Starting a website designing project without knowing the intrinsics of the process itself is a shot in the air. If the steps towards a highly functioning site aren’t aligned with each other and aren’t serving the same purpose, the overall strategy won’t work, and the resource will not bring the desired results.
To avoid that, design teams follow a set of guidelines that ensure that all elements of the scope of work are connected. Requirements concerning everything — starting from visuals and wireframes to the front end need to be communicated clearly. Otherwise, the website will be clunky, awkward, and cluttered.
But how to streamline the process in a way that will ensure that there will be no further problems and follow-up work? What are the steps to designing a site? What is the most effective way of arranging them? Our corporate web development company has prepared this article so that you can find out answers to these and many other essential questions.
What is the starting point of the process? Since the design team is only embarking on the journey, the first step is a discovery phase during which designers learn what they’re expected to achieve by conducting a kick-off meeting with the clients. It is an essential step since both sides get to know each other and see if they can work together.
Then, the design team and business analyst study the company and the industry, define the challenges, and come up with possible solutions. After that, they carry out the competitor analysis and examine the target audience to decide on the features and tools for the platform. All of this helps to identify the stages and goals for the overall project.
With background knowledge and preparatory work, it’s easier to determine what steps will bring to a website that can fulfill the client’s business needs and goals. Without proper design planning, the project can lead to a lot of mistakes and unnecessary actions, making it time-consuming and expensive. This stage will help both sides to determine the solution to the core issue the client has and wants to overcome with the help of a web platform.
Who is involved in the process
The structure of a web design process team varies from one project to another and depends on anything starting from the size of the company to the budget it allocates to specific projects. Usually, it includes several main actors.
On the client-side, it can engage various professionals such as a marketing manager, a sponsor, or a project manager. In smaller companies, this can all be the same person who initiates the creation of the project, approves the deliverables and deadlines, gives the feedback, works with the implementation team, and sets up the budget.
On the implementation side, the team can include a myriad of people but usually, it consists of:
- a product manager – responsible for communicating with the client and setting up the project plan
- UI/UX designers – create wireframes, mockups, user flows, and basically translate your needs into visual solutions
- web developers – bring the projects to life, ensuring the client-user relationship is stable and secure
- a QA specialist – assesses the website’s performance and identifies bugs or areas that need to be fixed
The team can include additional professionals depending on the nature of the business, the company’s requirements, or their practices but starting a web design project without those people wouldn’t seem possible.
The web design brief
Here comes one of the most vital steps – working on a web design brief that will jumpstart the whole process. The brief contains the desired outcome that the client expects from a web design agency, so it is crucial to do it as thoroughly and carefully as possible.
It is a critical step for several reasons. First of all, the brief will outline the needs, requirements, and objectives of the website. To do that, it must include details about the business, its target audience, intended effect on the users, and the website’s main function – whether it is informing, describing, selling, or interacting.
Secondly, the brief helps to define the foundation for the project definition in the further steps. Do you need a mobile version of the website? Should it have a mobile-first or responsive design? How is the content going to be structured? What would that content be?
Thirdly, the brief sets a schedule for the scope of work. It predetermines deadlines, the major stages of development, the budget, and the team members. Usually, market research and competitor analysis are conducted as well to be aware of the tendencies and trends in the industry.
Finally, the brief answers a question: what is the purpose of the project? Is it simply a website or a starting point for your business journey? How is it coordinated with your branding strategy? What is the context of the platform? The brief will become a blueprint for the whole project and for every single step along the way.
A poorly defined brief won’t bring you the design of your dreams. On the contrary – you will lose time, money, and energy. Make sure that doesn’t happen by developing a solid and detailed brief that will become the basis for everything that follows.
Goal and scope identification
Now it is time to develop a scope definition that will determine all the crucial steps. A project scope with well-defined deadlines and deliverables is needed to help teams to track the progress, move towards the objective smoothly, and avoid so-called scope creep. It happens when project results aren’t strictly defined, and changes that expand the scope are constantly being made during the working process that inevitably leads to time and revenue losses.
In order to set a goal, you have to know the base notes you are going to work with. Questions that need to be answered and formulated during this step include: what is the purpose of the website? What do clients expect from it? How should it work? What is the message of the website? Is there any competitor site to serve as an example? The answers to these questions will be useful for outlining the further steps and adhering to a specific plan of action.
When the goal is identified, it will be easier to determine the scope of the project. The main issue here is to move along the goal as closely as possible. If you set out to create a website – focus on website-related objectives. If suddenly either side decides that the website is too easy and tries to put other tasks on top – break them down into several scopes and projects. Thus, your team won’t have to deal with an ever-expanding workload and unrealistic expectations.
There are ways that help to remain on that clear goal-reaching path, primarily, tracking management tools and software, such as Asana or Trello, or a simple Gantt chart that registers the project landmarks and helps to move through deadlines more smoothly and efficiently.
Define your brand style
It is not a secret that consistent branding – applying the same brand attributes for all products, solutions, and across all platforms – increases revenue up to 23%. Ignoring such fringe benefits can be detrimental to your business, especially considering that branding and corporate identity services are among the most demanded in the industry.
How to define your brand identity? It all starts with the vision – what your brand represents and how it can appeal to the audiences. This step starts long before the creation of the website and includes working on such things as logo, typography, color schemes, marketing materials, illustrations, extending to having a brand style guide that will make sure that your brand is distinguishable. If the brand style isn’t clearly defined, customers won’t be able to recognize your company and discern it from millions of others.
Of course, this step is optional if the client already has a set of established brand elements. In that case, here is your chance to get acquainted with them and delve deeper into the project to ensure better results.
With goals and methods determined, we can move on to the planning-out stage. Here, the main objective is to create a solid foundation for the future website. As we’re starting to build a platform, it’s vital to have a structure to fall back on when it’s time to flesh it out.
Creating wireframes and a sitemap is what develops this foundation. With the help of those, web designers will be able to implement the overall idea, arrange information architecture and fully incorporate the content you’re planning to build into the platform. Usually, they do it with the help of wireframing tools, such as Justinmind or Adobe XD. However, you don’t need a complex tool for wireframing – some designers simply do it using sheets of paper or Apple Pencils.
Wireframes don’t include a set of final visual elements but serve as a blueprint for how the website is going to look. They determine the structure and how website elements are to be organized, making it easier to distribute the content in the later steps. Also, during a wireframing stage, it’s possible to detect various gaps – whether in functionality, user journey, content hierarchy – and avoid making mistakes that can impede the design process drastically.
With wireframes being ready, it’s time to create actual mockups. You might ask: what is the difference between the two? It’s quite simple: wireframes outline the website conceptually, while mockups include visual features and fully show how the website is going to look like when it’s finished.
Since mockups present a more specific and close-to-real-life look, they urge design teams to utilize more complex programs and software, such as Figma, Sketch, or Webflow. These tools allow designers to create layouts that look exactly like the final product and give the most detailed description of how they’re going to work in the end.
During the mockup stage, the design team creates the majority of web pages for the future platform – starting from a homepage to the service pages and a contact page. It’s better to already have the content for those pages at this point to see how they fit into the layout and alter the formats or sizes if something goes wrong.
The mockup stage is where your future website starts to evolve and turn into a platform with a uniform style and its own visual language. Also, it is time to include the most crucial page elements into the design, such as CTAs, graphics that direct users, or functional icons – anything that is needed to ensure the user experience will be as full and engaging as possible.
At this point, the website is finally beginning to flesh out. It is time to employ all the branding principles and create visual elements that will define your client’s company and turn the website into a fully-fledged business incentive.
Good web design should be both appealing and easy to use. Achieving this balance between form and function can be tricky, so remembering the reason behind every design move is imperative. Good design serves to direct users to the content or urge them to take action, and it shouldn’t overpower everything else.
There is a set of web design elements that are generally present across all websites. There can be more, but those are essential to the web design process. They include:
- the color scheme that reflects the company’s branding and sets up the mood and general feel of the website
- the typography that is aligned with the company’s style and is not encumbering text, making it easy to read and decipher
- the spacing that creates a specific rhythm of comprehension and breaks the content down for better readability
- the imagery that includes icons, illustrations, photos, shapes, and various visual elements that showcase the product or service and give a better understanding of their usage
- different moving features like animations, videos, and VR that provide a more real-life perspective
- a navigation box and a sitemap to plow through the content easily and seamlessly
- CTAs, buttons, information boxes, and other elements that elicit direct action from the users
On top of those elements, remember to ensure that the web design you’re creating is flexible and responsive. With mobile usage growing rapidly, it’s crucial to create layouts that are going to be equally informative, captivating, and functioning across all platforms and devices.
Another vital aspect that needs to be addressed is user experience and how easy it is to navigate and use the website. It doesn’t only concern how well it works and looks, but how quick and convenient it is for the users to flow through and jump from one page to another and never get lost. In order to achieve this, UI designers might go over several different versions of the website that both sides need to agree on and make sure that it is handed over to the development team without any serious flaws.
Server setup & configuration
Setting up a server is one of the first steps to bring your website to launch. The primary purpose of a web server is to store, process, and give access to the web pages that are requested by the users. Having website content seen for the viewers is impossible without a web server and hosting, so it’s wise to pick them carefully.
Web designers will choose the best hosting based on several factors:
- functionality – some hosting and server options can restrict the content and feature scope of the website
- security – making sure that you and the website users are free from cyber attacks is crucial
- budget – sometimes hosting services can be on the expensive side, so it might be reasonable to get a shared web hosting service
- performance – loading speed and successful technical support might be hindered by an inadequate web server choice
All in all, most web design agencies know perfectly well how to assess risks in picking a hosting service, and they will happily advise you on an option that fits your needs. If you’re still unsure about it, make sure to contact our web designers, who will provide you with their expertise and share their experience.
CMS setup & configuration
If the website you’re creating contains any information or content, it’s obvious that at some point you’re going to edit it. In order to do that, you will need a tool that can do that – a content management system (CMS).
CMSs have different functions and can carry out different tasks, but their primary purpose in the website design process is to allow you to introduce changes, control how the content is distributed, and maintain the same level of functionality.
Web designers will make sure to choose a CMS that’s most effective for a specific web design project. Usually, among the most necessary characteristics of a CMS are:
- content editor
- flexibility and easy and quick administration
- security and reliability
- easiness of use
- having extra capabilities such as allowing different plugins and third-party integrations
If the CMS configuration is complex, it might take a while to set up to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises when the website is launched. Also, the web design team will carry out a training session for the client-side employees so that they will be able to support the website and the configuration themselves and without any problems.
Now it is time to pack the website with the content. Sometimes the client already has the majority of the content ready to be integrated into the platform, but frequently it has to be built up from scratch. In this case, it is paramount to understand what the content is there for and how it is better to produce it to fit your business needs.
There are three primary purposes of the website content. The first one is to provide information about the product or service. This one is quite simple: it includes photos or images that showcase the product, descriptions of how it looks and works, and other data on the usefulness and quality of the solution. The client’s side can provide the content of this type in collaboration with the design team.
The second purpose of the content is to elicit action. It includes texts in CTAs, compelling phrasing, various icons, and typographic elements – anything that can attract viewers’ attention and make them want to click pages and get in contact. This type of content is primarily developed by the designers and marketers who make sure that the information is aligned with the company’s tone of voice and brand style.
The third purpose that content serves is SEO. The website has to rank high in the search engines, so it is easier for the users to find. A detailed content plan and an SEO strategy can help boost that. The marketing team will work on determining the keywords and phrases, using the best industry practices on boosting SEO performance, developing the link- and blog-building activities, and accommodating the content appropriately using the most innovative tools.
Once the content of all three types is done, it has to be reviewed and altered – with so many different authors and contributors, the overall tone of the platform can seem offbeat and idiosyncratic. The unified and homogenous style of the website in all respects is what works in your favor.
When the content is ready to be uploaded, web developers are ready to begin their portion of the work and turn the mockups into code using a framework or a CMS. This phase can be divided into several parts:
#1 Implementing the design
The first step is coding the content of the website – both for the web platform and the mobile one. The web developers will work on the database and the back end development, creating a foundation for the site’s architecture and internal logic. If there are areas that don’t have mockups created for them, the web developers will build them up.
#2 Ensuring the functionality is intact
How the website works doesn’t only concern the design part. If the user accesses any external links, clicks on menus and navigation elements, it all needs to work perfectly, and the developers will provide the website’s flawless performance. If your website needs any additional features, it is time to develop them. They will also check the website’s loading speed to see that there are no delaying or interfering elements that might hurt the website’s efficiency.
#3 Apply SEO mechanisms
For the website to appear high on the search results, web developers will make sure to incorporate different SEO practices such as:
- including semantic markup
- compressing the images and other media elements
- managing the titles and descriptions of the pages
- adding canonical tags
- using structured data blocks that help search engines to understand the essence of the content, etc.
#4 Guaranteeing the security
A safe and secure website that doesn’t allow any cyber-attacks and capture of sensitive user data such as passwords, addresses, and other private user information is a must. Web developers check the code and all the features to see that there are no defective elements or vulnerabilities that might provoke a leak.
When all these parts are done, the client will give their team’s feedback, and if there aren’t any issues, the testing phase will begin.
Going live without preliminary checking that everything is working like a clock can lead to disastrous results: users calling you up to yell at you, you losing lots of money, and subsequently having to start all over again. No one wants that, right?
It is better to employ a team of external professionals who haven’t been involved in the design process before to get a more fresh perspective and look at the website as a user. They will check the website’s functionality, security, usability, interface, and performance and ensure that there are no issues with accessing the website and using its features.
On top of that, they will examine the platform’s compatibility: how it works within different browsers, devices, and operating systems, and how well the website’s functionality is transmitted across all of them.
It is vitally important to do the testing several times before the launch to fully remove any possibility for certain issues to reoccur. It is also a good idea to check the SEO-related data: meta descriptions, titles, images – anything that can impede the SEO performance of a website or affect how search engines index your web pages.
The launching step is one of the most exciting parts of the whole website building process. You’re finally ready to go live! After the internal testing, the team can collaborate with the client on checking if the end result fits the initial objectives. They go over all pages to look for gaps or functionality problems and see if there are any user experience issues.
Besides the deliverables, the design team will conduct the training if needed and provide all the documentation, passwords and mockups, and anything that might deem necessary for the client in the maintenance stage.
Also, the launch phase is the time to go over the SEO-related data and techniques to finalize them and install some tracking and analytical tools, such as Google Analytics. They will help to evaluate the website’s performance, retention rates, and how the user behavior changes so that you can introduce the required alterations swiftly and efficiently.
Not trying to interrupt your victory dance, but we feel obliged to notice: the launching step is not the final stage of the web design workflow. From here on out, you’re up for a long and arduous process of constant updating, checking, inspecting, counting, exploding, crying, and begging – and it’s all going to be fun, we promise!
Even though the content is already developed and the website is tested and launched, it does not mean you can sit back and relax. Any business goes through change, and every tool it uses, including a website, must reflect that.
It is normal to add something unique, create new pages, alter what you already have to fit the trends in the industry or your audience’s needs. With that in mind, remember to monitor your results and see how they coordinate with your goals, observe your user behavior, and examine the stumbling blocks that prevent you from growing.
Along with that, it’s good to know that sometimes stuff just breaks down and it’s totally normal – in that case, be sure to apply the training you’ve been given at the previous stages or engage the team you’ve worked with to troubleshoot and perform occasional performance and A/B testing to foresee the potential for growth in terms of conversions, link building, and different metrics stats.
Don’t forget that the maintenance stage is a period with no closure – any digital product is always ongoing, ready to thrive in volatile and unstable business cycles. Buckle up and embrace the unpredictability!
Why do you need to follow these steps
After reading so much of this text and almost losing your mind, you might ask yourself a logical question: why do I need to follow this guide? What are the advantages of applying this methodology? The main reason is that it allows for transparency and clear and exact deadlines that won’t make the project turn into an endless escapade.
There are some other key benefits as well, for example:
- any structure provides clarity, and an expansive preparation stage, like in this methodology, lets us get acquainted with your business more thoroughly and deeply, which makes any decision during the process more informed and deliberate
- clearly arranged and outlined plans don’t leave the room for uncertainties and, as a result, for any unpleasant surprises that might lead to downtime, money loss, and scope creep
- a well-defined and creative design makes it evident for the users that you’ve spent a great deal of time to hone it and to make sure they get the best experience possible, which can potentially lead to better brand awareness and customer loyalty, besides the increase in revenue
- the more time the team spends on the website, the better they know it in and out and can maintain it more efficiently or even add new cool features that wouldn’t have been possible on a less consistent foundation
- a more clear-cut approach reduces the risks simply through spending more time on thinking them over and fixing the issues – whether it’s risks concerning the security of the platform, the user experience, or the marketing
- all in all, this approach allows for direct and straightforward communication – with the definite stages and clearly outlined outcomes, it is easy to ask for explanations and details if you feel that something is not going well or quick enough
Despite it being a seemingly cumbersome process, a meticulous and scrupulous web design workflow helps to achieve your goals and objectives unexpectedly faster than a freer, more “unrestrained” approach, owing to the accuracy and precision of the job description of everyone involved.
How to streamline your website design process
A website creation process is a complicated one. With so many steps, stakeholders, and tasks, the whole thing can crumble like a sandcastle. It’s vital to know how to manage the project effectively. Here are a few tips on how to organize the process like a pro.
#1 Be a part of a team
Fruitful and healthy communication is the main component of any project. It doesn’t only concern the client-contractor relationship – the connection between the teams internally is also crucial. Being on the same page with each member of the project helps to raise everyone’s game and bring the work to the utmost level. It also makes it easier for people to fail, which is going to happen one way or the other. The failing part is not going to impede your success when everyone’s having each other’s back at all times.
#2 Use different tools
Whether it’s prototyping, collaboration, or project management – make sure to invest in tools that will enhance the quality of the work and make it easier for everyone to bring the best of them into the project.
#3 Follow the checklist
With so many steps to oversee, it can be useful to create a checklist with all of them listed consequently. It will be much easier to track the progress and see if there are any inconsistencies or discrepancies to fix before the launch.
#4 Be precise
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to assess how much time a certain stage might take. However, being strict in terms of breaking down the scope into parts is necessary. Since everyone’s work is dependent on each other, accuracy is invaluable to accommodate each other’s deadlines.
On a final note
Without question, the website development process is a complex and intricate thing – you have to work in close collaboration with different teams and people, continually track the project to avoid gaps and rifts, and be ready to go through a handful of the website versions before selecting one.
However, this tiring journey will bring massive results if you follow the steps outlined above. And remember that an eye for detail and meticulousness can make a real difference for your company and possibly the whole industry!
If you still have any questions on web design steps, don’t hesitate to contact us – our team will guide you through the process and dissipate your fears!