Even if some are happy to start out with nothing more than a hammer and a general idea, most people would agree that if you want to build a new house, it's wise to start with a plan...
Depending on what you want the house for, you need to decide where you're going to build the house, how many rooms it will have, what the rooms are for and how you will access each room. Things like that. You need to think about what you're going to put in each room. If you've got a massive dining table for 24 people or enough fitness equipment to start your own gym, you make sure that the rooms are the right size and type to accommodate everything comfortably. Then you can start work on the 'cream walls, white woodwork, warm brown picture frames and soft yellow carpet'.
A good website needs to be planned in a similar manner. Before we design a website, we ask clients to provide what is normally called a website design brief. By that, we mean a description of your aims and objectives, and what you want your website to do. It doesn't need to be long, but the more information you give, the more likely it is that your website will achieve what you want it to do.
As a minimum, you need to describe what you want your website to do, how and why. Optionally, it helps if you can also explain who your target customers are, how the website will be linked to the rest of your business and who your competitors are.
Don't be afraid of writing too much in a design brief. If the information is superfluous, the designer will only read it only once. If it is important, the comments will be cut and pasted into a file which the designer uses as a reference throughout the design process. Too much information in a design brief is better than not enough.
Tell us something about yourself and your business. You don't need to write an autobiography, just enough so that the designer understands a little about you. Equally as important, tell us what objectives you have for your website, either general or specific goals, what you want it to do, and how you want to benefit. This information is very important and in explaining these things clients almost always tell us things that would not otherwise be obvious to us, so it is a useful exercise.
This question is very important. Your whole website, the text it contains, the images you use and even the style of the website need to take your target customers into account. Try to describe the people you want to visit and respond to your website. For example, if you have a cattery, you're almost certainly looking at cat owners in certain towns or areas that surround your business. Say what those areas and towns are. What do you think your customers will be looking for? Having identified your target visitors, what do you want them to do? Again, using a cattery website as an example, do you want people to contact you online or make online bookings, or do you want them to come and visit your cattery? What you want visitors to do will affect how your website is built.
This includes a multitude of items. Some will be things you plan to supply, others may require editing or creating, but if you want it to feature on your site you need to tell your designer about it in your design brief.
If you are upgrading an existing website, it will help if you can tell us why you want to replace it. Give us details of the existing website, and then answer these questions as well as you can.