When designing a website, an important question to ask is, “Why does this website need to exist?” It seems strange but a client might not be able to tell you exactly why they want a website. The answer, “Because everyone else has one,” is not a good answer. Imagine a carpenter who is hired by a homeowner to build a “structure” in their backyard, with little information provided about the final project.
The carpenter needs to know the purpose of the structure. Do they want a shed? A bandstand? A garage? Just as structures have different purposes, so do websites. As a designer you should be able toed ne, or have the client defy ne, the goal of the website in a simple sentence. For example, in this book, you will be designing a site called Smoothie World, which has the following goal: To be the first stop on the web for people looking for Smoothie recipes. Although the designer may not have defined this objective, she can certainly contribute to the conversation. Here are some of the questions that might arise in discussing the functionality and design of such a site: Will the site be free? If yes, will there be advertising and is that something the designer needs to include in the layout?
- Has the client considered how they want to organize the recipes on the site? For example, could a user submit ingredients they have on hand and receive a recipe in return?
- What, if any, user interactions might there be on site. For example, can users submit recipes or simply browse existing ones? In larger organizations, these conversations might also involve web developers, who would be responsible for any database functionality, along with the marketing department, the sales department, and other interested stakeholders.
Even if these discussions take place before you, the designer, are brought into the project, you will want to have a good understanding of the goals of a website before you start any design work.