Planning and commissioning a web site.

A web site can perform several functions. At its simplest, it's a brochure to enhance the brand identity of the company and promote the product range. At its most sophisticated, it can provide a communication point for an online community of like-minded consumers, with database driven pages constantly updated, forms for collection of customer data and e-commerce facilities for purchasing products online.

In all cases, there are two primary functions.

The first is to provide information in the broadest sense of the word, whether it be audio/video clips from your latest CD or detailed specification sheets on your new widgets.

The second function is to reinforce the brand and identity of the company through the intelligent use of graphic and structural design elements - multimedia can also play a part here. Combine these two effectively and the end result should be a web site with personality which will win the approval of your potential customers.

Do some research first. Have a look at competitors' sites. What do you see there that you like or dislike? Talk to your clients or customers - what would they want to find on your web site? Do they want news updates? Do they want loads of technical details? Do they want entertainment? Do they want freebies? What should be right at the 'front' of the web site?

Your web designer will need to know something about your target audience. Will they be big corporate clients with fast internet connections? Will they be surfers sitting at home using modems? Recent research suggests that casual surfers will jump off somewhere else if your page hasn't loaded within 8 seconds!

Taking this sort of information to your web designer will make costing and designing the web site much more straightforward - and hopefully you won't have to go through expensive re-drafts and rewrites.

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