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Every month, DLA will author a brief column on web or hardcopy publication design. The subject will vary with our latest enthusiasm, so check back.

Coming Soon:

Diving in to writing: SCUBA and technical writing projects are more similar than you might think!

Current Article: Before You Call a Web Designer: 10 Things to Know to Make Your Website a Success!

Pretend you are on a highway traveling fast in the middle of downtown Dallas, Texas during rush hour. You're late for a meeting, tired, and a little apprehensive because the darn road signs keep changing - every 15 seconds the highway you’re on has a new name.

Welcome to the World Wide Web. This is what your audience may be experiencing. Your job as web site owner is to convince them that they’ve reached their destination. Your web designer can help. They will create requested web pages, write or place the copy , create images, and everything else you need for a functional web site. But, they need your help. You know your product and what your customers need to know. The steps below can help you and your web desiger work better to achieve your goal.

1. You know your customer, communicate it to the designer.

Make sure the designer targets your message to your customers. Not everyone needs a gold-plated Widget, but those that do will be thankful to know they can find it here. Make sure the designer is targeting the site toward them. They are the ones you need to reach.

2. Map out your site on paper.

Plan, plan, plan. Look at your competitor’s sites. Look at other sites. Find a place that makes you want to return, that makes you feel like coming back. Chances are your customers would like it too. What makes the site that way? Can you duplicate the feeling?

3. Set your budget.

Be realistic about what you want to spend! Money’s always an object! Don’t pretend otherwise. If you can only spend $1500, or $500 or $30,000 make sure the designer knows it. You won’t wind up with a half completed site. It may not be as expansive as your first vision, but it will serve your customers better.

4. It’s all about content.

If you’re selling Widgets, give your audience easy to find information about Widgets. Answer the five questions: who, what, where, when and why about everything Widget. Write it yourself and save! Recycle text from your promotional brochures, BUT keep it short! The web isn’t print. It’s harder to read long paragraphs. You’re trying to capture a quickly moving audience. Think Burma Shave, not Faulkner!

5. Every visitor to your Web site is a potential customer.

Everyone needs a Widget. You know it, help them know it. Make sure your site is inclusive and accessible. Everybody can enjoy a Widget, don’t let your designer leave any customer unnoticed.

6. Put your contact information on every page.

At the very least, in your “global” site navigation, have a link to a contacts page.

7. Reuse your existing content.

If you have a logo or a nice graphic already designed, give it to your designer. They can use it. It also will maintain a uniform look. Branding is important.

8. Use consistent AND clear navigation!

Keep the site uniform. Don’t let your designer change your pages too much. If your web site navigation starts at the top, keep it at the top. Your customers will appreciate it.

9. Title each page on your web site map.

Then tell the designer to use those titles. Keep your pages short and relevant to this title. This will help you with search engines and help your customers navigate through the site.

10. And as a final tip, remember to keep it simple.

This applies doubly to the web. Surrounded by all this lovely, sexy technology, it’s easy to forget that that irritated little man or woman cruising in their little red car on the cyberbahn, but they are the only reason for your site's existence. If you keep it simple and always, always remember the person you had your site built for, your project will stand a much greater chance of success.


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