How predictable…

The number of times I’ve heard this after telling someone what I do for a living is exactly the same as the number of people I’ve told. So you want a website? And you assumed that this would trigger the developer within me. I would run to my corner, head glued to the screen, and type away like a maniac. Within a matter of hours, if not minutes, I will produce your beautiful website; because that’s my job as a web developer, right? Read this entire article and then tell me that you want a website. If that’s still the case, it’s an opportunity that I (and indeed perhaps other developers out there) won’t pass up, my friend.

It’s crucial to take baby steps if you want to avoid wasting a considerable amount of time and effort. Mine and yours. Whatever you do, don’t skip the first step of identifying the requirements of your website. Not only that, but you must note them down too. I cannot stress enough the significance of documenting everything there is to document. This isn’t to say that you’ll need to end up with a book thicker than the Chinese dictionary. (I did just say not to waste time, didn’t I?) It’s not about quantity but quality; thus defining the key points will be more than enough. Okay. Perhaps I should be more direct. I wouldn’t seek to discourage you this early in the article from wanting a website.

Base your document on these four questions.

1. Why do you want a website?

2. Who is your target audience?

3. How will your audience be able to interact with your website?

4. What will your audience be able to gain from your website?

Your answers don’t have to detail everything to the pixel. You may end up changing your mind as you answer the questions. And we’ll end up having to keep revisiting the previous questions. Remember that time is of the essence. To make things even more clear, here is a rule: the answer to each question must not be longer than one sentence. I am not going to go in-depth of the construction of these questions.

Someone once said to me: “You can’t build a house without building its foundation first.”

Let’s process this further to help you understand what I mean. The first question allows me to understand the purpose of your website. If, for example, you only want to get a message across and nothing more, you can take advantage of having a simple, static HTML website. And why does that benefit you, you ask? Well, it wouldn’t take a great deal of time to develop it, for one. Keeping things simple will also decrease the downtime of your website. And lessen the risk of user experience issues cropping up. Now, let’s say that the message you want to get across concerns your skills and talents, which you want to share with the world. As we all know, a person learns new things on a daily basis. Thus your skills will grow and your website should reflect this. The simple, static website we were talking about earlier, will not be the best approach. The reason is that it will need a great deal of code maintenance, which can be tedious.

For websites requiring regular changes, having a static website is not advised. Of course there is always the option of learning how to tweak the code. Then you don’t have to hire a developer on a continuous basis. But it’s not something to go into lightly. After all, one little missing comma can easily break your website.

So, what do I recommend instead? How about a website that benefits from server-side scripting? If that sounds a bit technical let me explain: server-side scripting is a web server technology in which we, as users, can send a request to the web server. The process uses scripts to generate dynamic web pages. There is a lot more information on the internet about server-side scripting. Go ahead and take a minute to look into it, I’ll be waiting at the beginning of the next paragraph.

You didn’t even bother looking into that, did you? And there you were thinking about learning how to code to build a static website… I’m not judging. Let’s just quietly move on.

The second question is to make sure that you have your website built in such a way that it’s suitable to your target audience. Developing your website is not directly related here; I know that the website will reflect badly on you, and not me, if your target audience isn’t considered. But it would be sacrilege for me to support the existence of such catastrophic websites. It’s called constructive criticism. (Look THAT up.)

Let me give you an example. Say you want to target a younger audience. What you might hear from me is that you shouldn’t add too many complex features; this might cause confusion for your young audience. To sum it up: I encourage straightforwardness and minimal interactions when targeting a younger audience.

The third question relates to the task of developing your website, and doesn’t relate to how it should look or behave. Let’s simplify this. Imagine the following scenario: you have the attention of your audience and they are busy loving being on your website. Your goal, no matter what the purpose of the website may be, is to keep the attention of your audience. This can be, perhaps, achieved by engaging them. For example, if your audience can be seen as viewers, the website can function with minimal user action. This would mean that you are leaning towards the development of a non-interactive website.

Perhaps you prefer for your visitors to interact with you and each other? (My, my, aren’t we adventurous!) Now we’re getting somewhere! In that case, we need to work with more than what a standalone website has to offer. That’s right, I am talking about getting databases involved. This takes us back to server-side scripting. What? Doesn’t this ring a bell? Well, you should have looked into it earlier, when I suggested it. A basic understanding of these things will save you a great deal of time and money.

Well, look at that. We’re almost finished with the four questions. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

If your answer to the last question is to keep your users up to date with your thoughts, findings or collection of information. Then we’re talking about fun, fun, fun! My response will be a mere whisper of the one most beautiful word in web development: CMS.

What is this you ask? CMS is currently my favourite web application. It stands for Content Management System. The words kind of say it all; CMS is a system that helps you manage your content. Alright, all joking aside, CMS is something I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Okay, not to everyone; everyone who needs content regularly updated. Simply because it will ROCK YOUR WORLD.

And there you have it! Your ticket to an amazing website. It’s now time to explore the many opportunities of making it come alive.


Author: Marfat Abdullahi.