This is the fifth article in what I hope will be an indefinite series about the processes involved in developing a brand new community from scratch. I am currently developing a brand new online community and will detail its development on this blog. As I have said before, I think it is far easier to learn by example rather than simply reading another person’s theories and ideas.
Logo being finalised
In my last article I wrote about the logo design process. I am happy to say that the logo for my new online community is currently going through a final minor revision before it will be ready – therefore I can now move onto the design process for the site itself.
Starting the community design process
Designing a website is a process – you cannot simply knock something up from the top of your head and publish it. If you do, you are highly unlikely to have the site you want, and it is unlikely that your site will please your visitors. In this article, I will outline the steps I am taking in order to get my new community website designed.
Step One – Determine what your site is about
This may sound obvious, but it is important that you decide exactly what your site will be about. Simply knowing the subject of your site is not enough. You need to decide who your target audience will be, what needs they have and how your site will satisfy these needs.
You also need to decide what functions your site will have. Will you offer a forum and nothing else? Will you offer articles and a forum? How will you integrate such features into your website?
Step Two – Determine your site’s purpose and goals
Why are you setting up your website? What will make it different from other websites out there? What do you hope to achieve with your website? You will not be able to design a suitable website without knowing the answers to these questions. If your priority is to attract forum traffic and interaction, then your forum needs to be a focus of your site’s design. If your priority is to build a strong member database, your design needs to focus on encouraging visitor conversion and registration.
Step Three – Understand and learn about your target audience
Who is your audience? What are their likes and dislikes? Are they Internet savvy? Do they love flashy, intricate site designs? Do they need help and reassurance? Do they like lengthy, in-depth articles or basic articles that will inspire them? You will not be able to design a site appropriate for your audience unless you understand your audience.
Step Four – Draw up a design brief
Even if you are a talented designer, it will help if you write down all your ideas and goals to ensure you don’t lose focus – it can be easy to get carried away during the design process and end up with something that is completely different to your actual aims! A little improvisation can be great, but if you deviate from your brief too much, you should reconsider whether your design is really catering to your audience, or solely to your own tastes!
Your design brief is even more important if you are outsourcing the design work. A designer will struggle to design the right site for you unless they understand exactly what you (and your target audience) want. Draw up a written brief for your designer and include as much information as possible – don’t be afraid of making it too long; a good designer will always be grateful to receive as much information as possible.
Step Five – Begin the design process
By now you should have a clear understanding of what you want your site to be and the goals you want it to achieve. You should know who your audience is, what they want and be able to cater to their needs and your own goals through your site’s design. Don’t be afraid to experiment – sometimes experimentation can yield great results; just be sure you stay true to your overall design brief.
The next article in this series of building a new online community will detail the process of design revisions and coding.