My design process as a website designer starts with your goals for your website, then your website content. From there, my design process works to unite design and message to effectively communicate with your target audience. The design process continues as we work to drive traffic to your website with current best practices, and to maintain a healthy website over the long haul.
If you want more than just a design, but rather a well-thought-out strategy, as part of the design process, read on.
Design is not just making something pretty to dump words into. Think of design like a roadmap we are creating together to guide your audience towards your help. At the heart of great design is communication. We will pull messaging and design together as we tweak your website and marketing materials.
Design Process Step 1: Your Goals for Your Website
Every great project needs to start with what you want this project to do for you. No one designs a website or brochure that doesn’t ever get noticed and used.
By understanding what you’re hoping to achieve with your website project, I’ll be better able to plan and design a website that points in the right direction.
I usually discuss this part of the project in a discovery call with you, via Zoom, Google Meet, or on the telephone, while I’m getting a feeling for the project.
These questions will help you think through your website goals:
- When you imagine having a website, what does that do for you? What changes in your life?
- When someone stumbles on your website, what are the top three things you would want them to do after getting there?
- If someone visits a blog post or article on your website, having never been to your website before, what would you want them to do next, after reading?
- If you only had 20 seconds to sum up who you help and what problems you solve, what would you say or show them?
Design Process Step 2: Organizing and Honing Your Content
Design helps your message be seen, understood and acted on (so, you need a message)
A design is not something pretty to dump words into. Even if you don’t have all of your content written, having the important stuff done makes the design more effective.
Think of your website copy as working hand in hand with your design.
This part of the project always seems to take way longer than a client assumes it will. There’s something intimidating about staring at a blank page, trying to figure out what to say.
Here are some very simple tips that will help you get started:
- Google Docs is your friend. Make a folder in Google Drive, and create documents for your key website pages. This allows you to add to them as you think of it. And, you can later share this with your web designer.
- Because we each understand our area of expertise, we may not notice if we are not being clear enough for our target audience. Spend some time one on one with people you’re trying to reach, and test out how you communicate about what you do. Use social media for this too. This will help you gain clarity in your message.
- Simple is always better. People are turned off by a large wall of text on a website. Be succinct and break apart large blocks of text. Use headlines and subheadings to help make your content scannable.
- If this is outside of your wheelhouse, consider hiring a copywriter (I have several I can recommend, depending on your niche). Or, I can also help you hone your copy too.
- In everything you write, focus on your target audience, not yourself. Bring it back to helping them, serving them, showing them the benefits of what you do to them, and so forth. Don’t talk about the dry facts of a product or service, but what it will do for them.
Design Process Step 3: Planning the Look and Organization of your website
Once I have your content, I’ll start planning your website. I’ll use your current branding (fonts, colors, etc.) if you have it.
If you have a simple website with only a few pages, I’ll create the page layouts in AdobeXD and send you a link to view them for approval. In those linked files, you’ll be able to add comments to the design for me to tweak. That’s why I love it!
If your website is longer than a few pages, I’ll start by planning out the information architecture of the website: how all of the pieces fit together and connect. I either do this in Adobe XD or in a Whiteboarding app like Miro.
We want clarity on your website because your audience needs clarity.
Remember, the confused mind always says no.
By planning and designing your site in Adobe XD, the onsite design and development will go faster and smoother.
Design Process Step 4: Staging Your Website
To get started on this next phase of the design process, I’ll need access to your existing website or web hosting.
If you don’t have any of that, and aren’t sure what it means, let me explain.
When you have a website, the files for your website have to go somewhere so that the people visiting your site can view your website. These files are stored on a server with a web hosting company. Think of it like renting a storefront for your business, only much cheaper. There are many different hosting options available. I discuss your options here in The Entrepreneur’s Ultimate Guide to Web Hosting.
You’ll also need a domain name, which is often included with the price of your web hosting. Your domain name will be your website’s address. For example, the domain name for this site is thoughtsanddesigns.studio.
If your web hosting is the storefront you’re renting, then the domain name is the street address, so everyone knows where to find you.
If you already have an existing site we’re redoing, I’ll create a staging site off of your existing site. What this means is, I’ll redesign the look of the site without disrupting the live site until you’re ready. Then, I’ll just press a button and it will change over like magic.
If you don’t have an existing website, I’ll set one up on your web hosting once that’s ready to go.
From there, I’ll build your website, and test it on different mobile devices and different size screens to make sure it’s responsive. That means, it looks good no matter the screen size.
Design Process Step 5: Optimizing Your Site to be Found
Once I have your site built, I’ll double check your site for search engine optimization. This means, making your site easy for the search engines to understand.
Getting to the front page of Google can be hard work, depending on how competitive your niche is, and may take time. I’ll lay a great foundation for future success with current best practices and Google recommendations to help your website grow.
I’ll also connect your website with Google Search Console and Google Analytics, as well as any other tracking pixels you want. These are free services that help you monitor your website’s performance and your visitor’s behavior on the website.
Google Search Console will alert you to any potential problems on your website, like broken links or missing alt tags on any images.
Google Analytics will show you patterns of behavior on your website, where your traffic is coming from, and what they do once they get there. This helps you hone in on the marketing efforts that are working for your business, and improve popular posts and pages.
Design Process Step 6: Keeping Your Website Healthy
Before I hand off the website to you and your team, I’ll go over some ways to keep your website well-maintained and healthy. Technology on the web changes often, and if you don’t have a plan for keeping the technology that runs your website up to date, parts of your website may eventually stop working correctly.
I’ll talk to you about developing a process for keeping your site healthy and continually growing your website based on data you receive from Google Analytics and other metrics you’re tracking. Most of this takes less than an hour per week, depending on how big and how busy your website is.
I offer website maintenance services too, but I don’t require them. I’ll give you all of the information you’ll need to maintain your website, but professional website maintenance is affordable and gives you peace of mind.