Let's say that you want to design a website, but you aren’t a web designer. You have a vision, but aren’t sure of the next steps.
Here at Konsus, we’ve completed hundreds of web design projects successfully. While the skillset and dedication of the design team have much to do with a project’s success, clients can use certain communication tactics to increase the odds that it turns out exactly as they imagined.
It all comes down to asking the right questions, clarifying for yourself and the team what it is that you want.
Here are eight questions to ask yourself before designing your website:
1. What do you want to make?
(Why does this site exist? What is its purpose?)
This existential-sounding question, answered in simple language, will make all the other questions much easier to answer. Once you understand the site's purpose, you know what problem you are solving, and therefore what to optimize for when trade-offs arise.
For the team you are working with, knowing the purpose tells them a lot about what it is you want, what can be accentuated and what can be eliminated.
2. Who is your target audience?
It is oddly tempting to make a website for everyone, but it is often wise to resist the urge to try and please everyone. By trying to please everyone, you risk being loved by no one.
A good way to identify your target audience is split it along demographic (age, gender, location, occupation) and psychological (interests, values, lifestyle) lines. Or, you can also do this the other way around, first figuring out the problem you are solving, and then asking, “Who has this problem?”
With the answer to this question, you might find your new narrow segment is an actual person with unique desires. For example, “30-40-year-old single females who are interested in dating, value having fun and like to go to parties,” want something different than “60-year-old married males who are interested in old wooden sailing ships and power tools.”
With a clear picture of your customer in mind, consider “What problem(s) can I solve for you?” This is easiest, of course, if you’re creating a website that includes you in the target segment. If this is not the case, market research and interviews will provide the necessary information.
3. What action do you want visitors to take?
Reflect on the primary action you would like your visitors to perform on your site. With this knowledge, your design team can encourage visitors to do just that. Furthermore, they can help you construct your website in a logical way, giving your visitor what they need instinctively to be comfortable taking action.
Here are a few examples of a typical call to action:
Use case – User action
- E-commerce (electronic commerce) – Buy something
- Company Website – Contact you
- Blog – Opt into a newsletter
- Landing page – Collect emails
4. What’s the ideal 'flow' of your website?
Imagine a visitor progressively clicking through your website in a flow that naturally leads them towards your call to action.
In most cases, the user must have some basic understanding of the service before performing an action. A useful way to figure out what information they need is to start with an action box and create needed information from there.
Understanding the flow helps the design team design navigation that leads users through the flow. Non-essential parts of the website can be de-emphasized, making the website appear less cluttered.
5. What styles do you like?
Good website design is uncluttered and easy to read, with intuitive navigation. Beyond that, you can choose from a variety of styles. One way to convey the style you are looking for to your team is by describing the feeling you want to create in the user, such as trust, playfulness or relaxation.
You will recognize certain web design trends, each with different style characteristics. Four current trends you should know about:
Instead of building a website for each device (mobile, desktop), the designer creates one design that automatically adjusts based on screen size.
Responsive design has been such a successful trend that it is now seen as a best practice rather than a design trend.
Minimalist design advocates removing anything non-essential. This trend takes the concept of “clean” a step further.
Flat design displays content without any extra details. One can usually recognize flat design by its lack of style.
The example above is Google Now’s flat design. Notice that there are no beveled edges, gradients, shadows or reflections. Instead of forcing the information into static icons, Google Now presents variably-sized cards that are easily swiped away.
This style uses shadow effects, movement and depth to create designs that appear more realistic to the user. Think Apple’s operating systems. This trend creates a modern look with a heavy emphasis on user experience (UX).
Make sure to choose a style that matches the brand/voice of your company.
6. What colors do you want?
You always can defer this decision to your remote design team, but you may also want to choose the colors yourself strategically.
A research paper by Bottomley and Doyle (2006) found that different colors were given different perceived meaning, by respondents in the United States. It may be a helpful guide to choose colors that match the purpose and target audience of your site.
7. What’s the website's name?
What’s in a name? On the web, you are constrained in that you also need a corresponding domain name.
A few of the best practices for domain names include:
- Ends in .com – 75 percent of websites use .com, so users tend to assume it will be part of a website name.
- Short and easy to spell
- Easily remembered
- Relevant or unique
For the type of name, you essentially have two options: a relevant keyword domain name or a unique one.
A keyword domain name might give you some SEO freeriding, but also has a higher risk of sounding less authoritative (think: CheapCarTires).
A unique domain name has a different SEO benefit, in that your site is easy to find for those who know about you. A unique name allows you to build a brand over time (think: Twitter).
8. Which technology to use?
Some users prefer a simple way to update their website. Others have other priorities, like making something unique.
When choosing technology, the first decision is whether to use a content management system (CMS). Using a CMS can save time, but also has some restrictions, especially compared to building things yourself or doing manual updates.
Conveying your vision
After you’ve asked yourself the questions above, you want to convey the answers to your team so that they understand all the details.
Convey your vision with more than just words.
Text works, but we’ve found that visuals often reduce the chance of misunderstandings.
- Make a mockup (sketch)
- Give examples of two or more other websites you like
- Provide actual pictures and colors you want on the website
Ask for a plan (deadlines and milestones)
Sometimes, just giving instructions and then seeing the results is fine. However, for big web projects, this is a risky strategy. Any misunderstanding will, at the end, be expensive to fix.
To avoid this, simply detail when you need each step of the process completed.
Typical milestones could be:
- Wireframes and sitemap
- Style/landing page drafts
- Complete design drafts
- Coding and implementation
- Content population
- Final review
- Launch (Yay!)
Remember to ask what you need to do or provide in order to get the project over the finish line. Sometimes it is nice to allow plenty of time for completing the content creation or other practical matters on your end.
If you want creativity, start with multiple concepts.
We previously wrote a separate blog post on asking for creativity if that is what you want, that you use as a resource. Perhaps the most important tip is to ask your team to create multiple concepts in the early design drafts.
After the design
If you say you will update regularly, do it.
News sections or blogs where the latest post is four years old are not appealing. Resist the urge to commit to updates if you can’t follow through. If you want to have a section on your website that implies regular updates, you need to commit and plan for regular updates. Konsus can help with that.
Create original content
The design of the website is but the shell – the value lies in the content you will produce. If you have a blog, you might want to create a content-writing strategy. For tips, read our guide on content creation.
Frequently Mentioned Technologies
GitHub – A service for the most popular method of version control in development projects.
HTML – The scripting language your website is written in.
CSS – A separate style language to give your website consistency. Instead of writing all content in html, you create a table design, for example, in CSS. All tables then use the same design.
Frequently Seen Topics
The web design world is fraught with abbreviations and fancy words for simple things. Here are some you are very likely to encounter:
UX and UI – User eXperience and User Interface – how your page works and how it looks.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization determines whether your site is easy to find in search engines. The key parts are the same ones that make your website good in the first place: easy navigation, short load times, good user experience and links from other important websites.
Compatibility – You want your site to work in multiple browsers. Just remind your team to test different ones.
Tracking – Collecting information on your visitors: where they come from, what they click on. Google analytics offers a service that is very easy to integrate (and free).
We at Konsus have a team of experienced web designers, developers and project managers ready 24/7 to get started on your next project.
Just send us a message, and we'll help make your presence known on the world wide web!