Web Design Plan - June 2005

Sunshine Coast web design for your web site using a plan that allows for future improvements to your internet presence.

This month at Sunshine Coast Web Design we're going to focus mostly on something called "website extension."

Website extension directly relates to the issue of how to effectively manage improvements to your website. The Sunshine Coast is expanding rapidly; websites with a web design plan are expanding with it. If you're the kind of site owner who is continually revising, expanding, and improving your website, this is definitely a term to learn.

So, what is website extension? "Plan our web design"!

To put it simply, it's what happens when the focus of your site changes or extends over time as you make improvements and as you gain new understanding of what your site really needs to encompass. More on professional web design.

It works like this: Suppose you have a website devoted to rental properties Sunshine Coast, and you're focused on providing services to owners and tenants of the various properties. Eventually, you decide you're not taking full advantage of your potential, and you decide you'd like to actually SELL real estate.

That's website extension.

Of course, website extension isn't always that drastic. For example, once you get your online store up and running to sell real estate, you might decide you want to run a promotion offering free discounted stamp duty. [Changes should occur only after some targeted research. More on web design research here.] At that point, you have to add an announcement somewhere on your site about discounted stamp duty.

That example is on a smaller scale but it's still website extension. It changes the focus of your message to your visitors, and it requires a change in the content on your site.

Website extension is inevitable, in one sense. Websites will always be changing. And if you're a good site owner, you'll recognize the need to continually tweak and revise your site. That's a good thing - your site should be flexible enough to respond to new needs that arise.

However, there are a few problems with website extension. First of all, it can often happen as a result of poor planning. Site owners often decide to create a website without really thinking through the function of the website and the information that needs to be presented.

Unfortunately, it's hard to effectively make improvements to a site that wasn't well-planned in the first place. Without a solid foundation to build on, later updates and additions can't be smoothly integrated into the structure. This sort of website extension just creates disorder and chaos.

Here's an example of disorderly website extension: Suppose you want to offer discounted stamp duty on all properties over $500,000. However, your shopping cart system doesn't give you the flexibility to charge stamp duty to some people and not to others. So you add a notice stating that even though the order total displayed on a customer's order shows stamp duty charges, you'll manually adjust the total for orders over $500,000, and the customer will get discounted stamp duty after all.

Confused? Unfortunately, most visitors are confused by this and can't figure out whether or not they'll actually get discounted stamp duty. The consequence? They don't buy.

Another problem with website extension that it's very easy to slip into a garage sale mentality. You get so excited about adding new things and pitching new offers to visitors that your site loses its focus and turns into a hodge-podge of offers.

In these examples, website extension actually fails to address the needs that originally drove the changes. In spite of good intentions, the changes only make the site clumsy and confusing to visitors.

So how do you allow your site to respond to newly-discovered needs without letting the website extensions get out of control? Here are 4 tips:

1. Plan ahead as much as possible.

Try to be forward-thinking and anticipate needs that your site might face in the future. Whenever possible, plan your site to allow for future flexibility.

If you're working with a web designer, communicate with your designer about possible future additions and changes. This way, your designer can work to create a site that will give the fluidity you need. More on understanding website navigation or website links.

2. Be intentional.

There are times when you can't plan ahead and something comes up that wasn't anticipated. In those cases, be as intentional as possible. Know what you're changing and why. Always relate every change and addition back to your central goal and purpose. This way, you'll know how the new changes or additions should fit into your existing site structure. This sort of intentionality will help you keep your site cohesive, organized and focused.

3. Don't let website extension distract you from your primary goal.

If an addition you're contemplating doesn't directly relate to your primary goal, it's probably not a good idea to add it. Remember what you defined as the action you want your visitors to take. More on web design actions here.

4. Don't let usability suffer.

If the updates and additions you make to your site aren't well-integrated into the existing structure of the site, the usefulness and usability of your site will deteriorate. This will lead to confusion on the part of visitors, which should be avoided at all costs. (Remember the example of discounted stamp duty not being smoothly integrated into the shopping cart?) If you want to add new functionality to your site, you must figure out how to integrate it effectively - without making the visitor's experience suffer.

NOTE: With all our hosting plans we provide a comprehensive web design statistics package that allows the owner to track what their web site visitors are doing.

You may choose whoever you wish for your web designer. More info on hiring a web designer.

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