A well-planned and efficient process is vital to remain competitive in any field, and the same holds true in web design. As visual communicators, web designers believe that online success goes beyond the usual complex algorithms, code, and systems:
Having a solid design process helps articulate the motives of the website and ultimately enables it to achieve its goal, which can be anything from enticing the audience to buying a product or helping them understand a certain topic or issue.
That said, many web designers already know that their job follows a strict process and is repetitive in nature, however, not everybody understands what a good and effective process is.
If you’re a web designer who just wants to go back to the basics of your craft or streamline your routine, then check out this article, as we discuss the critical steps in a good web design process, and how each step can help you achieve the best result in your future projects.
Before we jump into the design process, we need to outline a strategy that covers every aspect of the project – from the organisation’s goal to competition in the market. A good website is built on a solid foundation – an excellent design stems from a clear and well-developed strategy.
To create a clear strategy, you have to consider the following factors:
1. Goal – The reasons why a website is needed, or in some cases, why a website needs to be redesigned. These goals may include:
- To gain a competitive advantage in the market through presenting your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- For branding purposes
- To maintain a good position in the Search Engine Results
- Boost leads and sales
- Improve website responsiveness
2. Brand Message – The key messages that attract and motivate key audiences to engage with your brand that your website can help achieve.
3. Buyer and Design Persona – A buyer persona is a character that represents the goals, desires, and buying preferences of your target audience. The design persona, on the other hand, is the way your website represents your brand, which should make a lasting impression on your target audience.
4. Competition – Identify the top-ranking competitor’s websites and assess their strong and weak points.
With a clear design strategy, you should be able to proceed to the next step: developing a design plan.
Using the information gathered from phase one, you now have to put together a plan for your website. This is where you should decide and map out things that will set the stage for the entire project, which requires a two-way communication with your client to ensure that every detail fits their needs and taste.
- Requirements Analysis – This involves the analysis of the information gathered in the previous phase.
- Project Charter – This document sums up all the information that you and the client have had come up during the requirements analysis and will serve as the reference point throughout the project.
- Site Map – A list of the main topics on the site, as well as subtopics (if applicable). This will make the website easier to navigate and will help it’s audience find information quickly.
- Project Contract – A document that at least includes the process, technologies used, copyright ownership, payment terms and project timeline.
- Accessibility – Make sure to obtain and validate host information such as FTP login and/or control panel login details: database configuration and any languages or frameworks currently installed on the website.
- Resource Requirements – Decide if you need to hire subcontractors and purchase any additional technologies that you think the project requires. Consider all of this in the project’s budget, and pass on to the client for consideration.
This is the phase where the information outlined in the planning stage takes shape. As a designer, this is where you develop the look and feel that your client wants their audience to experience on their website through the meticulous choice of design elements and other key factors.
1. Wireframe and Design Elements Planning
Mainly involves creating the visual layout for the website using the information gathered from the client in the planning phase. Includes the following elements:
- Colour Scheme
- Visual Elements
- Rich Media
- User Experience
- Cross-Device Compatibility
2. Mock-up Presentation
Involves creating and developing initial mock-ups, which can be started with a pen and paper, or in a graphics editor such as Photoshop, or by using a front-end framework. The mock-up should follow on from the requirements analysis done during the planning phase. Mock-ups are important since they’re easy to modify and progress, which prepares you for the next stage – once it has been approved.
3. Assessment and Approval Cycle
The cycle where the client will review, modify, and eventually, approve the mock-ups when they’re satisfied with their overall look and feel. You should use your design experience here to overcome objections and take valid feedback on board to help move the project in the right direction.
4. HTML/CSS Coding
Once you and your client have agreed on the mock-ups, you can move into the next stage where you’ll start to develop your design by writing with HTML and CSS code as the base of the website.
This is where the creative ideas for the website are made into reality. All of the individual graphics and mock-ups produced in the design phase will be stitched together through intense programming to create a functional website. Make sure to always refer to the details compiled in the planning stage to avoid any confusion over its supposed functions.
1. Framework – Choosing and implementing a development framework – Ruby on Rails, ASP/PHP or a content management system such as WordPress.
2. Database – Developing a database structure for the website’s content.
3. Page Templates – Coding templates for different pages of the website such as home, about, services, blog, contact, etc.
4. Features and Interactions – Developing functionalities for the special features of the website.
5. Content – Inserting the content from the writer to their intended pages.
6. Links and Functionality Testing – Ensure that all pages – from home to form submissions are working properly.
7. Security – Applying security features for the website.
8. Mark-up – Implementing the required elements for SEO and social media purposes.
The launch phase is where you make final touches on the website before you transfer it to your client’s server, ready for public viewing. You also have to hand over the documented style guide, site structure and other deliverables to your client in this stage.
- Refining – Identifying the parts of the website which can be improved further.
- Transfer to Live Server – Means transferring the website to a live server, which makes it accessible to the public.
- Dry Run – Final diagnosis of the website using different tools such as a code validator, broken link checker, browser/device testing, spelling, and others.
- Documentation and Training – Providing documentation for the website (soft copy of the site map, details of framework and languages used) as well providing the client/end-user with training on how to edit the content.
The world of web design is rapidly changing, which is why websites have to undergo periodic maintenance and revamp to ensure that they’re still at an optimum performance level and still inline with ongoing trends within the field. This phase involves the following actions and updates:
- Resolving technical issues
- Optimising website though A/B testing
- Updating the overall design of the website
- Updating and implementing new features
- Updating and loading new content
From these detailed steps, it’s understandable now why web design and development takes so much time to complete. But this rather strenuous process when done right can help you create websites that you and your client can be truly proud of.
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