Your site will greatly benefit from a little planning ahead of time! A successful site is genuinely useful to your target audience, so the information you present must be organized in a way that makes sense to the users of your site.
Who is your audience?
Your main goal is to provide information to meet the needs and expectations of your key audience, in a manner that is easy and user-friendly. Audiences include students, faculty, staff, parents, visitors, prospective students, alumni, etc.
What goals do you want to achieve with this site?
What problems is your Web site trying to resolve? What are the advantages to having a Web site? Think about these questions as you prioritize your goals, and use them as a guide in decision-making.
Is the information you want to provide the same information that your audience
wants from you?
Your perceptions may dramatically differ from their perceptions! Involve your users, listen to their comments, test your site with them. Approach your information as if you were a user visiting your site for the first time. Does it make sense? Have you used any "internal language" that they might not easily understand?
Is your information easily accessible?
Do not put up roadblocks! Make information available with as few "clicks" as possible. Always make contact information readily available. Don't put up "under construction" pages -- this frustrates users, who may not return to your site.
Is your content style appropriate to your audience?
Unless your users are expecting to find a text-heavy page, keep your copy short and simple. If it isn't immediately obvious what the purpose of the page is, the user probably won't read more than one or two sentences before moving on.
How will you keep the content up-to-date?
Who is responsible for content updates? How often will you update your content?
What is the structure of your site?
It is very helpful to sketch out a "site map" of your content in order to organize it effectively. Site maps help determine navigation across your site as well as the "breadcrumb" element on your pages. It may be helpful to create a map of your content as it exists on your current site, and another for how you envision the organization of your new site.
Once you can answer these basic questions, it is time to find out What You'll Need when creating your site.
If you do not already have a website address (or "URL"), please contact the Public Affairs Office and the Webmaster's Office about setting up an address for your site. Keep long URLs short and user-friendly by having an alias set up -- a short address that automatically redirects users to your real site. For example, www.smu.edu/friends links to smu.edu/libraries/friends.
A Site Map
Site maps help you organize your content and navigation. The basic idea is to put your home page at the top, and your main content areas underneath it. Sub-content areas branch off from each main area (see simplified example at right).
Also think about what links you want in your sitewide navigation area and local navigation areas, and what links are common across multiple pages.
Site maps can be created in a Word document in outline form (I, II, III, a, b, c format), by physically sketching out boxes and lines on a piece of paper, or by using drawing software such as Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Omnigraffle.
Site maps help the Webmaster's Office set up your profile. For help with your site map, contact the Public Affairs Office.
Once you have determined your site map and navigation links, a profile name will be given to you and must be used in the HTML code on all pages. The profile contains the default information for the location of your navigation files (Zone 2A and Zone 2B), the department ID, and the breadcrumb.
SMU recommends either of few major software packages for creating Web pages: Microsoft FrontPage 2003 or Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007, which is officially supported by OIT and the Webmaster's Office, or Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, which is supported by a campus listserv.
People assigned to various responsibilites concerning the Web site
The same person can be responsible for more than one of these tasks. Just be sure that you know who will take on the various responsibilities. A few of the necessary roles might be:
This checklist outlines the basic steps required to make pages using the new SMU template. Each step is described in more detail elsewhere in the Style Guide.
You may print out this checklist and use it as you begin work on your Web site (click here for printer-friendly version).
|Create a site map.|
|Set up a "profile" with the Webmaster's Office.|
|Have your existing site converted by the Webmaster's Office, if applicable.|
|Receive templates for Zones 2A, 2B, and 8 (sitewide navigation, local navigation, and page content).|
|Create one Zone 2A (sitewide navigation) and one or more Zone 2B (local navigation) files.|
|Create your Zone 8 content pages (if your site has been converted by the Webmaster's Office, these pages already exist in your test site).|
|In the code at the top of each Zone 8 content page, specify the pageName and the profile name.|
|Upload and test your pages.|
|Notify the E-Marketing Office and the Webmaster's Office that you are ready to go live.|