Website Design Process: A Unified Perspective
Achieving an optimal website design requires a strategy that aligns with the goals of the business it represents. When approaching web design, many jump right to the ‘design‘ portion. Thoughts of imagery, interactivity, and dynamic visuals come to mind. To attain the ideal UX, before entering this exciting design phase, the strategy and wireframing process should take place, with web designers taking a first step in projects through a layout strategy to suit the needs of the client and user. When discussing a site design, many think that a website is a one size fits all approach, and if not guided correctly, end up with an informational site that ends up having to be redesigned as soon as company needs change.
Whether designer, developer, project stakeholder or client, it’s important to understand the technical aspects such as layout, wireframes, code, and content strategy and management. Understanding the process being entered can assist in narrowing focus and determining the ideal user experience. Working with a team to design it accordingly is critical to a successful launch, timely and relevant site.
In determining a well-rounded online marketing strategy, the website design process should include:
All stakeholders must determine what goals the website needs to meet and work back from there to get to project definition and scope. Upon establishing a working knowledge of the brand and its attributes, the team should identify the target users to determine the best pathways to reach this audience. Asset gathering at the onset of a project to ensure content, imagery and identity materials are consistent and in formats required for web based formatting. If additional photography, curation, identity development or content has to be organized, created or strategized – this is the time to assess those needs and assign accountabilities to avoid delays in during the process.
Wireframing & Layout
Wireframing is the ideal way to plan the layout and interaction strategy of an interface. While there are no ‘bells and whistles’ with images and content, it’s necessary to enable a simplistic visual representation of how the site will be structured before the creative phases begin. For many custom sites, layout type is not a concern and responsive web design is chosen above all else, but in some instances, a fluid, static or dynamic layout could be implemented. In addition to layout, this is the time when navigational structure and site architecture can be determined. At this point, buy in from clients and stakeholders is necessary to move to next phases in the project.
The visual design is generally driven by the branding elements and content determined earlier in the process, but it’s now the designers time to take those materials and make them truly stand out. Whether leveraging new trends in layout, interactivity, video or imagery – the designer must process the information provided and put those assets to work. It’s not only their job to make the interface look pleasing, it’s critical that the site communicate a message, build trust, serve the user and deliver conversions.
It’s one thing to design a site interface, but another thing altogether to realize it in web form. Ideally, a development team should be in close contact, even collaboration with the designer or creative team throughout the design phase. This ensures that all designs presented are possible to make happen in the development phase. In addition to representing the client and their goals and well as their targeted user, the site must be in line with relevant industry, device, and mobile specifications and if applicable, e-commerce and CMS platform standards. A basic working SEO structure should include meta titles and descriptions to help the performance of each page on a search engine.
Testing & Launch
Each page should be tested to ensure proper loading, speed and linking across device and browser type. Simple errors in code can lead to big problems in user experience and can be easily avoided with testing that takes very little time. Planning for a ‘soft’ launch for internal team members during a time of low traffic (night or weekend) can ease the burden of problems during a public launch. Asking stakeholders to move through the site as a client would is an ideal way to uncover issues that require easy fixes. Sites almost always need tweaking within the time frame after launch and can be handed over as soon as the initial period of testing and launch is completed.
With the right team working in collaboration, following a web design process from assessment to launch will ensure a UX-friendly website that aligns with business needs and can grow with the business it represents.