The First Rule in Web Design

My wife Ashley and I have lived in the same apartment complex for nearly four years now.We haven’t decided for sure yet, but we’re thinking about making the move to a townhouse when our lease is up this summer. The reason is, we could get a lot more room for about the same price.

As we think through out options, I have to keep reminding myself that whether we live in an apartment, a townhome, or a mansion, we’re going to spend most of our time DOING mostly the same things.

-We’re going to wake up each morning, brush our teeth, and eat breakast.
-We’re going to take showers, wash dishes, and do the laundry.
-We’re going to watch TV, read books, and have friends over for dinner.

A townhome and an apartment are different. But, by and large, the lives we live inside them are not.

The First Rule

In most cases, all the variation you find within the category of “web properties” is equivalent to the difference between an apartment and a townhome (this can be said to an even greater degree about the variation you find among websites).

The choices you face come down to four questions: WHO, WHAT, WHY, and HOW.

With most web properties, the answers to WHO, WHAT, and WHY are the same. It’s generally only in the HOW that they differ.

Think back to my example about spending three hours choosing a font. Font has nothing to do with WHO, WHAT, OR WHY. I was ignoring the difficult questions by pretending to try and answer the easy one, HOW. (The same is true of the Coca-Cola example from the first part in this series.)

The problem is you can’t answer the last question until you’ve answered the previous three.

Here, then, is the first (and often the most important) rule:

Don’t ask HOW until you’ve answered WHO, WHAT, AND WHY.

Here are the specific versions of these questions:

1) Who do you want to come to your web property?
2) What do you want them to do when they get there?
3) Why are they going to want to come and do (the answer to #2)?

If you can answer those questions in complete detail but without terminology specific to a website (ex. stay-at-home moms / buy my book about parenting / because they heard about it from a friend and want to be a better parent), then I can promise you a web property will come cheap and easy.