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The Early Web-Development Process

As I promised in September's "On Target," I'm going to talk about one of the most important but least popular phases of Web development. Basically, it's the phase when you figure out what you're going to do BEFORE you actually do it. Even a little up-front planning can make a big difference in your Web site's "quality of life" and in yours, too. Define the Mission for Your Site

Define your site's purpose or reason for being. This is actually quite simple. You probably know the mission without realizing it. For instance, say I ask you "Hey, whomever, what's your Web site for?" You reply, "Well, Mike, it's so we can (do or describe whatever)." There you go. You've stated the mission for your site.

Why is defining the mission important? Read on.

Identify Your Audience

With a defined mission, you have enough focus to ask, "Who will use this site?" (A very good question.) "What will they want?" "What does my site have to offer them?" "Does this fit within our mission?"

Your answers to these questions will confirm that you are on target or perhaps suggest that you need to rethink your mission or that you're really dealing with multiple sites.

This is the last time I'll mention audience analysis. I promise! (Editor's Note: Don't believe him.)

Formulate Your Objectives

With a defined mission and an identified audience, you can nail down some objectives for your Web site. Do you want to inform your audience of something? Instruct them? Entertain them? Solve a problem for them?

Enumerate Your Tasks

You need to know your objectives before you can ask, "How will I accomplish them?" "What, exactly, are the tasks that need to be done?"

(Notice that you're getting more and more specific as you proceed through this process.)

Enlist Your Team

Okay. You have your tasks. Your next question: "Who will accomplish them?" Perhaps it's just you. More likely you'll need to enlist the help of a team.

Team in place and tasks in hand, together, you're ready to ask, "How long will it take us to accomplish these tasks?" Then you'll have your timeline, and you'll be ready--really ready--to go.

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Speak Up on Voicemail

Voicemail has become as much a part of our work as, well, the telephone itself. In the April, 1999 issue of "On Target," Laura Hoelscher offered tips on leaving voicemail messages for those who call you. I'm offering tips to help ensure that you get called back when you leave a message on someone else's voicemail.

  1. Speak clearly and distinctly. Some people talk so fast that the person receiving the message has no idea whom to call back or what to call back about.

  2. Be especially careful to pronounce each part of your number distinctly. It's human nature to say your phone number very quickly. Maybe that's because you remember it that way. But phone numbers said too quickly become such a blur that you may not receive a return call.

  3. Give your phone number (with area code) at the beginning, right after your name, and again at the end of your message. The telephone line might not have been clear the first time you gave your number, so the second time serves as a back-up that could save time and prevent problems.

  4. Leave an action item on your voicemail message so that the other person can call you back with the information you need. Some efficient voicemail users have conducted complete transactions by voicemail only. If this seems too impersonal, think about all the things you can do with the time you save.

  5. Don't ramble. It's inconsiderate of the other person's time.

  6. Don't be afraid to call back and correct or clarify your message. You may have been rattled on the first one, so call back and get it right if you need to.

  7. Remember that you're always on record. Don't leave offending or offensive messages, even if you're trying to be funny.

  8. Don't forget to leave the best times to reach you. This will help reduce telephone tag.

Chris Everett

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Improve Your Email

I've been sending and receiving email since the mid-1980s. Between then and now, I've learned from my own email mistakes, seen others' mistakes, read some stuff, and come up with these tips.

Before You Send

Composing and/or Replying

If you must put something cute, stupid, or otherwise potentially embarrassing in email, be sure the person getting the email knows it's there. More than one person has been embarrassed when someone forwarded a message before reading the entire email.

If you have any email tips or pet peeves, let me know.

Steve Cain <cain@purdue.edu>

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Grammar Trap: Childish vs. Childlike

If you're a grownup, you wouldn't want to be thought of as "childish," but you might not mind being regarded as "childlike."

Why? Basically, it's kind of bad to be childish, but it's kind of good to be childlike.

Applied to an adult, "childish" means inappropriately acting like or being like a child.

Examples: His behavior was so childish it was embarrassing. The two adults had a childish disagreement.

On the other hand, "childlike" means to retain some of the positive attributes of childhood into adulthood.

Examples: He had a refreshing, childlike innocence. We should all try to keep a childlike sense of wonder.

If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss, or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

Visit <../grammartrap/index.html> for past "Grammar Traps."

Laura Hoelscher <lah@purdue.edu>

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October 2000

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Department of Agricultural Communication
Purdue University

An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information