Web Site Planning

How to plan and develop your new website

The following notes address the main areas involved in website content design.

1. Planning the new site

Your audience
You may want to gather information about your users' requirements (ie, their needs, tasks, and goals) by conducting some user research. If you do not have the resources to gather information about your users or talk to them directly, try to put yourself in your audience's shoes. Who is your website aimed at?

If you have existing content, which parts are still relevant? Can some sections be edited to bring them up to date?
Identify the 'gaps' in your content; make a list of new material that is needed.
Remember to consider the use of images on your site. These add interest and will greatly improve the look and feel of your site.

What are the most important aspects of the information/services you are offering? Ensure these areas are easy for users to find and navigate to.

2. Drafting new content

When you are writing new content, remember that users tend to scan webpages rather than read every word on the page. Use the following list as guidance. Ideally, begin pages with a summary of what can be found on that page so that users can easily identify whether it contains the information they are looking for. This might include links to sections that appear lower down in the main content of the page.

  • Use informative headings.
  • Avoid jargon where possible.
  • Avoid irrelevant content.
  • Be concise: keep pages as short as possible.
  • Write acronyms in full where they are first used (on each page).
  • Make pages 'scannable', for speed reading.
  • Highlight important words or phrases.
  • Proofread your pages to ensure there aren't any typos. (remember: publishing a web page can be the same as emailing a Word document to thousands and thousands of readers!).
  • Use ordered (numbered) lists where appropriate. These are easier for people with learning difficulties to follow than unordered (bulleted) lists.
  • Keep a consistent presentation style.

You can find more tips on writing for the web from the following sources:
Jakob Nielsen: Writing for the web
Web writing for many interest levels
Webreference - Writing well for the web

3. Launching your site

If the majority of your site is ready to launch but some sections are incomplete, you can always remove links to unfinished pages so that you can launch your site.

4. After launch - keeping your website up-to-date, accurate and interesting

The content on your site is the most important thing to your users, therefore it is in your interest to keep it up-to-date, accurate and interesting.