A well-designed Web site can ensure the prosperity of your online business. A poorlydesigned site can put you out of business. It's like the difference between showing up atan elegant dinner party in plaid Bermuda shorts and arriving in a tuxedo that's just alittle more nicely tailored than everyone else's.

Web site design is very different from Web pagedesign. Designing a Web page is a lot like creating a page in a publication or ascreen for a computer program. Designing a Web site is like simultaneously creating a newstorefront, promotions group and computer department.

A complex project such as creating a Web site can benefit from a disciplined, systematicapproach. Obviously, this process will vary depending upon your company, your staff, andyour goals.

Assemble a good team
First, get a representative from each of the functional areas of your business - sales, marketing, production, operations, etc. (obviously, if you are a one-personshop, this is easy). Then assess whether your existing staff can fill any or all of thefollowing site development roles:

  • The producer articulates the vision of the site and oversees itsimplementation.  This person often also serves as the site's  informationarchitect - making sure that the site organization, interface design,navigation tools, interactive components and other big-picture design elements allwork together.
  • The project manager coordinates the team effort - trackingschedules, budgets, etc., and generally doing what it takes to keep the project on track.
  • The graphic designer makes the site look good with nicelylaid-out pages and appealing (but low-bandwidth) images.  He or she may also do the actualproduction of the HTML pages.
  • The programmer makes the functionality of the site happen - writing HTML, Java Script, CGI scripts, etc., and possibly designing and administeringdatabases. Many small businesses use off-the-shelf software for their storefronts,discussion forums, and other functions, but even they may need programming help tointegrate the site's various programs.
  • Writers, editors, graphic artists and other creative talentfill up the site with the words and pictures (and possibly sound, animations, etc.) thatinform your customers of what you have to sell and why you are so worthy of theirbusiness.

Especially for a small-business site, these roles may overlap. The producer might alsocreate the content, and the programmer might also do the page layout and graphics.

Depending upon your line of work, you may also end up with staff from functional areasfilling some (or all) of the site creation roles. If this is the case, make sure that theneeds of other functional groups aren't overlooked.