Every web site begins with an idea. It’s the result of someone wanting to get something online, be it for personal or commercial ends. This early phase is exciting. You start with the core idea (“photo album for my family,” “shopping site for skateboarding gear,” “online banking,” etc.) then brainstorm on how it’s going to manifest itself as a web site. This is a time for lists and sketches, whiteboards and notebooks. What’s going to make it exciting? What’s going to be on the first page?
Don’t bother launching an HTML editor until you have your ideas and strategy together. This involves asking your client (or yourself) a number of questions regarding resources, goals, and, most importantly, audience. The Some Questions Before You Begin sidebar provides just a sampling of the sorts of questions you might ask before you start a project. Many large web development and design firms spend more time on researching and identifying clients’ needs than on any other stage of production. For large sites, this step may include case studies, interviews, and extensive market
research. There are even firms dedicated to developing web strategies for emerging and established companies.
You may not need to put that sort of effort (or money) into a web site’s preparation, but it is still wise to be clear about your expectations and resources early on in the process, particularly when attempting to work within a budget.