In the Beginning . . .

The beginning is always the hardest part. Creating a Web site is no different. When we gear up to develop a new site, we always start here (where else can you start, but at the beginning?). The thing we do first is brainstorm. This often causes headaches, bolts of lightning to escape our nostrils, and clouds to float out of our ears. If thinking makes this happen to you, don't worry — just lie down and it will pass.

In brainstorming mode, we try to think of anything and everything we could possibly include in the prospective site. We do this for three areas: content, design, and navigation. The content is almost always determined by the initial impetus behind the site. In our experience, our usual reason is to promote a book and provide our readers (and those potential readers who haven't yet run to their nearest bookstores to buy our wonderful books) with useful and helpful information. The design of the site includes a color scheme, its icons and graphics, and its overall look and feel. In the case of the … For Dummies books (like the one you're holding), we stick with their traditional yellow and black scheme. The navigation of the site includes those control mechanisms readers use to jump from one page or section to another, the directory tree beneath the surface, and the ordering of constituent pages and sections.

Brainstorming is often messy and can take lots of time. The more people involved at this stage, the longer it takes to exhaust all the possibilities. Thinking with more than one brain has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you get a broader range of ideas, and you have an increased likelihood of identifying everything your site ultimately needs. On the minus side, those ideas take longer to formulate and discuss. Also, the more ideas that emerge, the more arguments and heated discussions that will ensue. You must be the judge of just how many people to invite to the thinking party; we seldom brainstorm with more than three or four.

We usually record our brainstorming on used paper from our “recycle box.” But you can just as easily write your ideas down on the computer. In fact, after we finish a brainstorming session, someone is usually assigned to transcribe our notes from paper to the computer anyway. You can avoid the middleman by jumping to the keyboard before killing any trees (that's why we use recycled paper). When we type up our ideas, we use Microsoft Word because that's our word processor of choice, but anything will do.


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