Today, I’d like to talk about a critical task which you MUST do before you create your web site: Designing the site. Before I get into that, I’ll answer a couple of quick questions that came in since I last blogged:
How do you truly measure your hits? I get about 200 hits a day on www.wannabepublished.blogspot.com, but I also have about 100 subscribers to it via feedblitz. Is it accurate to say I get three hundred hits a day? Or do hits only mean actual fresh hits?
Mary added another question:
Randy, one more question. Does Technorati Rank and Authority really mean something? I mean, gee, will I get some cash prize for good numbers??
Randy sez: Yes, they both mean something. For those of you not familiar with Technorati, check it out at www.Technorati.com. It’s a blog-ranking service, kind of like the book-ranking on Amazon.
Your “Authority” is a count of the number of other blogs that have linked to you in a set time interval (if I remember right, it’s the last 180 days). I just checked, and my current Authority is 85.
Your “Rank” is your position in the sorted list of the “Authority” of all blogs registered with Technorati. My “Rank” right now is 81,766, which means there are 81,765 blogs with higher “Authority” than mine. There are supposed to be about 60 million blogs on the planet, so a “Rank” in the top 100,000 is quite good. I have friends with “Ranks” down around 4000, so I have a ways to go.
I don’t pay much attention to either of those numbers. I do pay a bit of attention to how much traffic comes to my web site.
Now on to the question of design. This is prompted by an email I got today from Susan, who gave me permission to answer her question her on my blog:
I checked out Go-Daddy and learned they not only provide domain names, but will also build a site complete with blog. Since I am technically challenged, this has a certain appeal. For about $170.00, I can register my domain privately, get a website, blog, and a free SSL certification.
Is this a good deal? Once the site is done, do they publish it on the web? (Sorry, I’m showing my ignorance.) Also, how do you
register for the search engines?
Randy sez: Whether this is a good deal or not depends on what you want in a web site/blog. You MUST decide this first!
As most of my blog readers know, I worked for years and years as a designer of scientific software (and I still do a bit of work as software architect for a small high-tech company in San Diego). The difference between a good design and a GREAT design can be a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs. It can make a difference of a factor of 10 or 100 in speed. It can be the difference between getting an approximate answer and getting the RIGHT answer. One of the reasons I love design is that it is exceptionally HARD, and it’s never clear if you did the best possible design. There’s always more to learn.
Before you can even begin designing any kind of software (remember that a web site is software that people will use to get information you create for them), you need to know what the requirements of your software are. Here are a few of the many questions you should ask, along with some possible answers you might give. None of these answers are right or wrong, so long as they are YOUR answer.
1) What is the purpose of your web site?
- To let me express myself
- To let me tell the world about myself
- To tell the world about my books
- To market my books
- To market other products or services
- To give away my ideas for free
- Some other purpose
- Any combination of the above
2) How many pages do you want to have on your web site?
- Just one “home page”
- Just one page with a blog on it
- Between one and ten pages
- Between ten and a hundred pages
- Between 100 and 1000 pages
- More than 1000 pages
3) How often do you want to add content to your web site?
- Several times per day
- Every day
- Several times per week
- About once per week
- About once per month
- Hardly ever
- Never; I want it to be unchanged forever
4) How “pretty” do you want your site to be?
- Extremely beautiful and cutting edge, with lots of motion and graphics
- Professional looking
- Nice looking
- As long as it doesn’t look like the south end of a north-bound rhino, it’s fine
- I don’t care if it’s ugly as sin
5) How interactive do you want your site?
- I just want to show information; the user just needs to be able to get from one page to the others by clicking links
- I may have a few forms on my site, (for example, a form that sends email)
- I want fancy graphics that move around; show me some glitz, Baby!
- I want my users to be able to leave comments (for example, comments on a blog)
- I want users to be able to enter information into databases so my site can display that or do computations (for example, an income tax calculating web site)
6) Can you do the techie stuff?
- No, I can’t do it and won’t learn; I want to pay somebody else to do it all
- No, I want to use a simple Sitebuilder web site that I can use to create my site without paying anybody; I understand that this means I can’t make super complex sites, but I just want something simple for now
- No, I need somebody to set it up, but I’d like to be able to make a few small changes, if somebody shows me how
- No, I need somebody to set it up, but then I want to learn how to do fairly major things
- No, but I can use one of those programs like DreamWeaver or FrontPage that does all the hard stuff; I’m willing to spend some time to learn to use them
- No, but I can learn how to hand-code my pages; just tell me what books to buy!
7) How much do you want to spend on your site?
- I want a free site
- Nothing up front, and less than $10 per month for maintenance
- A few hundred bucks up front, and as little as possible for maintenance
- A couple of thousand dollars up front, and less than $100 per month after that
- Cost is no object; give me the best!
8 ) When do you want your site done?
- Yesterday, when my book came out!
- Today would be great
- This week
- This month
- Within the next few months
- I have a web site, but it needs revamping
9) Do you want the search engines to bring visitors to your site?
- No, I could care less about search engines
- I have no idea, but I suppose it sounds good
There are probably several other questions, but you get the idea. The above set of questions define your “Requirements.” It is impossible to design a web site effectively until you’ve spent some time figuring out your requirements.
I’ll say it again: There are no right or wrong answers for any of these questions. Your requirements are your requirements. Don’t let somebody else tell you what they should be. Most of all, don’t let a web designer tell you what your requirements should be. It’s your site, your name on the site, your money paying the bills. You get to decide.
Be aware that not all possible combinations of answers make sense. If you want a fancy site that has lots of user interactivity and you want somebody else to do all the work, it ain’t gonna be cheap or quick, Baby!
Over the next few days, I’ll talk a bit about what your design options are for various sets of requirements. At some point, I’ll come back to Susan’s question and try to give an intelligible answer.
Stay tuned! There’s a lot more for us to talk about. If you have any questions about Requirements, go ahead and post a comment here and I’ll try to answer it at the appropriate point in the discusssion.