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Planning An Effective Web Site Design
By Ivy Hastings

Seventy-five percent of a successful project is planning. That means beginning with measurable goals and objectives. Your goals and objectives should always tie back into your company's mission. So, if your company's mission is to be the market leader in widgets, your site's purpose should be to do that. It's also important to set measurable goals. This will prove that investing in your web site, pays off. Plus, it'll make you look good to your boss.

Once the goals are set, your planning is still far from done. You'll want to examine your target audience or audiences and get in their heads. This means finding out who they are and why they are on your site. Then, you'll need to make sure you are fulfilling their needs. Identify what actions each target audience will take on the site. If it's someone purchasing a widget, make widgets easily available from the homepage. Research show that people who buy on the web want to see products right away and they want to see images and prices. Put your widgets on your homepage with a small image, title, description, price (users hate to drill down to get pricing), and a "Buy Now" link.

The next step is to determine the specifications of your functionality. It sounds scary, but it's not. Most developers can work with a list of statements like, "I want a user to be able to rate products on a scale of one through five." Write down everything you want the site to do and even include what you might want it to do. For example, "An administrator should be able to log into a content management area and add a press release." You get the idea. Along with your specs, you'll need to include a database discovery. This means determining all the possible fields for everything that might be stored and served in a database. For example, a product might have an image, a title, a description, a price, a product number, etc.

Now that you know who your target audience is and you have identified key user paths and you know what the site should do, it's time to start creating your information architecture. This determines the flow of the site. Build the flow of the site to best accommodate those key user paths. These should give the user what he or she is looking for in three clicks or less.

After you have determined your information architecture, it's time to create wireframes. Wireframes are like a blueprint of your web site. You'll want to identify all of the content that will be represented on each page including navigation, logos, images, and content. This is a very important step because it takes all the guess work out for the designer, and you can do a usability gut check on your key user paths and the flow of the site itself. You can even build a test site based on the wireframes and run a usability test.

The next step is to get your content together. Start with a content strategy. What are you trying to accomplish with your content? Don't forget to include a search engine strategy that defines what your key words are and how you will leverage them in your content. Is all of your content working toward your goals and objectives? Too often I see meaningless stock images like the ubiquitous handshake. Web users are jaded amd images like these just distract the user from their mission. Do yourself and your users a favor and leave it out. Instead, use images that are meaningful and I'm not talking about the butterfly that signifies growth.

Only once all of the above steps are taken should you even start to think about design. So many web design companies lead with design. Then the client ends up with a site that may be gorgeous, but doesn't support goals and objectives. It is also of the utmost importance to design around content rather than creating a design and then stuffing the content into it. Your design should support your brand and serve as the wrapping paper to the gift. And again, make sure the design supports those key user paths; the first question your web designer should ask you is, "What's the first thing you want users to do when they come to your site. Don't forget to integrate the look and feel of your site with your offline materials-- if you don't, you'll just end up diluting your brand and your marketing efforts.

Your planning is still not done. The last bit is to plan the actual work--who is going to do what when. Who needs to give approval for what when. Throw in some milestones, stakeholders, and deliverables and you're done. In other words create a project plan. And by all means, plan the launch of the site. Make it deliberate, not an incomplete, rushed event because someone has it in their head that this just must be done before the end of the year, or else Create some buzz and PR for the launch of your new gorgeous and effective web site. Remember, you only have one chance to gain or lose users; if a new user comes to the site and does not see what their looking for, they're gone, forever, and you've just lost a possible new lifetime customer.

By planning, and doing it right instead of quickly, you'll have an end result that is not only effective but also matches everyone's expectations-- your boss, your sales team, your marketing people, and most importantly your users and your bottom line.

Ivy Hastings is a Project Manager at Fusionbox, a Denver Web Design Company.

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Tips For Successful Website Promotion
By Alan King

If you currently have a website or are thinking of starting one, you should know that website promotion is a must. Chances are there are many websites that are similar to yours. To ensure that visitors will see your website, you must actively promote your website as frequently as possible.

There are a number of ways to promote your website that are free or low-cost. No single method will work on its own, so you should consider combining several methods for maximum results.

Submit Your Website Information to Various Sources

For starters, you should submit your website to every search engine, directory, and classified ads sites that you come across. You can do this by visiting the website and entering in your information to be indexed. Popular search engines include Google, Yahoo, and Altavista. There are many other sites, so keep your eyes open.

Whichever site you submit to, make sure your information is correct, accurate, and readable. Your information should also be resubmitted from time to time. For maximum results, you can seek helpful services like, where you can skip the guesswork and allow the professionals to handle the details.

Fill Your Website with Enjoyable Content

How do you get yourself to rank high on search engines? It can be as simple as filling your website with useful articles. Make sure that articles and content are rich in keywords, but also makes sense to the reader. These search engine optimized content items will help your site rank higher and appear more frequently than those sites without content. This should also be done frequently so that the search engines will constantly crawl your site.

Link and Banner Exchanges

You can also sign up for services that will automate link and banner exchanges so that your banner or link will show up on other relevant websites. You can also do this on your own by contacting websites related to yours to set up arrangements that will be beneficial to you and your new partner. This is a great way to advertise without paying a dime!

Press Releases

Another way to promote your website is by writing a press release. A well-written press release will gain notice from newspapers, popular websites, and other media sources. It can bring you tons of traffic to your site if an extremely high-traffic website takes up your press release. If you don’t have experience in this department, it is best to hire a writer to do it for you. Many press releases are thrown in the trash because it is too advertorial in nature. Done correctly, it can be low-cost way of spreading the word about your website.

Paying for Advertising

If you find a high traffic site that can bring qualified hits to your website, you should consider advertising on that website. Search engines like Google also offers pay-per-click advertising that is targeted by keywords inputted by users. Sometimes, this website promotion method can really add up. You should carefully budget yourself if you decide to pay for advertising.

This method works great because you are guaranteed to be seen by people who might be interested in your website. Some websites sell advertising packages that include banner or text advertising on the website, in conjunction with newsletter or email advertising. Carefully consider your options to make sure that your advertising dollars are stretched as much as possible.

Whichever option you choose, make sure that you are diligent in your website promotion efforts. It may take a few months, but you will definitely notice increased hits to your website!

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