A proper website design starts with good branding, clear product or service strategy, obvious target customers. If these elements are in place then the site architecture and the visual design come together easily. This is a simple description that is particularly easy to implement for a start-up company with a blank slate. Larger companies with a history of product evolution can be a bit more complicated.
- Discovery, the what, who, where and how
- Branding if necessary
- Visual Design
- Site Architecture
The Discovery Process
Every website design project has a much better chance at successfully meeting everyone’s expectations if the initial research is done correctly. This research sets the scope of the project by defining what you have now, who it serves and how the website should be built. It is valuable to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the full product line so that the website features the best of what you have to offer. If you feature everything from a product line that has evolved over the years, the message gets muddy and it typically does not promote your current strengths. It is okay to let go of the older products.
- Who is your target audience?
- What kind of website are you building, ecommerce, blog, billboard/informational?
- How will you measure success on your website?
How much brand recognition do you have today? Typically, smaller companies spend very little time on this when they are starting out. And if you started out ten or more years ago then it is great to update the brand. Look at the evolution of some bigger brands over the years, like Coca Cola.
In a highly competitive market it is a good idea to trademark your brand when you are ready. In the meantime, your brand needs to be consistent and readable not only on your website but across all of your social media channels, email, and print collateral.
- Do you have a logo?
- Does it adequately represent your brand?
- How will we reflect your brand throughout your online presence?
Be ready to answer the following questions to support a successful site architecture creation.
- What does your viewer want to find?
- What is the priority of each of these?
- How are they using the site?
- How many clicks does it take to get to the information?
- How many clicks to convert the reader to the paying customer?
- How can you make it more obvious to get to the answers?
The site architecture development can be an iterative process on a more complicated website. But keep in mind that this effort pays off with a higher quality solution. User testing can help you see things that you hadn’t considered.
A compelling website starts with a cohesive look from the branding, to the font, to the page layout and colors. We are pattern makers and we need to see the information in a meaningful grid that considers todays online paradigms. A good page layout prioritized the information to make a successful customer journey. These page layout sketches, called wireframes are an important part of the website design process.
Today’s websites are viewed on devices that range from roughly 400 pixels wide to roughly 1920 pixels wide. It is critical to intentionally design for mobile and desktop so that the most important information is immediately accessible on all devices. And page load speed matters to the potential customer as well as the search engines. As of 2015, Google started counting page load speed in their ranking. And that extra second of page load time because of improperly optimized images can make the difference between gaining new customers or not.
Website design and website development are not the same thing but they go hand in hand. A well-coded website is important for maintainability, functionality, usability, and find-ability. Don’t skimp on this step. Regardless of the kind of website you decide to buy or build, make sure you are getting good, semantically correct code. We use tools that help determine the quality of the site and we have done this enough to know what we are checking. So if you opted to build your website elsewhere but have doubts about the quality then schedule a review.
When the website is finished and signed off, it gets moved from a development server to your production hosting. This doesn’t mean the work is done. This is just the foundation. Now it is time to get the site verified by the search engines, get some analytics in there so you can measure your marketing efforts, get listed in all the appropriate directories, and get your online presence noticed. This is just a brief summary of the process. Some of our recommendations come from years of experience and other recommendations come from the discovery process for your particular industry.