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Getting Geeky with Website Design – the Saga, part 1

It’s that time again.

Every couple of years, Housechick.com gets a revamp, or in this case, a complete redesign, in order to keep it on the cutting edge. If you look at it now, it’s, well, blah. A little better than the “look at me” first version, but overall, not impressive.

I was discussing it with Benn the other day and he suggested that I blog about it here, which I took to mean “create an epic blog series of your journey from idea to website.”

I’ll warn you now that I tend to go a little overboard with my projects. It’s the engineer in me, I can’t help it. I’m not going to post the Gantt chart, but rest assured that it’s been created and we’ve got timelines and deliverables and requirements and all the good things that keep me organized.

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We’ll be outsourcing some portions of the design, and Hubby will be developing most of the back end, so that we can reuse the components for other ideas. Which means conversations at home go like this:

“Kelley, what are you doing?”

Making a Halloween pumpkin using only Paint.”

“Um, that’s not on the project plan.”

Here’s the overall process:

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  1. Discovery. This is where we will define the objectives for the website, develop a strategy, and uncover who the client is and what they want. This is developing the who of the website.
  2. Framing. This is where we will define the flow of the site. We’ll define potential entry and exit points, decision points, and the paths a visitor might take through the site: where those paths lead, and if those paths will achieve our objectives. This is the what of the site.
  3. Prototyping. This is how we will achieve the what of the site. Included here is a graphic design, development of page copy, overall style, structure, and navigation. Here’s where we look closely at usability, ease of navigation, the look and feel of the site.
  4. Coding and Content. This is where Hubby comes in with his development of the back end – the integration of the interface with the data – and I get to create the actual content of the site – presentations, reports, and whatnot.
  5. Testing. Once the site is live, there’ll be some initial testing and tweaking, to make sure our landing pages are optimized and converting the way we want them to. This is really an ongoing process, where we evaluate elements of the design or content or navigation to make sure everything is working as best and as smoothly as possible.

I’m sure it sounds like overkill (if you’ve even read this far), but I think the overall scheme is applicable even if you’re not as huge a geek as me. There’s no use getting excited over technologies and cool features if they don’t answer a need or provide value for your site visitors. Once we know how to be useful, how to provide value, how to keep someone coming back to the site, then we can make decisions: WordPress or Drupal? Blue or Green? Ajax or Flash? Top navigation or side?

Next time – Discovery begins. The Client, Strategy, and Objectives.

Written By

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    October 15, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Ajax and why not joomla instead of drupal?

  2. Pete Brand

    October 15, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I think you are right on! The problem is most web development companies skip through discovery (from the creative side) and framing and go directly to the prototyping. The good solid companies know the importance of quality design, ease of use, and functionality. If you forget any of the three…the site will be ineffective.

  3. Shailes Ghimire

    October 15, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Kelley,

    Very timely. Our website is old – I put it together in early 2005 using Dreamweaver (static HTML). I’ve been thinking about a makeover. Following your journey will be very helpful.

    Do you know if Flash is still a big no no when it comes to SEO?

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kelley Koehler

    October 15, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Benn – Ah, mostly because we already know Drupal and don’t know Joomla. I’ll point it out to Hubby, but unless it has some defining feature that we can’t live without, we’ll most likely go Drupal. There will be tradeoffs between existing technology knowledge and time it takes to learn new stuff as we go along.

    Pete – The starting discovery work is the least fun and exciting, but necessary. Working with interface and design is a lot more entertaining, but we don’t want to end up with a pretty but useless site.

    Shailesh – Looking into the seo-ness of technologies will come a little bit later in the process, but from some initial research, Flash doesn’t really ‘read’ for the bots, it’s just a big binary file. I’ve heard not to do menus in Flash because those nice words in the menus won’t be ‘read’ as part of the site. We’ll probably only do the search interface in Flash. The actual search interface isn’t necessarily something I need crawled – just a bunch of blank boxes and drop-downs – and I found a function that can present something different to search bots and those without flash installed without being considered blackhat. The only thing from the search that would be nice to have crawled would be a list of subdivisions, but we can take care of that in a much better way elsewhere on the site.

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