A number of years ago I taught website design at a local university to photography students. For the most part they were simply interested in showcasing their images, separated into different portfolio categories with little text content. The thinking was that the images should communicate the relevant information to the visitor. Fundamentally, that message was: my images are professional, high quality, artistic, documentary or commercial (depending on the photographer) and that you as the visitor should engage me to work for you.

The problem with this approach is that there was no call to action, no direction for the visitor except in some instances a phone number or email address. That approach could be seen as arrogant or even naive but either way it begins with a process that is backwards.

The initial thinking of these photography students was based around content, which images should be showcased, what categories should be defined.

I have always been an advocate for deciding first and foremost what purpose the website design needs to achieve. Does it need to generate a phone call? Does it need to make an online sale? Is it’s purpose to have someone subscribe to a newsletter? Whatever the objective may be this should be your starting point.

It is only once the objective is clear that you can then define what message you need to communicate to your visitor. Then through website design, headlines, buttons, prompts or whatever method you can then begin to direct the visitor to your desired objective.

Without a purpose, your website is just another stack of html pages sitting in cyberspace. When you identify your desired outcome for your website you can then begin to develop, craft and hone the content, your message and the supporting graphics and imagery to make it deliver.