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I work on a lot of web projects as a consultant and as a developer. In general this conversation starts with a request for a specific feature and talks of budget. Obviously, the budget is necessary, but I would like to propose that starting with a key “feature” is the opposite way to approach building a website.

Before you begin to focus on aesthetics, you must ask the questions:

Why am I building a website?

What should it accomplish?

How do I plan to accomplish these things?

Knowing whether you’re an informational site or a brochure site makes a very big difference in the allocation of resources, but with these questions we can begin to create a scope for the project. Do you want to allocate your budget 75/25 design and information or 25/75 design and information?

Many times when I enquire as to why a client wants a specific feature, such as a background video, their reply is that a similar company (generally a competitor) to them is doing the same thing. In the increasingly competitive Alaskan economy, the question should be

How is my site going to accomplish my goals and differentiate me from my competitors?

How can you demonstrate that you are a leader in your field? If all of your competitors are designers showing off their products design, a good strategy might be to talk about your process and turn yourself into the thought leader of your arena. This might be counter-intuitive, but now you have just changed the allocation of your resources on your project based around a specific strategy.

This is the first article in my Alaskan Web Series. Next time we’ll talk about web trends and where they come from.