It’s not just a clever alliteration. Strategy and simplicity are key to a successful web project, and they go hand-in-hand. A well planned strategy will keep your project organized and focused, and simplicity is both the driving force and end result of a good web strategy.
The first step in building a great website is planning. The five W’s (and one H) are a handy way to get yourself organized.
Who? Who are you, and who is your audience? The first half helps you to establish and reinforce your identity. The second helps you stay focused on your objectives.
What? What is the purpose of your site? What will be on it? (That’s content.) What will users do on your site? (That’s functionality.)
When? This is all about visitor behaviors and patterns of usage. When will people visit your site? How long will they stay? When will they be back again? Think about ways to keep users at your site longer and to get them to return frequently.
Where? Where will your visitors be when they’re accessing your site, and what kinds of devices will they be using when they do? Make sure your site supports the browser software your visitors will be using, including mobile devices (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) if appropriate.
Why? The bottom line. Why should users come to your site instead of another site? Why are you building a website in the first place? This is closely related to the “Who” question and likewise should be the foundation of all you do with your site.
How? Once you’ve answered the five W’s, it’s time to tackle the H. How are you going to make it happen? What are the tools you’ll use? Think about design, functional development, and hosting. They all need to fit into place for your website to happen.
One of the greatest challenges with the increasing power of websites and web applications is knowing when to say when. Simplicity is more than just the latest buzzword: it’s a founding principle of good design and good software development. Stay focused on your primary objectives and don’t throw in the latest whiz-bang feature just because you can.
A corollary to simplicity is consistency. Say it again: consistency. The biggest difference between “professional-looking,” successful websites and amateurish, “ho-hum” websites is consistency. Consistency reinforces your identity, shows users that you’ve thought carefully about all of the pieces of your site and how they fit together, and ultimately shows your visitors that you care about their experience on your site — because you want to make it a positive one.
Further reading: Getting Real