A valuable offer of information does not fall from the sky and it is impossible to gather it in a few easy clicks. No. What you need are goals, content, structure, design, programming and maintenance. What you need is expertise - constantly. This article outlines - without attempting to be comprehensive - the ten most important steps to create a good website. A checklist to be collected and shared.
- 1. Commitment
If you don't sincerely want to create a website and don't intend to maintain it: Please don't even start.A high-quality website requires a lot of commitment and effort. Good content requires a lot of commitment and effort. Your users and visitors demand commitment and effort. A website can be compared to a pet - think about whether your really want one before you get one. (But you are right, pets that are not treated well certainly hurt much more.)
- 2. Planning
So you have decided that you really want a website and that this website should really be of an acceptable standard. What you need to do now is a plan:* What is the goal of your website?* What is the target audience of your website?* What content do you intend to offer?* Which key data and metrics will you use to determine your success? (Determine your key performance indicators.)If you are unsure about how to answer some of these questions, if you are in any doubts or even fail to find an answer to one of the questions, you probably need a break. Or you could try to seek for help regarding your decisions. Your website won't mind the wait.
- 3. Information Architecture
After the planning phase has been completed, don't immediately start designing and implementing: First, you need to create, test, verify, and reconsider the structure and architecture of your offer. To do this, read a good book about information architecture, look at a few heuristics and have at least 15 users do some card-sorting. Even at this early stage, don't forget to keep an eye on localization and internationalization. Document the structure you have elaborated and validate it - by testing it while you are designing the website.
- 4. Design
Design is a set of fields for problem-solving that uses user-centric approaches to understand user needs (as well as business, economic, environmental, social, and other requirements) to create successful solutions that solve real problems. Design is often used as a process to create real change within a system or market. Too often, Design is defined only as visual problem solving or communication because of the predominance of graphic designers. In other fields and contexts, Design might only refer to Fashion Design or Interior Design. However, a recognition of the similarities between all design disciplines shows that the larger definition for Design operates at a higher level and across many media. - Shedroff, Nathan: An Evolving Glossary of Experience Design. 2005.Consider a few additional points before you start the design process:* It doesn't hurt to have a look at a few principles, whether specific ones by Tufte or Tognazzini or abstract ones like the golden ratio or wabi-sabi.* It is essential to keep accessibility in mind, even during the design phase. It is easy to address color blindness, photosensitive epilepsy or sufficient contrast during this stage.* Test your drafts (don't wait until the final version). Carry out tests, whether with five users, with more than five because that's not enough, with n users, just as long as it is cheap, or with none because you place your trust in experts. Test and read through basic rules about usability.Be creative...
- 5. Programming
After completing the design process, which should have led to a well operating design, you can now start the implementation. (It is, however, possible, that you start this at an earlier stage already.) In addition to environment (server) and dynamics (script languages), you need to consider the following points:
* Choose a suitable document type for your documents. If in any doubt, be inspired by Jeffrey Zeldman or Eric Meyer. If this doesn't help you - just use any valid document type.
* Use HTML elements according to their semantics.* Write structured code and get used to coding guidelines (German sample). This is particularly important if more than one person are working on the project.
* Validate. Everything. Consider it as a taboo to publish documents and style sheets that haven't been validated.
* Whatever you do, always keep accessibility in mind. Accessibility heuristics can be useful, but unfortunately they are not comprehensive.
- 6. Quality Assurance
After having worked out an elaborate, high-quality information offer on the basis of the aforementioned points, you should still absolutely and definitely carry out Quality Assurance (QA). The launch of your offer is part of this phase, ideally after a final QA. It may be possible to launch your website immediately after having carried out the QA, but only if you have focused on quality from the beginning.Control and optimize the following:* Technical validity and compliance of all resources.* Accessibility, ideally with the help of real users but automated tests can be useful as well.* Links. Linkrot has never been fashionable.* Load time.* Just about everything. Your website should stand for quality and value-added user experience. Make sure that you've got it.
- 7. Public Relations
Market your website without feeling guilty. Your HTML should already be suitable for search engines (semantics and accessibility). Use a moderate link strategy from this point on and perform conventional Public Relations (PR). I know, this is easy to be said, but it has to be done. Moreover, don't get upset if your website doesn't have great success from the very beginning, such as ten times more users accessing the site - plan on a long-term basis.
- 8. Success Control
Make sure that the "key performance indicators” (KPI) you determined at the beginning are measured. If your existing statistics don't determine these numbers, ensure that they do. There are some useful statistics tools: A few good ones are free of charge (Google Analytics), only fractionally more good inexpensive ones (Mint), and a handful of good expensive ones (WebSideStory). Use these metrics to evaluate the development and the success of your offer.This hint unfortunately won't be of much use if you have never before had a good look at web analytics. It is time to do this now.
- 9. Maintenance
Maintain your website. Update your website. Look after your website. Add new content on a regular basis. Furthermore, check old content. You need to proofread new and old content. Never cease to question your offer. At the end of the day, it is once more all about ...
- 10. Quality Assurance
That's right, quality assurance is a process. Keep validating, checking, and testing your documents, contents, and design ... again and again.