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Breadcrumb trail for Web Design:
Web Design -> Planning -> Best Practices -> Basic Skills ->  Building -> Special Pages --> Publishing -> Domain Name -> Testing -> More

Make Plans

No matter what tools you decide to use to build your website, you'll need to at least have a general idea of what you want before you start building.

Focus on Your Visitors

Focus on what you want your visitors to do when they visit your website. Do you want them to learn about your hobby? Do you want them to purchase your product? Do you want them to become active in a cause dear to your heart? Do you want them to elect you mayor of Website City?

For communication tips, you might want to read this Smashing Magazine article, "Clear And Effective Communication In Web Design"

When you know what you want to do, you can start thinking about how you want to do it. You can concentrate on how to make your site a pleasant place to visit and how to motivate your visitors to - buy, learn, and/or become active!

Begin a rough draft of the content.

One thing to keep in mind, with very few exceptions, is the content of a website is the most important item. You will want to put some thought in how you present the information. Think of your website as an online interactive brochure or catalogue. Although you'll want to create an pleasant experience for your visitors, their main purpose in visiting will be to see if you offer the information or product they want.

Think about the information you want to present: welcome/introduction; descriptions of products or services; contact info; and whatever else you might want to include. Jot down the main info - maaybe put it in outline form. What will be on the main pages? Will you need more than one page? Gather the images you might want to use.

The home page of your site needs to present information about what can be found on your website to encourage folks to view other pages. You'll want to give enough information about yourself and your company/organization (if applicable) so that folks will think of you as someone who can be trusted, who has the expertise for what they want done or what they want to learn and/or has a product or information that is something they need or which interests them.

The rest of the pages need to give more indepth information about particular items and/or subject matter. Jot down the main information that you want to include on these pages. You might want to put in outline form so that you can "flesh" it out later.

Plan/Sketch the basic layout. 

It's best to have the same basic layout for most of your pages. You might want to visit sites and look at layouts to get ideas.

Do you want the same image (logo) to show on every page? Where do you want your menu(s)? Do you want one column for the content or two? Will you have a sidebar on the left or right? If so, what will be in it? 

Then make a rough sketch of your desired basic layout showing what you want and where you want it. Just a word or two here and there showing what goes where will be enough. You don't need the details just yet. A plain old pencil and paper will work fine for this.

Resource Links

Web Design: 11 Characteristics of a User-Friendly Website Link to article

Once you have your general plan, you will be ready for the next step