The 6 stages of web design
It is not unusual for us to receive calls from people who are looking for an agency to design and develop a website for them with a very short deadline. There is often surprise when I say it cannot be done in a week or two.
A great design is about more than code, content management systems and slick visuals. Style over substance will not help you achieve your online objectives. We want to provide our clients with the best outcome we can, and this takes time.
Step 1: Getting to know our client
It’s important for us to know what you want to achieve with your website. It could be selling a product or service or providing help, support and information. Maybe you are not actively looking for lots more customers, but you want existing clients to see a professional online presence if they look you up online.
It may be that high ranking is important which will mean budgeting for a search engine optimisation campaign or you may be happy with a slow burn.
We'll have lots of questions for you including:
- Who is the target audience? Where are they? What social media platforms do they use? How do you reach them?
- What resources do you have to keep your website updated?
- Are you looking for business locally or nationally / internationally?
- Who is the competition?
- What size website is required and is there any specific functionality needed e.g. blog, news database, ecommerce, member area, gallery, event booking system, library of resources, newsletter sign up. The larger the website and the more complex the functions and features the bigger the job.
Step 2: Preparation is key
Taking short cuts in the initial stage can result in the result being compromised. Retrofitting and backtracking will have an impact on the project and can affect the deadline.
At Catfish we like to dot the I’s and cross the t’s as we go along.
We will ask you to provide certain elements before we start to work on a design and layout. Our websites are bespoke and built around the content. We do not pull up a template and then try and shoehorn your content into this layout.
If you’ve never commissioned a website before it can be daunting, and you may have absolutely no idea of what we require to work our magic. We tackle every project, large or small, in the same way providing clear lists and instructions for clients on what we require and when.
Step 3: Where do we start?
We need a site plan showing what pages you require. If it’s a small ‘starter site’ this can be done very quickly but larger websites require more consideration.
We need content for each page. You may have it all prepared and ready to go which can certainly speed the process up. Perhaps you have a rough draft that needs knocking into shape in which case our copywriter can help. You may be starting from scratch, and this is one of the most time-consuming tasks for our clients … getting the content right, the tone and the message.
When preparing your content, you also need to bear search engines in mind which means keeping pages focused on a single topic.
We always read what clients send us and will provide feedback if we feel there is too much copy, too little or if it needs more work. But it’s vital to allow time for some fine tuning and tweaks. Of course, you will be able to make adjustments once the site is up and running but we like our clients to put their best foot forward from the start. And we need REAL data to work with when we come up with a design and layout.
We will ask you to provide your logo as a high-resolution file along with any imagery. If you need help with sourcing stock photography or you’d like to use our photographer time for this needs to be factored in.
There may be third party functionality involved which means setting up accounts with, for example, PayPal if it’s an ecommerce website, Mailchimp for a newsletter, Live chat, Browse Aloud or Recite Me to enhance accessibility, Google analytics to monitor traffic to your site.
If it’s an online shop you will want to organise photos of your products and prepare descriptions. Again, this could involve booking a photographer.
Step 4: The master plan
We work from a ‘master plan’ which contains the site plan, the content, calls to action and detailed information about how specific functions will work. The more precise we can be before we start programming the smoother and quicker the next stages will be.
Step 5: Design and build
With all the content at our disposal we disappear off into a quiet space and work on design and layout. These pages are presented to the client for feedback in case there are any tweaks to be made before we start to build. Client sign off at all stages is crucial.
Depending on the functionality there may be various testing stages so you can make sure that things are working as you anticipate. Sometimes tweaks are required but our hope is that the preparation will have minimised these.
One of my favourite stages is populating the site and seeing it come to life.
A final check through everything is done by us and the client and we can also view the site on a range of devices from desktop to phone to ensure optimum user experience.
Step 6: It’s ALIVE!
Once the site is launched you need to make sure you tell everyone about it, and open that bottle of champagne.
If you feel we're the agency for you or you'd like to talk through some ideas, get in touch at email@example.com