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Putting your Web Site Together

So you got some web space, and you know what it is you want to share with the world... now what? Well, now you will need to transfer those ideas of yours from your head onto paper so you can plan your site.

Think things through...

Even something as simple as categorizing your data could make all the difference. An unplanned site can easily fall to pieces; it will have little structure and be hard to follow. Planning can also do a lot to save time, particularly if you aren't able to use Server Side Includes or something similar to dynamically include your menus on the site.

It isn't as difficult categorizing aspects of your topic as you might think; so long as you are prepared to sit down and actually think about what it is you want to write about. It is a very good idea to write down everything you can think of related to your topic during your brainstorming session; a phone message pad is ideal for this. Don't forget to include all the keywords and phrases of the topics you would like to cover, at this stage it doesn't matter if you've got a lot; they are just going to help you think about how you can structure the site.

Once you have all your thoughts down on paper, you can then group ideas together to form pages and even different sections of your site if you have a lot to say! How you go about putting your ideas together is up to you. You may want to put them in groups on a sheet of paper to denote a web page, make piles of like ideas where each slip of paper is a page or another link in a flowchart. However you choose to order your site, make sure that you play around with different ideas for the structure before you commit to your final layout.

Thoughtful Navigation

I always find it useful to imagine my site's structure like a flowchart, where the actual network of your flowchart resembles the available links on certain pages. This creates a site based on categories and sub-categories, which is ideal for a larger informational site, but perhaps is not so suited to a personal site consisting of only a handful of pages.

The flowchart idea however, goes a long way to help you structure your site in a way that will help navigation. If you think of each box on the flowchart as a page, and the lines connecting them as the links then you can quickly categorize your links by thinking about where they fit in the flowchart.

Why have a link to pictures of your family when the user thought they came to a page about computing? The flowchart should help you to put things into the right categories, so while you may have an about me page on your computer help site, the only link to the page should not be on the advice for Linux users page!

Designing a Page Layout

Once you have an idea of what pages you want to be linking together, and the suggestted route your visitors should follow, you should start thinking of your basic page layout. A good example of a web page is one that can be split down into a least three main content areas; a title or header area, the main content and the navigational area.

Not only does the title or header area tell your visitors the topic of the page, if used correctly, it can go a long way to identify the site and even establish a brand. It is a good idea to create a theme for your site, which can easily be achieved by using a logo in the header area of all your pages. Different areas of the site can be given a separate identity by altering the look of the header while keeping your main site logo somewhere in the design.

While you may wish to include your most important site links in the header area of your page, you should maintain a separate area for links, as a visitor can feel trapped if they have to rely on the browser to get around your site. Links to similar content is always appreciated, but if you have a site structure that resembles something looking like a family tree, then you may want to put links to other pages that are related to it according to the site hierarchy.

As well as the three main areas discussed above, you may want to assign areas of the page for things such as advertising, sub menus and copyright information. Create a typical page layout template and try to keep your areas consistant throughout the site; it is much easier for a visitor when they know that they can find the link back to the homepage in the top left hand corner! One page where it isn't so important to keep the layout as constant to other pages is the home page; since if the homepage looks similar to all the others, how can your visitors tell just by looking that it is the homepage?

If you can, try and have as many different links on a page as possible to other pages in your site, this will improve both your link popularity in the search engines and, if done correctly, will go a long way in improving navigation on your site.

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So you got some web space and you know what it is you want to share with the world now what Well now you will need to transfer those ideas of yours from your head onto paper so