The Design Process

Map it out

There is an array of items to consider before starting on the construction of a web site. Some are more important than others, and we will focus more on these. The design phase is not a purely paper based activity, some experimentation is required, but the best place to start is with a pen and paper, or the electronic equivalent.

You have your idea for the killer web site, now how can you get the information across. The first task is to map out your information. Try to think in terms of pages, and write out each section of your information on the page as single word or short sentence titles. These will form the basis of the web pages. Draw lines between sections which are related in some fashion, with arrows on the lines to indicate what is related to what. This process usually throws up more pages, as the brains creative juices get flowing.

When complete, you should be left with a spiders web of lines grouped around your headings, and the initial information design is in place. At this point it is usually a good idea to redraw the information map in a more structured manner, especially if the spiders web has got itself a bit messy.

When redrawing think in terms of your computers file system, if some information may be better in a sub folder, then indicate a subfolder. In all cases, indicate filenames with each of the individual pages. Think about images, if you think you will need photographs or graphics to support the information on a page, indicate this on the information map too.

When complete, the information map should show the links required (the spiders web), the actual hierarchy of the site, all the files required and any embedded images and other linked files that will be required. You have a plan.

Your plan probably has some form of main page which introduces the site, and links to all of the various branches of it. This gives you the obvious place to start, the home page.

The style of design.

You know what you want to say, and you know how it fits together, but what does it look like? Do you have a business or professional image you want to have in cyberspace? Or do you prefer a more relaxed artistic style? The choice is yours, but what ever you choose, be consistent.

Try this on paper first. Scribble your layout ideas on paper, at this stage the look and feel is the only concern. Have a look around the web, looking at style instead of content. This should give you ideas, as there is little point in exactly copying the style of another site. You will probably see parts of sites you like, from many different sources. Use these good ideas, and link them with your own ideas to form an amalgam, which will be your style.

With your background style thought through, think about the foreground, the most important part being the face and colour of your text. The most important factor here is can you read it. Font height, face and colour all assist or get in the way of reading text on the screen.

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