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Five Most Important Considerations

21 April 2006

At work this week, a colleague asked me what I though the five most important considerations were when planning a web site. I didn’t have an immediate answer and had to think about it for a bit. I’m still not sure the answers I came up with are really the five most important considerations, but they are five important considerations all the same.

I thought it was an interesting question and one worth throwing out there. Here’s the list I came up with. Are any of them the same as yours? What do you consider important?

Who is the site for?

Is you audience young or old? Time-pressured, or relaxed? Professional or visiting for fun? The target audience impacts everything from the look and feel through to the information architecture and even tone of voice. Every choice you make needs to be made with consideration to the type of person using the site.

What are visitors trying to achieve when they visit the site?

Visitors nearly always have a purpose in mind when visiting a site. People might claim that they just browse around without purpose at times, but even then they usually have a goal to be entertained or to learn new things. In identifying the basic user goals, the site can be designed (both visually and functionally) to help users achieve those goals.

What do YOU want visitors to achieve when the visit the site?

Whilst the project owners will often share some primary goals with the users, they also often have their own goals. These may be complementary, or occasionally contrary to those of the users. Examples range from the tangible (“upsell x, y, z product”) to the less tangible (“increase brand awareness”). By identifying these goals, the site can work effectively for its owners as well as its visitors.

How frequently do you expect people to use the site?

Although seemingly trivial, predicting usage patterns (or analysing usage patterns of any existing site) can help to put user goals into context. If users are returning to the site (such as a news site) once a day or even several times a day, the way the information is presented is very different to a site that is visited only once a year to download some forms. The information a user is looking for and the tasks they are trying to complete vary tremendously based on this.

How will you measure the success of the site?

The success of a site is rarely measured in numbers of visitors. For an online tax return system, success would be measured by the number of completed returns received each year. For a hosted application, it may be the number of accounts in use for more than a month. For an entertainment site, the number of click-throughs on banner ads might be the most important factor. In identifying how the success of the site will be measured directly from the start, priorities throughout the project can set to make sure that at all times the most important features are given the most attention.

What are your five most important considerations?

- Drew McLellan

Comments

  1. § Dan Mall:

    I definitely agree with your five points. As a subset though, I’d add this: how much time and budget are available for the project. Your five considerations are definitely more important than this, but, when planning a project, it’s important to consider how much of those five considerations are possible given the project scope.

  2. § Jesse:

    I would add ‘what web sites offer similar services/experience to a similar audience?’ Always a good idea to have some idea of who is doing what in the area you are interested in. By studying your potential compitition you can hopefully figure out what they did right, what they did wrong, and how you can do it better.

    I agree with Dan’s addition as well… Resource allocation needs to be considered before you go to far down a certain path.

  3. § Dave:

    Definately agree with your five and the addition of time and budget. After many years experience I think now I’d have to put Content Collection very near the top. All the other stuff seems to fall on its head if you can’t manage the client or if the client can’t provide timely content, both for concepting the site in the first place and of course the launch.

  4. § Nathan Logan:

    Great list. Thanks for providing this. I’m printing it and hanging it up in my cube at work – and if history is any indicator, I’ll have plenty of people to direct to it.

    Thanks.

  5. § Erin Julian:

    Thank you very much for this list! I am just getting into web design as a business, and it’s great to remind myself of these important questions. I’m sure they will be very helpful.

  6. § Nick Coyne:

    Nice. Dave, you’re spot on – content collection is the no 1 item that derails a project timeline.

  7. § danny:

    I think your list is complete in itself. You have rightly listed these five considerations. There r many tit-bits that comes to one mind after completing the thinking process but these r foremost mentioned by u.
    Thanks a lot.

  8. § Mag:

    What is really confusing is how to design a good looking site based on PSD, and still functional, accessible at the same time.

  9. § Kamalmeet:

    Nice list. I guess when we are talking about goals, we should consider both ‘long term goals’ and ‘short term goals’, we want to accomplish through the website. Another important point when you think of creating a website should be compitition. Is there a site already existing for similar purpose? If yes, how to make your website different, better and ‘unique’. Or simply putting it, you should ask yourself, why someone should come to ‘your’ website, if they have got others.

  10. § Ruth:

    When a website, letter, or publication contains misspellings and misuses of English grammar, I move on to other things. It shows me that a person has not completed the thought process on it, and not thought enough of me as a reader or recipient to bother to give me a truly finished product. I figure if the vehicle isn’t complete, then the content might not be, either.

  11. § Drew:

    I’m sure you find that enriching, Ruth. Well done.

  12. § Darin:

    well, I can see the bottom line: visitor is the king, so knowing your visitor better will contribute to your site.. am I right?

  13. § katalog:

    I think your list is complete in itself. You have rightly listed these five considerations. There r many tit-bits that comes to one mind after completing the thinking process but these r foremost mentioned by u.
    Thanks a lot.

  14. § Guido:

    Good list, i think every webdesigner should follow these rules….

  15. § Mario:

    The Comment of Ruth should be integrated in the manual, this is totally right…

  16. § Pozycjonowanie:

    Great list. Thanks for providing this. I’m printing it and hanging it up in my cube at work – and if history is any indicator, I’ll have plenty of people to direct to it.

    Greetings from Poland

  17. § Andreas Menzinger:

    Great list, very important to keep it short, but another interesting point could be: how many time visitor can spend on your site, some sites are constructed to stay short, others to stay long.. What do you think?

  18. § 人壽險 信用卡計算器:

    Here are my five most important points:
    1. know your target group: offer them what they expect to find on your website
    2. usability: be sure to make your services/products easily accessible and understandable
    3. Tracking: Know which actions your users take and where they the get lost.
    4. Offer interaction channels: hotline, comment forms, e-mail addresses, etc.
    5. Try to generate an atmosphere on the website. If a user enters a bookstore, he has a certain picture or atmosphere in mind. A virtual bookstore should transport this atmosphere, shouldn’t it?

  19. § Sven:

    Definately agree with your five and the addition of time and budget. After many years experience I think now I’d have to put Content Collection very near the top. All the other stuff seems to fall on its head if you can’t manage the client or if the client can’t provide timely content, both for concepting the site in the first place and of course the launch.

  20. § torrent:

    Great list. Thanks for providing this. I’m printing it and hanging it up in my cube at work – and if history is any indicator, I’ll have plenty of people to direct to it.

  21. § Hochzeitsvideo -dler:

    Thank you for your list! Also for me, with very bad english, was clear, that I make many mistakes with m site. But now I know a lot of new things, I´m sure, I´ll test it soon…

  22. § trainee:

    Its true. Nothing but really content matters. Lots of people forget about this. I like the idea of bringing use and ideas to the people not only collecting dump content, nobody cares for. Thanx for the article!

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About Drew McLellan

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Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at edgeofmyseat.com in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Virgin.net. Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s XML.com, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.