Designing websites

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As well as my full-time job, in my spare time I also design and build websites. It’s something which fits well with my skillset as a technical communicator, and allows me an insight into the world of development as well and has mirrored my career every step of the way.

The first company I worked for sent me on a training course to learn how to create web pages and, since then (13 years ago), I’ve continued to follow the trends and techniques involved. I’ve been through using tables for layout, to the introduction of frames, the launch of Internet Explorer and the first release of CSS.

The parallels between the theories of technical communications and those of web design are very similar, the key aim is to keep the audience in mind at all times. The way you structure and present the information is also important, as is a sense of usability of the content itself.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a fairly constant stream of web design work, largely by word of mouth, and have just finished chatting with another potential client. Part of my approach is to ask to have a questionnaire filled in, largely to help me understand the requirements for the website, as well as to have something to focus the initial conversations around.

Two of those questions are:

  1. Who will be using your website? What is the intended/current audience?
  2. Does your current website meet the needs of your audience? If not, why not?

Which, as I’m sure many of you will already have realised, is exactly the kind of questions we, as technical communicators, should be asking ourselves on a regular basis.