Making Your Web Page Design Fit Your NeedsThe Design Process
The Six Phases of Website Design

Phase 1: Developing the Content

Developing the content of your website consists of several critical steps — identifying your audience, defining the needs of your audience, and developing a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose then drives the development of design, usability and content on your site. Beginning this process is a think-tank mechanism known as brainstorming. For what reasons might someone visit your website? In most cases, Websites provide information that might be useful to three somewhat different audiences:

You may consider pointing different audiences to different categories of information, depending on the usefulness of that information to any one group of users. In some cases it might be acceptable to provide links to "Favorite Websites" and so on, but it's important to stay focused on the purpose of your Website. By adding "Favorite Websites", doors are left open for sites that do not support the theme of your Website. Once you have identified your audience and what their information needs are, you must consider whether or not the Internet is an appropriate delivery mechanism for the type of information you will be providing.

Phase 2: Outlining the Organization

Once you have decided on the content, we will work together with you to categorize the information and create a flowchart which outlines the organization of your Website and the link structure within the site. The structure will naturally follow the content. Decisions during this phase should be built upon your sound reasoning and PacInfo's qualified experience. It is of the utmost importance that your Website visitors should never have to click more than three times to arrive at useful content. It is during this phase that we design the Website for ease of use — avoiding common errors, for example:

During this phase we also consider organizational elements such as common elements to each section, page, etc. We work together with you to incorporate these elements into your interface design.

Phase 3: Specifying the Navigation

As you probably have noticed, we can't stress enough the importance of quality Website navigation. Your visitors should be able to traverse your pages logically, so they'll always know where they're going and how they can get back. Use of descriptive links is paramount to Website success, whether or not the information they are linking to will be of use to the visitor. All buttons (or other graphics) that are used as navigational aides should have associated text that will display as captioned titles when the visitors mouse is hovering over them. We should not assume that every visitor to your Website understands what the navigation buttons signify or whether they are universally understood across all cultures. PacInfo designs all navigation devices with accompanying explicit text.

Phase 4: Designing the Interface

Phase 4 should never be started until the first three phases have been completed. After insuring that the goals of the first three phases have been satisfied, we then work closely with you when considering the look and feel of your Website. Interface design consists of two critical elements: simplicity and predictability. Pages which force every new visual effect on the end-user usually do more to hurt the viability of your Website than they do to help. Your visitors should not be distracted by the visual aspect of any page — and the graphic content should not interfere with the readability of text on the page. More importantly, your visitors should be able to easily find their way around your Website. A simple design construct might be, "Maintain a sense of consistency" throughout your Website.

During this phase we take into account the time it takes for each page to load. It is important to strike a balance between graphics/text and load time. PacInfo employs sophisticated techniques which we use to minimize the load time of the graphics we create. Our standard is to limit aggragate graphic file content per page to 50kb — unless larger file sizes are specified under exceptional circumstances. When this is the case, these "heavier" pages should not be within the first two levels of your site, and you may wish to consider warning users that larger file sizes exist on the forthcoming page before they choose to visit such a link.

Another important design issue is the consideration of page length as well as width in your design. Most computer displays today are set to 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high. However, there are still some computers out there which are set to display at 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels high. The trick is in striking a balance which allows all visitors to view a Website that displays nicely on their screen without causing the dreaded "horizontal scrollbar" to appear along the bottom edge of the browser window. PacInfo has developed techniques which allow us to check visitor screen sizes and send the appropriate information based on the results of that query.

Phase 5: Producing the Webpages

Phase 5 is where we begin to actually publish pages to your Website. As a general rule, we know that most pages are constantly changing and in need of frequent updating. It really isn't necessary for us to place a large "under construction" graphic on your page while we are developing it. As a matter of fact, our preference is to wait until we have an adequate amount of useful content to publish on any page before we link to it. If we know what categories of information we will be linking to from a page — but don't have the information up and available — it's okay to provide the text which will point there... we just won't make it an active link until it is ready. It's also a important to have non-affiliated users evaluate the pages before we put them up for general viewing, preferably by using a standard 56k modem. By viewing the pages via a standard modem, the results of the testing will more accurately reflect the experience your visitors will enjoy.

Phase 6: Maintaining the Website

The beauty and strength of the Internet lies in the fact that surfers have immediate access to constantly updated information. Users will revisit your site when they know that there is something new waiting for them. For this reason, it is important to consider developing new information for your site on a regular basis, either by linking to a "What's New" page from your homepage, placing "New!", or another method which distinguishes fresh content from the rest of the Website. Whichever method is chosen to alert users to what is new, it is a good idea to provide a date so that users truly do know if this is new to them. Finally, either you or PacInfo should periodically check links which are external to your site and insure that they are still valid and appropriate.

PacInfo Website Maintenance Contracts are available to perform all of the mission critical maintenance functions to promote the continued good health of your Website. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information.

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