Quality web design is much more than building a website, and having a step-by-step approach to web design projects shows all the work and skill involved in developing a successful online presence. Maybe you’ve never thought about your approach to the web design process in these terms, but maybe the outline in this post can help shape your own.
Potential web design clients may be new to understanding how the website design process works. Educating clients on your web design process is a great chance to demonstrate your expertise, credibility, and authority in providing websites that get results. In this post, we’ll break down the website design process into 6 steps.
Step 1: Discover
The Discover phase of the web design process is all about information-gathering. This step is important for you to understand more about your client’s business and industry, their target market and customers, and the ultimate goal/aim for the website.
While it’s easy to skip the discovery and planning steps and jump right into design, these first two steps are critical to building the correct website for a client’s needs.
Questions to Ask Your Clients During This Step:
- What does your business or organization do?
- What sets your business or organization apart from your competition?
- Who are your competitors?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Describe the concept, project or service this site is intended to provide or promote.
- What is the goal of your website?
During the Discovery phase, you can better gauge the chemistry between you and the potential client, investigate the working conditions you will have with the potential client, and estimate the scope of the project.
Step 2: Plan
Just like information-gathering, the planning step of website design is a critical part of launching a new website. As designers, it’s easy to want to jump right into the design step, since that’s the most creative (and enjoyable) part of a project. But, ultimately, research and planning will help clarify your objectives for the website and guide your design, so spend a generous amount of time in this stage of the process. Just like the saying, “measure twice, cut once,” spending time on website planning is a good investment that will ultimately save you time and even money in the long-run.
During the planning phase, you’ll want to review or create an SEO strategy for the website. Since websites often organize lots of information into a user-friendly format, this is also a good time to get an idea of missing content before you start designing anything. The planning phase also helps clients understand their role in meeting deadlines with content so the launch process isn’t held up.
The planning phase of website design includes 3 basic tasks:
1. Review or Create an SEO Strategy
2. Create the Website Sitemap
3. Content Review & Development
Step 3: Design
The third step of the web design process is to design how the website will look. In this step, a website wireframe is created with basic web page elements such as the header, navigation, widgets, etc. The wireframe can then be moved into a more realistic mockup using a program such as Photoshop.
The challenge of good web design, like all design, is balancing form and function. Use the information you gathered in the Discover and Plan steps to shape your design. Good web designers have intention behind every design decision.
Design should also accommodate content. Content often accommodates design instead, and content ends up receiving very little attention. Website content is the number one thing you want viewers to notice. For each page design, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the main goal of the page?
- Is it clear to users what action they need to take?
- How does the design encourage users to take an action?
Finally, use the Design step to finalize the overall look of the website with the client and discuss decisions for colors, typography, and imagery. Confirm the design with the client before moving on to any development.
Step 4: Develop
In the Develop step, the website design is translated to actual code that makes the website work. This stage can be the most lengthy, so keep clients informed on the status of the project.
The basic steps of website development include:
- Install WordPress on a localhost or testing server.
- Install a starter WordPress theme.
- Install a WordPress backup plugin like Backup Buddy. Running a backup plugin during development makes it easy to 1) revert file changes and 2) move the site to the live domain or server for launch.
- Using the mockup, translate the design to the live site.
- Test and optimize along the way
Step 5: Launch
Finally, it’s time to launch the website. Since there are so many steps involved in launching a website, it’s a good idea to use a checklist to make sure you haven’t missed a step.
Step 6: Maintain
This last and final step of web design is often overlooked by freelancers, but website maintenance is important for the long-term health and success of a website.
On a basic level, a WordPress maintenance service includes the following necessary actions to keep a WordPress site running smoothly:
- WordPress Updates
- Theme and Plugin Updates
- WordPress Backups
- WordPress Security
- Analytics Tracking & Reporting
- WordPress Hosting
A Smooth Website Design Process
By following the 6-step outline above, the website design process should go more smoothly. With a little research and planning, your website design will be more informed. By following a checklist for development and launch, you won’t miss crucial steps. And finally, maintaining a website protects the investment made in building the website. Ultimately, clients will be more satisfied with their experience and see the value in their website.