Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Website architecture tutorial: 5 steps do design a website


What usually happens when someone starts to design a website is that you gather together some people from different areas (programmers, designers, salespeople, marketing, etc) and create a team in charge to come up with a website (an Intranet, a CRM or any other web based application). The meeting begins and everybody starts saying things they’d love the website to do:

  • SALES: “It’d be cool if the website sent an automated e-mail every time I need to visit a new customer”
  • FINANCE: ”It’d be great if I could have real time financial statements”
  • etc, etc.

With processes like that, companies usually end up losing focus on what’s really important for them. One single feature might end up consuming more programming resources than all the rest together, and if at the end it wasn’t so important… you just invested your limited resources inefficiently. Another possible outcome of website architecture like the one described above is that you might end up with a very complex and expensive application of which you just use 30-40% of its features…Well, You get the picture no? This way of coming up with a website is clearly inefficient.

The 5 step process proposed here is a simple, but organized procedure to be focused through the whole process and end up with a website or web application that addresses your needs. In some way or another we all do part of what’s described here, the only and most important thing to remember is just to be disciplined enough to stick to the process, step by step. You’ll feel the temptation to propose solutions or features from the beginning jump or skip one step, but if you don’t do it and stick to the whole tutorial, you’ll end up with a solution that answers you needs without overspending resources.


1. List the PROBLEMS that you want to solve and which GOALS you want to achieve with your website



Usually everybody jumps straight to layout decisions, functionalities without having clearly defined what are your goals, what problems are you trying to solve with your website. Having clearly defined problems and visible and measureable objectives is the key to stay focused through the whole design process. It’s very important that in this stage you:

  • Don’t propose solutions. Focus completely on defining the problems.
  • If you think of a cool feature or functionality, write it down in a piece of paper and set it aside until later in the process. This is not the time to think of solutions


Examples of PROBLEMS

  • I don’t know who my customers are
  • (for an Intranet) I can’t get company information in real time


Examples of OBJECTIVES

  • Decrease 10% in average marketing costs per sold item through online selling (vs traditional channels like retail and catalogue sales)
  • I want to increase awareness of my company in my potential market
  • Increase the satisfaction level of my Top 10% customers through better customer service


2. Define “WHAT” you need to do



Here the objective is to define in a bit more detail What does your website need to do in order to solve the problems listed in step 1. What is important here is Not to focus on HOW are you gonna do it, but to focus on detailing WHAT needs to be done.

Example

  • Step 1, Objective: Increase the daily average number of visits of my salesforce
  • Step 2, “What”: We need to create a web based calendar in our sales Intranet.

How you’ll do the calendar, which functionalities will it have and how the layout and colors will be DO NOT belong here at this point of the process. Remember: Just list what needs to be done, not how.

It’s also important NOT to list things to do that are not directly related to solve the problems (or the objectives) you defined in Step 1. This is how you identify and filter which functionalities you really need to do… and which others just “sound cool” or “would be nice to have” but aren’t really solving your central problems. After you finish the list, check one by one and think if what you’re proposing is really contributing to solve the problems/objectives mentioned in Step 1. If it’s not, erase it from the list.

The rest of the article will continue in my next post “Website architecture tutorial: 5 steps do design a website – Part 2

Copyright MBA Internet Marketing Manager
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