When looking to create a brand new website for your business, whether you’re improving an old one or creating one from scratch, it is vital that you adopt a good website design process. Your website is the clearest and most obvious representation of what your business is, what it provides and how you operate, and so the design of your website needs to reflect this and more. But what exactly goes into a good website design process; what are the different factors you need to consider before you begin, if you want to end up with a website that stands out from the crowd and functions smoothly?
Website Design: Planning
Arguably the most important part of a good website design process, and most processes in general, is to nail the planning. A good website needs to be built on a strong foundation of identifying your businesses (and by extension your website’s) goals, planning out everything your site will need in terms of pages and content, and understanding where these pages will sit on your website.
Before you even think about building your website, you need to have a clear understanding of what your goals are. You should consider the following questions when considering what you want to achieve with your website:
- Why are you creating this website
- What is its main purpose in terms of achieving your wider business goals?
- Who is the website for; what will the main audience of your website look like?
- What is your business’s core brand image, and how can this be expressed throughout your website?
By identifying and then understanding what the goals of your website are, you can then go about answering these questions within your website design process. Without understanding, for example, what the main goals of your website are, how can you be expected to achieve the results you want? Your website is not only an extension of your company, but also an asset that should contribute greatly to your business’s performance as a whole.
Whether you are looking at the websites of businesses that are in a similar industry as you, or looking at examples of websites that have a certain design, tone or “feel” that you are looking to execute in your own website, conducting competitor research can be a very useful tool in your website design planning. Seeing how another company in your industry has executed their brand in their website can be very helpful in providing ideas for how you want your own website to look, and can also give you some ideas on what pages you need to include, and how these pages will be structured.
Creating a Wireframe
A website wireframe is a type of plan used in any good website design process. It essentially strips websites down to their most skeletal form, and works as a visualisation of how the structure of your website will look and come together. A wireframe usually will not concern itself with things like colours and imagery on pages; but it can, depending on the level of depth you want to go into and the resources/time you have available to put into it. Typical aspects of a website wireframe include design elements of individual pages, such as where CTAs will be located, where many of the other buttons and key links will be located, where sections of the page content will be located and more.
For more information regarding website wireframes, we have written an extensive guide on what is a website wireframe.
Creating a Sitemap
A sitemap is somewhat similar to a wireframe, in that it is a more bare, lower-fidelity type of plan that website designers use to nail the structure of a website. It looks similar to a mindmap, and lists all the different pages your website will include, the relationships between these pages and how they interact with each other, which pages fit into which categories and more. A sitemap is essentially the framework around which you will begin to piece together the pages of your website.
Creating your Website
Once you have finished planning your website, having created a sitemap, a wireframe and conducted all the necessary research, the next step in the web design process is to start actually creating your website. Creating your website as a process can be split into a few distinct categories; creating visual elements of your site such as graphics and imagery, and writing the content that will go onto the pages.
Creating the Visual Elements
When it comes to the website design process, how your website looks will probably have been the most obvious thing to consider. The look and feel of your website is something that will be heavily dictated by the types of graphics and imagery you use, the colours and stylings chosen and how all of these factors are arranged on the pages themselves. Your company’s brand, tone and overall style is arguably most influenced by these visual elements, and so it is very important that you nail these aspects.
Branding & Colour
It is a given that your website will probably be taking some inspiration from your company as it exists currently; any colours or examples of iconography found in your business’s logo, a shopfront or any other kind of physical asset will likely be the way they are for a reason, and so it is essential to carry the same imagery and branding over to your website. Your website should always be a consistent reflection on what your company offers. The visual content of your website is what makes your pages “pop”, and the right design choices in the right areas can help you to drive engagement, increase clicks and even revenue. When you think of buttons and banners on websites, it is easy to see that the CTAs with more attention-grabbing designs and colours will be the ones that get clicked on the most. Aesthetically pleasing graphics and colour choices will make the pages of your website much more digestible and impactful, and can have a big impact on the mood and tone of the different pages of your website.
Imagery specifically is a crucial visual element that can make or break a website’s design. The images you choose to have on your website should be of the highest quality, giving your business a professional look, communicating across the right messages and tones to the user and also be user friendly. Poor quality images can have a negative impact in not just making your pages look worse, but also in how your website performs.
For more information on the best types of images to use for your website in terms of website performance, you should check out our blog on SVG Files in Websites.
Alongside the creation of the visual elements of your website, you will also need to produce the actual content that will populate the pages of your site. The written content of your website is incredibly important, and can influence everything from your brand identity, to your website’s ranking capabilities in SERPs (Search engine results pages). You need to consider what the purpose of a page is, and then match both the prose and the tone of your writing to this purpose.
For example, if we take a singular product page on a website, the goal is for the user to have clicked through to this product and e.g. add it to their cart for purchase. If your product pages are filled up with lines and lines of wordy, cumbersome content, all you are doing is creating barriers between the user and the purchase which have no reason to be there. In this instance, you’ll see that most products have maybe a line or two at most of simple and concise descriptive text, with clearly signposted CTAs. Conversely, a broader page such as a product category page can go into more descriptive detail, which gives you more of a chance to sell both the products and the business with your writing style and prose.
Writing high-quality content is also critical if you want to get your website to rank highly in SERPs. This is where the field of SEO comes into play. The copy of your pages should have lots of keyword research going into it that’s relevant to the topic being discussed, as well as being structured and formatted correctly.
For more information on how to write excellent on page content, you should read our blog on on page optimisation in SEO.
Testing your Website
Once your website has been all but built, you will need to complete a variety of tests to check whether or not your website is ready for launch. These tests will primarily be concerned with the technical performance of your website; uncovering any bugs or errors in the coding, issues with specific page elements being unoptimised such as Meta Titles and Descriptions, and more. There are a variety of helpful tools that you can use to check for these issues, including:
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog's SEO Spider is a website crawler tool that checks through every single page of your website. It is incredibly helpful in highlighting a wide range of SEO and technical issues with your site in one go.
- Search Console: Google Search Console is a service that lets users check the index status of the pages of their websites, as well as check for any errors and bugs that you may have missed.
- PageSpeed Insights: Google PageSpeed Insights allows you to measure your website’s overall page speed. It does this by analysing the content on a web page and also generates helpful suggestions to make them run faster.
If you are looking to perform a sitewide check on your website, we would recommend our blog on Technical SEO Audits, which goes into detail on some of the many things that can and may go wrong within your website from a technical standpoint- and how you can fix them.
Once you have completed all of these steps, correctly planned out your web design build from the beginning, created all of the necessary content and visual components, and tested your website for bugs and errors- you should be good to launch! The journey isn’t complete however, as your website now exists in an organic, constantly-shifting world with new innovations being made daily. To keep your new website performing at its best, you may find it worthwhile investing in digital marketing activities, such as SEO, Social and PPC. If you have any specific ideas in mind for how you’d like to maintain your website, you can always get in touch with the team at Digital Mast and shoot us a message.