1. Identify the goal
"Why do you want people to visit your site?"
Before you begin creating your website, you need to have a clear idea of who your site will be for.
- Is it a landing page, a fundraising campaign, or an eCommerce site?
- Are you giving information, gathering information, or both?
- Is it a standalone site or one of a group of sites that together make up the brand?
Answering these types of questions early on will help to ensure that your project starts off in the right direction and gives your collaborators a clear idea of the outlined goal(s).
2. Detail the scope of the site
"What can a person expect to see when they visit the site?"
Take some time to create an outline that includes things like how many pages you are going to need and what each one will be for. Your outline should also include your logo, watermarks, icons sets, and the images and graphics you will be using across your site. (If you don't already have these, take the time to decide what these will be and who will be creating them for you.) Once you have your list of the pages you need, you'll need to plan out the path you want your visitors to take when they visit your site. Think about the message your site will convey. Ideally, you want to talk directly to the visitor and direct them to the information they are searching for.
If you plan to sell products on your website, then you need to think about how many products, product lines, and collections you will be starting out with. You'll also want to do some research on the best platform for your specific needs. When it comes to visitors and customer support, you want to offer easy-to-access information and be sure to address any questions a customer might have in a quick and professional manner.
If this is an offline business, like a brick-and-mortar store, or if you have already been in business for some time, you may have most of these things already figured out and in use every day. The key will then be to translate each successful action that you're doing in-store, into its online equivalent.
A very important, very often overlooked step is to get in writing what you expect your designer to deliver and in what time frame. Very often as the project moves forward, you will realize that changes need to be made, items need to be added to the project, etc. It is important to have things in writing so everyone is on the same page and expectations are met in a timely manner.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
"Who is your customer - really?"
If you don't know what sort of customers you are going to attract with your new website then you need to do some research. Think of your brand and how it connects with your target audience, know what they want, and be prepared to define it for them. You can use Google Analytics to get demographic details about your audience. With Google Analytics, you'll be able to see website insights, and it's broken into different sections, like age, gender, and location. These sections are labeled clearly on the dashboard and provide colorful graphs for you to interpret.
Editor's Note: Some folks would say that Step 3 should really be Step 1. Either way you decide to approach it, be sure to include each of these steps when defining your target audience and deciding how to set up your website for success!
4. Choose a design partner
"Who can carry out my vision to a stellar result?"
Once you've found a company, work with them to find the right hands-on approach for building your site. They should address all your questions and assure that your site is structured in a way that is user-friendly and helps you to achieve the goals you have set out for your company. When you talk to potential designers, be sure they are working within your budget and schedule. There might be certain aspects that fall outside your limits, and you should be prepared for this. With careful and deliberate questions you will be able to find the right company to help you choose a domain name, build a website, and market the site effectively to the right audience. In conclusion, your website will be the first impression of your business and it needs to be outstanding if you are going to do business online.
Also check out: Website Builder Vs. Web Designer: Which one is right for you?
5. Visual Elements
"Who will be creating your visual elements?"
Visual elements consist of everything people will see when they visit your website and they break down into two main parts:
- Brand Identity
- Supporting Graphics
Brand identity includes logos, typography, colors, packaging, etc., all of which contribute to reinforcing the existing reputation of your brand. Staying consistent with the design of these elements is key to reinforcing your overall brand message. Your brand elements will be your introduction to new customers while at the same time making existing customers feel right at home.
Supporting graphics include the images, videos, sketches, artwork, and icons that will be displayed throughout your site. Some sites will have a few of these items per page while others may have hundreds or thousands (a photography site for example).
If you have an existing website that is only getting a facelift you very likely have most of the items already chosen, categorized, and ready to go. If you are having a designer build you a new website from scratch you may or may not have all of these elements figured out quite yet. The designer you hire to build your website should be aware of all the elements that they will need to complete the build and they can give you guidance on what you will need and recommendations on where to go to get the work done (if they don't offer that particular service in-house).
Once you've determined the core elements of your brand identity, your designer can create a brand style guide that outlines how your brand elements should be used. If you have existing brand assets such as business cards, email signatures, social media banners, and content templates, these can also streamline brand guideline adoption.
We hope these five steps will help you to get the most out of your next web design project. If you have any questions on how to get started, drop us a line, we're here to help!