People Involved in Designing a Website
Designing websites is such a huge undertaking that to do it right, you really need a team of people — whether working with an internal team, with vendors, or independent consultants. Here is a sampling of the major players, their roles, and when you need them.
Business folks and website clients
Once, you could get away with sticking a website up on the Internet and expect to get reasonable traffic without much further effort. In the crowded Internet highways of today, however, you really need a business strategy and a marketing plan. Your business and marketing folks must be involved with the website from the very beginning. They are in charge of the following responsibilities:
Setting the goals and requirements for the site. You must always understand the business goals, in order of priority, of the site.
Identifying the target customer. The marketing team members should provide a profile picture of the ideal customer that the site must cater to.
Reeling in the visitors. The marketing team also needs to figure out how to direct customers to the site.
Producers and project managers
Once clients and companies are committed to a new web project, invariably their eyes tend to get bigger than the budget. Often times, they will ask for the moon because they simply do not understand the complexities that go into web development. Among many other responsibilities, the main job of the producer or project manager is to set and manage client expectations so the project stays on track.
This impressive-sounding title goes to the person whose job it is to sit down and figure out how the whole site fits together and how people will navigate from one page to the next.
Among the first tasks of an information architect is to design a sitemap diagram (see the first figure below) that shows all the main sections of the site. The IA, as this person is often referred to, then dives into the page-level detail and creates a series of wireframe (second figure, below) diagrams that show the content and navigational elements that go on each major page of the site.
Armed with the sitemap and wireframes that define the underlying site structure, it’s the visual designer’s job to extend a company’s brand image and character into a website look and feel. Visual design, however, is not just about making a site look good; it can make or break a site’s effectiveness and even its usability. A good visual designer rearranges elements, adjusts relative placement and sizing of elements, and uses good graphic-design principles of color, form, consistency, and layout to accentuate navigation and important content, and indicate how users should interact with each page.
Many print designers who are new to web design create graphically rich, custom interfaces that certainly look cool but aren’t very practical for the web. These sites often download slowly, are hard to automate or update, or are difficult to use because users can’t easily distinguish clickable from non-clickable items. See the following figure for more about what not to do.
Websites, like any other medium, require more text than people realize. Developing copy for the web is a unique art; not only does it require a different approach to disclosing information than with printed material, but it also usually requires ongoing management (editing and updating to reflect current conditions).
For this reason, content development for a web project is often parceled out to two distinct individuals — or one individual wearing two distinct hats:
The content strategist: The person who identifies the chunks of copy needed for each page and the rules for each, such as character limits and style of copy.
The copy writer: The person who actually writes the text for each identified chunk.
No modern website would be complete without a splash of video, audio, or even a Flash component. With so many specialized media formats and compression schemes, however, it’s best to leave media development to separate professionals.
A web developer is the person who assembles the actual web pages in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). There is a real art to producing what is called the front end of a website (what you see when you visit a website) because there are so many browsers and computer configurations to account for.
Modern website projects would not be complete without a team of programmers. These folks can really give your website a turbo boost by making it a powerful business tool, whether it is an e-commerce site or a social networking site.
In addition to coding web-page templates with a scripting language such as PHP or ASP, programmers also create the online databases to house all the information the templates may need. Building databases can be so complex that many times you need a specialized database dude or dudette for that task alone.