Web designers often think about the web development process with a focus on technical matters such as wire-frames, code, and content management. But great design isn’t about how you integrate the social media buttons or even slick visuals. Great design is about having a website creation process that aligns with an overarching strategy.
Well-designed websites offer much more than just aesthetics. They attract visitors and help people understand the product, company, and branding through a variety of indicators, encompassing visuals, text, and interactions. That means every element of a site needs to work towards a defined goal.
But how do you achieve that harmonious synthesis of elements?
For us, steps to design a website requires 7 steps:
We work with the client to determine what goals the new website needs to fulfill. i.e., what its purpose is.
In this initial stage, our designer needs to identify the end goal of the website design, usually in close collaboration with the client or other stakeholders. Questions to explore and answer in this stage of the design and website development process include:
This is the most important part of any web development process. If these questions aren’t all clearly answered in the brief, the whole project can set off in the wrong direction.
Once we know the site’s goals, we can define the scope of the project. i.e., what web pages and features the site requires to fulfill the goal, and the timeline for building those out.
One of the most common and difficult problems plaguing web design projects is scope creep. The client sets out with one goal in mind, but this gradually expands, evolves, or changes altogether during the design process — and the next thing we know, we’re not only designing and building a website, but also a web app, emails, and push notifications.
This isn’t necessarily a problem for our designers, as it can often lead to more work. But if the increased expectations aren’t matched by an increase in budget or timeline, the project can rapidly become utterly unrealistic.
With the scope well-defined, we can start digging into the sitemap, defining how the content and features we defined in scope definition will interrelate.
The sitemap provides the foundation for any well-designed website. It helps give web designers a clear idea of the website’s information architecture and explains the relationships between the various pages and content elements.
Building a site without a sitemap is like building a house without a blueprint. And that rarely turns out well.
Now that we have a bigger picture of the site in mind, we can start creating content for the individual pages, always keeping search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind to help keep pages focused on a single topic. It’s vital that you have real content to work with for our next stage.
Content serves two essential purposes:
First, content engages readers and drives them to take the actions necessary to fulfill a site’s goals. This is affected by both the content itself (the writing), and how it’s presented (the typography and structural elements).
Dull, lifeless, and overlong prose rarely keeps visitors’ attention for long. Short, snappy, and intriguing content grabs them and gets them to click through to other pages. Even if your pages need a lot of content — and often, they do — properly “chunking” that content by breaking it up into short paragraphs supplemented by visuals can help it keep a light, engaging feel.
Content also boosts a site’s visibility for search engines. The practice of creation and improving content to rank well in search is known as search engine optimisation, or SEO.
Getting your keywords and key-phrases right is essential for the success of any website. We always use Keyword Planners. These tools show the search volume for potential target keywords and phrases, so we can hone in on what actual human beings are searching on the web. While search engines are becoming more and more clever, so should content strategies. Google Trends is also handy for identifying terms people actually use when they search.
Our design process focuses on designing websites around SEO. Keywords you want to rank for need to be placed in the title tag — the closer to the beginning, the better. Keywords should also appear in the H1 tag, meta description, and body content.
Content that’s well-written, informative, and keyword-rich is more easily picked up by search engines, all of which helps to make the site easier to find.
Typically, our client will produce the bulk of the content, but it’s vital that you supply us with guidance on what keywords and phrases we should include in the text.
With the site architecture and some content in place, we can start working on the visual brand. Depending on the client, this may already be well-defined, but we might also be defining the visual style from the ground up. Tools like style tiles, mood boards, and element collages can help with this process.
Finally, it’s time to create the visual style for the site. This part of the design process will often be shaped by existing branding elements, colour choices, and logos, as stipulated by the client. But it’s also the stage of the web design process where a good web designer can really shine.
Images are taking on a more significant role in web design now than ever before. Not only do high-quality images give a website a professional look and feel, but they also communicate a message, are mobile-friendly, and help build trust.
Visual content is known to increase clicks, engagement, and revenue. But more than that, people want to see images on a website. Not only do images make a page feel less cumbersome and easier to digest, but they also enhance the message in the text, and can even convey vital messages without people even needing to read.
We recommend using a professional photographer to get the images right. You can try free stock photos but keep in mind that massive, beautiful images can seriously slow down a site. Compress the images without losing quality, saving on page-load times. We also want to make sure your images are as responsive as your site.
The visual design is a way to communicate and appeal to the site’s users. Get it right, and it can determine the site’s success. Get it wrong, and you’re just another web address.
By now, we’ve got all your pages and defined how they display to the site visitor, so it’s time to make sure it all works. Combine manual browsing of the site on a variety of devices with automated site crawlers to identify everything from user experience issues to simple broken links.
Once everything’s working beautifully, it’s time to plan and execute your site launch!
This should include planning both launch timing and communication strategies — i.e., when will you launch and how will you let the world know? After that, it’s time to break out the bubbly.