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How 10 Site Design Laws Relate to Good Living, part 1

by Jill Foster on February 4, 2009

sibyl-edwards-pic

Guest post by Sibyl Edwards, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business. Sibyl works as a digital designer and strategist based in Washington, DC. She has many years of experience in interactive design, identity branding, and digital strategy for businesses and non-profits.

Sibyl produces the social cause marketing blog Engage and Effect and can be reached there or at www.twitter.com/saedwards.

Laws for good site design (and life too)
From time-to-time I’m asked what goes into creating a great website or blog.

I say the same things it takes to create just about anything (and even a great life!) also make a great site. To prove my crazy theory, I’ve written down 10 laws for creating a great website or blog as well as a great life.

While there is no secret formula for having the perfect site or life (Heaven knows I tried) much of these laws are the result of trial and error as a web designer and as a person.

And like all laws, these are made to be broken.

1. Have a vision

For your website/blog
So you want to design a new site or create a blog. Ask yourself this – Why? This seems like the easiest question to answer but for many it is the hardest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down with a client and their answer to that question is some vague mishmash of “Everyone else is on the web”, “We need a blog”, “We need to look more Web 2.0”, “I want more clients, money, (fill in the blank here___________)”.

While those are all good reasons to take a look at your existing web presence, it still doesn’t answer the question “Why”.

Behind the decision to create a new site, there should be an overarching vision. What purpose will your site and blog offer? If it doesn’t have a clear purpose, you are going to have some trouble with the structure of the site and end up with a final product that doesn’t truly reflect your business.

For your life
While may of us may not know exactly what we want to do until we hit our mid to late twenties (even later for us late bloomers!) it is critical to have some kind of vision of who you are and your purpose.

Author Stephen R. Covey calls this “Begin with the end in mind”.

According to Covey, it means to a start with a clear understanding of your destination. You may not have all the details worked out yet (see the second law below) but you have an idea about your personal goals.

2. Do your research

For your website or blog
Once you have figured out what the vision and purpose of your site will be it’s time to do some research.

  • What’s your budget?
  • Do you need a CMS?
  • What’s the best blogging software for your purposes
  • Are your going to design the site yourself or are you going to hire an agency, digital firm or freelancer to it?

These are some of the questions to begin asking yourself. Go online to see what your competitors are doing or not doing. Subscribe to feeds of sites/blogs that discuss the latest trends in social media and design like A List Apart or SocialMedia.biz.

Get a del.ici.ous or digg account. Look at the sites/blogs of businesses outside your field to see how others solved the same problems with site structure and design. The key here is to have as much information on hand before planning out your site on paper.

For your Life
I can’t stress this enough…research, research, research!

If you want to start a business – you have to do research. Now don’t get me wrong…I can be impulsive too. But living your life as one big dart board throwing “hope darts” with the hope that they come close to meeting your goals ain’t gonna cut it. Not to mention you will probably end up the furthest from your vision.

If you hire someone else to do your site – this step can save you a lot of money and aggravation.

3. Plan ahead

For your website or blog
Take time to create a sitemap and wireframe for your site; it’s time well invested. For blogs you can use a sitemap but I also really recommend having some kind of content outline so you can get ideas about what categories, sections, etc. there will be.

For your Life
If you don’t properly plan for the big things in life, you will find yourself making costly mistakes and losing valuable time you could have avoided with the right preparation. I would also recommend hiring a life coach to help you develop a strategy for your life.

4. Seek professional advice

For your website or blog
Designing a website from scratch is always a major undertaking.

  • Should it be Flash or HTML/CSS?
  • Do you need a database?
  • What’s the difference between DRUPAL and JOOMLA
  • Should you get a new logo?
  • …or use WordPress or NING?
      Unless you are a professional web developer or designer you may not be aware of all the options out there. A developer/designer or social media strategist will work with you to help you properly plan out the best type of site or blog structure for your business as well as reflect your company’s vision, all while working within your budget.

      I recommend Creative Hotlist as a great resource for finding a web designer or a design firm to help your develop your online identity.

      For your life
      Sometimes you don’t have the knowledge OR the time to do something yourself. From hiring a cleaning service to finding a tax attorney, it pays to hire a professional. Not only will it save you valuable time you can be using to dedicate to your business, it can also help you avoid critical mistakes such as failing to consult with an attorney when entering into a major business deal.

      If you ever get the urge to take the cheap way out, remember the old saying “Pennywise, pound foolish!”.

      Up next week:
      Learn laws 5 through 10 where I’ll discuss the importance of design and giving back to the community.

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