You aren’t sure why, but your business’s websites always seem to miss the mark. You are certain that you’re doing everything right: you hire the greatest hot shot web designer you know of, who goes right to work without bothering you a bit until the site is done. That’s the right way to do it, yeah?
That screeching sound you just heard was me trying to slam the brakes on your thought train, because that is the absolute wrong way to go about website design. Here, let me explain to you how a website design should do be done and provide the perfect system to design the perfect website
Stop, Look, and Listen
First, you need to collaborate with your web designer and find out what you need, and what the strategy and goals are of your online presence. After all, would you have much respect for a grocery store that sent you right out the door with a bag of groceries they thought you wanted, without even talking to you about it?
Of course not, and the same holds true with web design—the web designer has to talk to the client, and find out what their objectives are, what the purpose of the site is, and what content and feature requirements they have. Once that’s done, the designer can take care of the part you’re really interested in—getting the website built under budget! And, of course, the timeline, scope, and ownership rights.
Research and Inspiration
All of that done, your designer should next do some research. He or she will create some user personas to try to get into the mind of the target audience, and look at similar websites for design ideas, inspiration, and a feeling for what the your industry usually does and doesn’t do with their websites.
The next step for the designer is to create a sitemap, or a flowchart of all of the pages in the site. It’s often helpful to create a flowchart of the navigation structure and the user experience, so the site will flow as smoothly as possible.
With those steps out of the way, it’s design time.
Create the Prototype
The designer starts out by doing a mock-up of the layout and intended functionality of the site, including the use of logos and other brand assets as well as the actual page layout. He or she needs this to work with you, the business owner, to create a page that is user-friendly and looks professional and polished, not slapped together by a teenager with a copy of Microsoft Publisher.
Mock-up in hand, the designer comes back to you has as you review what a prototype of the website with before they ever start coding. That way, the designer doesn’t dive into the nuts and bolts of your design before you say that is what you want. Otherwise, it’s a lot like going into an automobile sales floor expecting to see a shiny new Corvette, when they’ve really built you a four-door sedan.
Design the Site
Once you’ve approved the mock-up, then (and only then) should the designer start coding. The designer should make sure to code your site the way you are expecting to see it, or else you’ll be back to that idea of being sold a sedan when what you really want is a Corvette. He or she should be sure to code smarter, not harder, making use of the appropriate application frameworks or content management systems, and adding in all the appropriate features (like a shopping cart, live chat, or a contact form).
Test Before Launching!
Before the site goes live, the designer will make sure to thoroughly test the website. He or she will run different diagnostic tests to look for bugs, broken links, spelling errors, and so forth. They will also also test the site in multiple browsers, to make sure it’s compatible with them. Finally, once everything is running and polished, then the designer can hand the website off to you and collect that fat (or not so fat, if you’ve negotiated well) paycheck!