By the time your web site launches you might finally be ready to let your visitors (collectively) start thinking about the site more than you have been. That's why a good web site starts with good planning. While it's tempting to start designing and coding right away, the more complex your project, the more you'll benefit from written documentation that helps you set a course for the work ahead of you. Planning can take various forms: the functional specification demands answers to questions such as who will use the site and what they will do. A flowchart helps smooth out an online transaction or process. Setting up and following specific coding standards for seemingly minor site detailspage titles, file and directory names, and variablesprovides a consistent experience on your web site. All together, these practices ensure that the web site you launch will be useful and enjoyable for the people who visit.
Before we begin, a warning to readers: this chapter is heavy on explanations and light on code. Although you might prefer to skip to a more code-oriented chapter, I urge you to study the Recipes in this chapter to understand why this early stage is critical. Good web site builders (many of whom learned the hard way) know that it's a waste of everyone's time and money to spend days writing great code, only to find out that it does all the wrong things.