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What do you want people to be able to accomplish on your Web site? Are your readers looking for specific information on how to do something? Are they going to read through each page in turn, going on only when they're done with the page they're reading? Are they just going to start at your home page and wander aimlessly around, exploring your "world" until they get bored and go somewhere else?
Suppose that you're creating a Web site that describes the company where you work. Some people reading that Web site might want to know about job openings. Others might want to know where the company actually is located. Still others may have heard that your company makes technical white papers available over the Net, and they want to download the most recent version of a particular paper. Each of these goals is valid, so you should list each one.
For a shopping catalog Web site, you might have only a few goals: to enable your readers to browse the items you have for sale by name or by price, and to order specific items after they're done browsing.
For a personal or special-interest Web site, you may have only a single goal: to enable your readers to browse and explore the information you've provided.
The goals do not have to be lofty ("this Web site will bring about world peace") or even make much sense to anyone except you. Still, coming up with goals for your Web documents prepares you to design, organize, and write your Web pages specifically to reach these goals. Goals also help you resist the urge to obscure your content with extra information.
If you're designing Web pages for someone else-for example, if you're creating the Web site for your company or if you've been hired as a consultant-having a set of goals for the site from your employer definitely is one of the most important pieces of information you should have before you create a single page. The ideas you have for the Web site might not be the ideas that other people have for it, and you might end up doing a lot of work that has to be thrown away.
Break Up Your Content into Main Topics
With your goals in mind, now try to organize your content into main topics or sections, chunking related information together under a single topic. Sometimes the goals you came up with in the preceding section and your list of topics will be closely related. For example, if you're putting together a Web page for a bookstore, the goal of being able to order books fits nicely under a topic called, appropriately, "Ordering Books."
You don't have to be exact at this point in development. Your goal here is just to try to come up with an idea of what, specifically, you'll be describing in your Web pages. You can organize the information better later, as you write the actual pages.
Suppose that you're designing a Web site about how to tune up your car. This example is simple because tune-ups consist of a concrete set of steps that fit neatly into topic headings. In this example, your topics might include the following:
How about a less task-oriented example? Suppose that you want to create a set of Web pages about a particular rock band because you're a big fan, and you're sure other fans would benefit from your extensive knowledge. Your topics might be as follows:
Your goal is to have a set of topics that are roughly the same size and that group together related bits of information you have to present...