill their needs at minimum hassle on their side. These will be the critical success factors of your site. It is important to note that factors must not be technologically centric but should be customer focused.

Step 5: Start listing a series of functions and features that will help you achieve your site's critical success factors on a piece of paper.

* It is important that you do not rush this stage. Take time to brain storm for ideas on features and functions.

Step 6 : Group those functions and features according to the type of needs they fulfill. Sort them to pages. Start generating in a generalized way the various pages you would like to have on your site on another piece of paper.

* It is important to have the pages and the general site architecture written down physically.

Step 7 : For each paper draw the general layout of its contents on a piece of paper. During this step, it is advisable to be more details in terms of placements and measurements. (e.g. determining how many pixels is the width of your page, how many pixels is each column in the page and its margin in terms of pixels)

* I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this first on paper. Avoid creating the html page at this stage at all cost.

Step 8 : Decide the type of icons you would like to use for each element on your site. This will help you maintain consistancy across pages. Determine its position on each page the visual element is to appear.

Step 9 : You are now ready to start creating your first html page.

It is important to do all your conceptualization on paper before attempting to code or use an editor to create a html page. Writing on paper allows for a fast trial and error process and is less tedious a process than using creating the html page each time. It allows at the same time to easily maintain the big picture in mind while working on each individual details within a page.

This process though is more lenghty than the normal ad hoc approach taken to conceptualize a web site, allows one to create a more wholesome, consistant web site that is catered to customer needs in a fraction of the time.

Monday, 18th Jan 2021
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