It is a cliché that making a new website, whether you are building it yourself, or employing a professional, takes longer than you think. Many of the people I work with are artists or creative makers. They often have great colour and composition sense, and can provide fantastic visuals for a potential website. But sometimes a surfeit of ideas hinders setting up a new website – there seems to be an enormous task ahead organising all the available material.
This is where breaking it down into manageable sections, and possibly discarding or postponing parts of it, can be really helpful. The technical part of it may be feasible, or arduous (if you don’t know what you’re doing and have to learn from scratch), but it’s the organisational bit which is often the most long-winded part. This administrative aspect of the task is something I have a lot of experience with, having project-managed many websites and events.
At the start of the process there are two inter-connected questions I would ask – notice they don’t have a lot to do with the visual design, but are about the content of the website.
“Which pages or sections do you want?”
“What kind of visitors is the website aimed at?”
The first question is crucial for creating the site navigation for the site. It is an opportunity to start organising where you will put content in the website. More importantly, I believe, an artful navigation bar can subtly tell a visitor precisely what the site is about without any introduction at all.
There will be navigation links that conform to accepted rules that all visitors are familiar with, such as in the case of “contact”, found on most websites. Then additionally, specific navigation links should convey the particularity of your site. So a link could be for testimonials content, but if it’s called “authors’ endorsements”, as on bluepencilagency.com, it shows that the audience is made up of people interested in writing or literature. If a link is called “card store”, as on originals-inprint.com, it means one of the things they do is sell greetings cards.
When you are working out the section contents and the actual navigation link names, you will hopefully start to ask the second question about your target audience. Knowing who you hope to attract to the site will help to hone and edit your content, consisting of imagery, design and texts, so that your website conveys the message you want to get across. This might be “I’m a creative artist and you’ll want to work with me”, or “I sell specific stuff here”. The outcome of this thinking will help to create some definition in the mountain of data you initially wanted to add to the site, making it more manageable. It also, arguably, should inform the rest of your marketing strategy, social media posts or email contact.
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