Enthusiasm is a great driving force in life, but it is also a source of many problems. When you decide to build a website, it is easy to be driven by enthusiasm and to build the site as fast as you can. The drive to see a website go ‘live’ can also be the start of its problems. It is vital to plan a website before you start to build it. You may be anticipating a period of open-ended expansion, but you should identify a self-sustaining ‘Phase 1’. This will be the core functional website that will go live. It can later be expanded and amended as required, but without this initial plan, the website will grow without control.
Plan the navigation method, and page structure. This will determine how the website will unfold, and provide a structure that all additional pages can blend in with. Navigation across the whole site can be provided on each page, or it can be restricted to the home page which acts as a hub. If your website will be subject to frequent structural changes, with pages going and coming, a single navigation hub is easier to maintain.
Build your website with maintenance in mind. This is especially important if you are building the website for someone else, and you may not be asked to work on it again for some time. Where the site has been built or ‘made to work’ by introducing all sorts of tricks and transparent images, you may find it difficult to return after a lengthy break and make changes easily. Keep the structure simple, and avoid leading edge technology that may or may not work. Instead of creating a simple site map for search engines only, add in extra comments and structure the site map so that you can see which pages are related. In addition to using keywords in page names, use a coding scheme that will remind you which pages are related.
When all pages have been completed, test the website after you have uploaded it to the web server. Sometimes you can be so happy at having finished the task that you miss some important final steps, or you forget to upload some files into a sub-folder. When you have uploaded the website, visit each page and check that all images and text are present. Check that the navigation is working as it should, and verify any forms are collecting and processing data as required.
The important principle in building a website is that you build it in a controlled and planned way. Time taken to plan the site will be saved in reduced problem solving later. Visitors want to visit a site that works, and not a site that is a showcase for new fads and fashions. Some careful planning will ensure your visitors find the information they need, can navigate the website easily, and find a website that has no bits missing and works as it should.