The website design process can be mysterious and daunting; so many decisions to make about the look, what to say, what pictures to use, etc. But, having a website is essential to doing business. Here we break down the website design process into 4 steps and include tips to help you get through each step.
Step 1: PLANNING PHASE
This is where we work through all the details that you want for your website. This is where we ask a series of questions: What is the purpose of your website? What do you want your website to do? What information is important for your customers to know? Who is your target market? This is the most daunting phase because there is a lot of information that you need to sift through in order to figure out what is most important to you. Here are some helpful tips to get your through this phase:
- Know who your target customer is. We talk about how to do that in another blog post: Know your Ideal Client to Get Better Business. This will help you know what information you need to have on your website.
- Look at the sites in your industry. Take a look at your competitor sites or leading sites in your industry. Look at their site structure (what pages they have), their content (what information do they have on their site), do they have any cool functionalities (ability to purchase products/services, wish lists, customized contact forms, downloads, integrations, etc.). Make a list of things you like and thigs you don’t like. This will help the designer get a good understanding of your design preferences.
- Send your designer your logo as soon as possible. The look and feel of your logo should be incorporated into the overall design. Colors in the logo should be used throughout the website. You can tell when the logo of certain websites must have been added at the last minute because it doesn’t flow with the overall design.
This phase can be the most taxing but it will help the rest of the process go much faster.
Step 2: WEBSITE WIREFRAME PHASE
This is when the designer takes all the information provided above and does a mockup. While designers typically start with the homepage, most also mockup other essential pages like the product page, portfolio page, service page, etc. This helps you see what the site will look like before the website is coded. You will often receive mockups as jpegs so you won’t be able to click any links. Here are some helpful tips for this phase:
- Your initial reaction can say a lot about how you feel about the website. Never settle for, “Maybe it will grow on me.”
- Ask your friends, family, or those who would use your product and/or services for their input. Having someone give an outside opinion can be really helpful.
- Give specific feedback on what you like and what you don’t like. It is helpful for the designer to hear your likes and dislikes to ensure the end design is exactly what you’re looking for.
- There is no pressure to give an immediate response. Take your time to look through what the web designer has sent you and provide thoughtful feedback.
- Be open to having a conversation. There are many times when clients will want to make changes that the designer knows will have a negative effect on the website’s usability, site speed, or aesthetics that could hurt your website in the long run. Your website designers want to give you a site that you are not only happy with, but also helps you effectively sell your products and services.
There might be several rounds of mockups done in order to get the look that you want. It is essential to make sure that you feel comfortable with your mockups. Future changes can become costly.
Step 3: SOFT LAUNCH PHASE
This phase is often broken up into separate stages depending on how large the website is. At this point the mockups are coded, which means the website is being built on a test server. When the first stage is reached the website designer will send you a link where you can view the progress on the site. They will go over what work has been accomplished and you will be able to see the functionality of the site. Here are some helpful tips to get you through this phase:
- Just like the last phase, take the time to go through what has been presented and let the designer know what you like and what you don’t like. Some people rush through these stages because they are eager to launch their site, but you want to make sure the website looks and functions well to suit your needs.
- Have other people test the functionality of the site to make sure a customer wouldn’t have issues navigating the site, making a purchase, contacting you, etc.
Step 4: FINAL REVIEW PHASE
This is when you review the entirety of the site before it’s launched. The site should have all the agreed upon aspects of the site completed. This is the time when you make sure everything is working and someone has proof-read the pages. This can be daunting because you are so close to launch, but you want to make sure that all the information is correct. At this stage the designer should also do cross-browser testing to make sure that the site looks and functions well on all the major browsers and makes sure the site is mobile friendly.
Step 5: WEBSITE LAUNCH!
Now your site goes live! The web designer will move your website onto your hosting count. They will do another round of testing to make sure there aren’t any issues.
BIG HELPFUL TIP HERE…
The biggest tip we can give you that will really help your designer in each phase is to give as many corrections as you can at one time. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had clients send 10-20 emails listing one or two changes each. Sending fewer emails with more changes listed per email helps designers keep track of what needs to be done. Another solution, if both you and the designer have Gmail, is to have a shared Googledoc. This would allow both you and the designer to have one location where you can reference which update needs to be made. If you do you this your website designer will LOVE you!
It can be stressful having a website designed but the right designer can make the process fairly painless. It is essential for you and your designer to work as a team so that your website works for your company.