There are many layers and processes you need to go through to make your website a successful, business-generating marketing tool. Website design and functionality must complement your brand to get the interactions you need to achieve your business goals. Whether you want to sell a product or service, or just want to educate your audience, your website needs to look good and function well to keep visitors engaged.
Web design involves much more than aesthetics. It involves the planning and execution of an interactive tool that meets your objectives in a way that is tailored for your target audience.
So, what does that mean exactly? Let’s gain a better understanding by looking at the steps and overall workflow to creating a website.
1. Define your website objectives and target audience
Hold a discovery session, write down what you would like to accomplish with your website and compare it to the needs of your target audience. As part of this process, find examples of other sites you really like whether it be design or functionality and use them as inspiration. At this point, you should have clear direction on which type of website to create and be able to identify your requirements and any special functionality you will need. Special functionality may include a CMS (Content Management System) or a shopping cart for e-commerce. Requirements and functionality are the first step of building any website because of the integral role they play not only in website design, but also website development.
2. Create an information architecture and wireframe
Information architectures and wireframes, that’s a mouthful. Similar to how architects need blueprints before they can start building a house, web designers need an information architecture before they can start building a website. Once you have a rough draft of your content, start planning the structure and flow of your site and how it should navigate. This same process applies if you are updating/re-designing your existing site. How your content is organized affects the design. Your site’s navigation, content organization, and the amount of pages needed to clearly convey your focus are all related to properly organizing content before you can move on to the design phase.
To create a wireframe, consider the layout of your website’s pages. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What will be on your homepage (ex: rotating image slider or a news section)?
- How will your pages adapt for new content?
- How will your navigation work?
- What will your internal pages look like?
- How will your pages flow?
- How will you display your content so it is easy to follow?
Once you answer these questions, you can start thinking about content and visual components.
3. Develop content and make it central to your website design
Develop content that is relevant, clear, and simple for your users to find and understand, while keeping in mind Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Remember, your website design should reflect the content that lives on the page. If you design your site before developing content, you will put limits on what you can write, and this could create barriers and extra costs for you down the road. So, before you start the design phase, make sure you’ve written some well-thought-out, target specific content remembering the “less is more” principle.
4. Design a site mockup
Site mockups – ah, we are getting there. Time to get creative! Create a style board that represents the overall look and feel of your site, including graphical treatments, colours, and typefaces, and most importantly, don’t forget to keep in consideration how all these elements work with your brand. Take your wireframe and start applying your style board to your design mockups. Add some colour, insert images, apply your brand visuals, and start placing your content. Give your homepage special attention, as it’s usually the first page a client sees. Mockup a few internal pages to show how your style board will be applied. Remember: less is more, and consistency is key. A clean website design will help keep your users engaged and focused.
5. Build your website
Almost there! You have all the tools and materials you need, so get building. How you build your site will depend on the type of website you are creating, and the functionality you will need. Don’t forget to implement analytics before you launch. As you are building, test your site rigorously to ensure everything is working and displaying properly across all browsers and devices, including mobile.
We have liftoff, people! But hey, that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and roll around in the dough. You will need to watch and analyze how users are navigating and interacting with your site so you can continue to improve it. What’s working? What’s not working? Take a look at your website’s analytics and identify where your site is performing its best so you can learn the most effective ways to target your audience. Just like a rocket would need regular maintenance, your website does too. You’ll need to continue to monitor your website after launch so you can quickly resolve any bugs or glitches that may arise. More importantly, updating your content to keep your site optimized and relevant will help improve your organic rankings on search engines such as Yahoo and Google. Maintenance and updates are necessary to keep your site performing at its best – so make sure you are checking in on your site regularly.
Understanding and identifying your goals, audience, and requirements will help you design a site that is a consistent, virtually flawless user experience and will contribute to the long-term success of your business. So, before you start building, get out your pen and paper and hash out a plan!
Need some help planning your dream site?
Have a question about interactive multimedia or planning a website? Tweet @AcartComm