Planning your website design – a guide to understanding the process.
Good website design and development starts off with a discussion. We’re often asked how much a website will cost – and the truth is that without a discussion, we can’t tell. I’m wary of designers who offer websites at cut rates, or even for free (with a hosting option). At best, you’ll get an educated guess of what you may require, but it’s most likely you will get a cheap template with a bit of text and a badly placed logo.
We believe that we need to work on the functionality and design of your website before starting the design – only then will we know the correct route to follow.
Step 1: Briefing your website designer
Before briefing your web design agency on your website, you should do some research to understand what you want. This doesn’t need to be a full-scale investigation, but you should have a basic idea of what you are looking for, or else your design team will be stabbing in the dark! Don’t feel you need to over complicate it – some of the best sites are the most simple ones!
Another way to think about your website is to equate it to planning a new kitchen. There are a few stages in planning a new kitchen. The first is deciding and choosing what you want. A double-sink and an island? A cellar attached, or if you have budget restrictions and instead have a built-in wine rack. Do you want a modern kitchen? Or a country French-style?
We will supply you with a brief form which will help to guide you through the thought process and clearly communicate what you want.
Step 2: Navigational / structural website sitemap
This is a sitemap that your website designer should work out with you. Put simply, it’s a map to your website! It’s the directions and functionality you want for your site. If your website design is not planned we
ll from the start, your website could become a jumbled journey that achieves nothing except frustration.
Once you know what you want, a preliminary plan is drawn up. This is your sitemap.
Back to our kitchen analogy with your sitemap. It is where we plan your navigation (positioning of cupboards etc). Your navigation is how many pages, what the pages are and what goes on them.
We plan your functionality. An island with a seating area? A pizza oven? (we wish!). Website functionality is, well, how your website functions! Do you want a contact form? Do you want an online shop or e-commerce facility? How about a blog, and pulling the latest blog posts from your news page and onto your home page. These factors are decided on before we start the design. Depending on your chosen route and budget, we may do full mock-ups first, or we may do a live design (whereby it’s built on the go).
Good website design starts in your head first, then in your functionality, and only then can we determine how it will look.
Step 3: Building your website
Once we’ve designed the sitemap, we then start the build. This consists of building each page, the navigation; the text and image containers and the functional bits (contact forms, latest news etc). This is not a quick process, so that’s why we won’t start the build without a signed-off sitemap.
In our imaginary kitchen, this is where we are building the cupboards, cutting the wood and assembling the various elements required for our kitchen. It’s a shell, or wireframe, of your final website / kitchen. It’s unlikely we’ll show you any updates during this phase as, well, it’s not going to look like the final kitchen!
Step 4: Website design & content
Wait, only now? Yes and no. Whilst the design started in our heads from the moment we started to plan this project, only now do we start actually to introduce the brand and design features.
This is the part where we incorporate your brand. Getting the colours right to match your logo. Doing the graphics for the headers and pages. See how balanced it is, and how it flows. Ensuring it matches and enhances your brand.
In your kitchen, this is where we put the cupboard doors on. The stone counter top, the tiled backsplash and that gorgeous chandelier.
We add in your content (what is going into your cupboards). This is another whole (BIG) subject on its own, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll keep this to a minimum. And aim to blog that story at a later stage!
Step 5: Test and clean up
Finally, before we go live, we check the website. We test it on other devices and browsers to make sure it works on all platforms. We double-check the pages to make sure the links and functionality work. It’s like cleaning the kitchen and checking that the tap works before the final reveal!
Step 6: Go live and enjoy!
Finally, we go live! Depending on your hosting setup this could take up to 48 hours (eg. if you are doing a host transfer). We’ll often do this over a weekend to minimise downtime.
Final words for planning your website design:
Going back to our kitchen scenario, now you will understand why it’s important not to change your sitemap after you have signed it off. Imagine you have agreed on your kitchen and now it’s built. The counters are installed and the plumbing is done. The cupboards are hung and the tiles have been fitted. Can you make a change? Sure, but it will come with associated time and cost implications as it requires certain parts to be overhauled.
Plan your website design carefully and you will be rewarded with a beautiful and functional website which you’ll be proud to own. Watch our video about planning your new website here.