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  • Janet Gifford

Websites 101. PLAN FIRST | Build later.

This just in. Having a detailed plan BEFORE you start a website project is a good thing.

This just in. Not everyone does this.

Working without a plan leads to 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️.

Here's the thing. I've been working with clients on new websites, and website redesigns and/or updates for many years; I've learned a thing or two about pre-planning, pivoting when necessary, and righting the ship if things start to fall off the rails.

There are the big things everyone thinks about. Like color scheme. A main photo. An About page and a Contact Me section. Then there are all the little things. Like what message goes where. What image goes with what message. Which pages links to which menu tab. Headlines. Taglines. Forms. (... and on and on and on.)

In the old days, I used to use a white board and literally draw it out. Boxes, arrows, and all. If I had more wall space in my office now, I'd still draw it out. I'm extremely visual, so I WANT to see what goes where and how it all ties together. My clients loved the white board as we could draw, erase, redraw, move an arrow; we could SEE something we forgot or missed. White boards were my jam. (okay, still are....)

These days, I'm working mostly with clients in a remote way. We talk via Zoom. We communicate via email. My trusty white board isn't part of the process. Which, by the way, makes me sad.

So ... my new technique is super simple, and kind of embarrassing as it's still sort of old-school. I use a basic Excel spreadsheet. I know, I know - there are all KINDS of new apps and tools and platforms to create a super cool site map. Whiz Bang stuff that the cool folks use.

It doesn't have to be complicated, though. You don't need to learn a new tool or pay for new software. A basic Excel spreadsheet works just as well as the cool stuff.

Here's a sample of a tracker I use. I can add anything I want as my site map grows (including making cells bigger & color coded), fill in the blanks, and keep it all straight in my head. Granted, it's not a white board (sigh) but it does the trick and my clients find it super useful as they identify each site page, what's on it, what's needed, & what's done.

It helps me think through ALL the pieces of the puzzle and how they will work (i.e. link) together. It also helps me when it comes time to talk to a graphic designer and programmer (if I'm not building it myself). Things like:

✔ Do I need multiple page designs.

✔ Do I need different sizes and orientations for images.

✔ Do I have extra features like images that rotate, or move as I roll over them.

✔ Do I need forms for specific things.

✔ Do I need my site to have things specific to my mobile site? (like a Click to Call button)

Do I long for a big wall again with a white board? Yep. Do I long to meet with clients in person and work on The Plan together? Yep. But since that's not always possible, having a quick and easy way to work on a site project together works just as well. Okay, maybe not quite as well, but close enough.

Bottom line is this - and it's pretty simple. If you PLAN AHEAD, you save time in the long run. You save money, as you're not paying for all the extra time needed to add items and make changes. You save a whole lot on the stress factor b/c everyone is on the same page (oh, lol, pun intended). Everyone knows what's expected, can keep track of what's done, and what's left to do. And you end up with a site that you actually enjoyed working on.

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