6 steps web designers take that you need to know

6 Steps Web Designers Take That You Need To Know

You’ve realised you need a website. Good choice as it’s well accepted that’s not a choice for businesses anymore. But you might find yourself asking what steps web designers take.

When you contact a web designer to get a quote and start the process (whether they’re working by themselves, or it’s an agency) they’ll probably be following some fairly similar steps. It can be daunting as you don’t know what to expect. What are they going to ask you? How can you prepare? What can you do to get the most out of that first meeting?

I’ll outline some key steps below that any web designer/developer will likely take. Some people/agencies might differ slightly, but they’ll give you a good start and a bit of knowledge about what goes into the process.

1. Discovery – the beginning of the steps web designers take

The first of the 6 steps web designers take

You’ve probably already had a brief chat over the phone (or by email) with your web designer about what it is you need. They’ll want to have a more in-depth talk with you to give them the information they’ll need about the business, and they should suggest that’s done in person (whether at your office, theirs, or perhaps a cafe).

A lot of agencies and some freelance designers/developers can carry out the work from start to finish. For example, they can provide the content creation, design work, write the code for the website and make sure it’s functional across different devices, assist you with getting it online, and finally help with ongoing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). They should be clear with you from the beginning about what work they can undertake.

This ‘discovery’ meeting is about what your business actually needs, although I appreciate that’s a bit general. This meeting also helps the designer/developer provide with a more accurate quote (as helping create content or a logo, for example, can take more time). I’ve created the list below from some questions I’d ask a new client to give you an idea of what your designer may ask you. Even if you don’t know specific answers, they’ll help get you thinking:

(You might notice this section is a lot longer than the others… it’s probably one of the most important stages (in my experience) as it really gives you and the designer good building blocks for the next stages. It’s important to get things right at this stage, but if you don’t have answers right away, don’t worry)

Your business

  • Who’s your target audience?
  • What’s the purpose of the website? Is it to promote your services and get people to contact you? Is to sell products that you currently sell in your shop?
  • What are the values of your business, and what makes you different? Do you have a tagline or slogan for the business that you want to use? (Do you pride yourself on providing a very personal service and so don’t want to come across too formal?)
  • Do you have a vision for the website? Describe the feel and style you have in mind.
  • Have you thought about any colour schemes you want to use?
  • Do you have a logo already that you’d like to use, and do you have any existing materials (like leaflets or sign writing) that you’d like the website to match the style of?
  • What do you like about your current website? (If you have one)
  • Do you have any favourite websites you’ve visited before, even it’s just one or two features of websites?
  • Bearing the above in mind, is there any particular functionality you’d like to either keep from your current website or incorporate that you’ve seen on other websites? (A good example might be an image slider showcasing your work on the home page)
  • What’re your top frustrations with your current website, or other websites you visit?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Is there anything about their websites you like or dislike?

Scope of work

  • Have you already registered a website address? If not, do you want help finding an effective website address?
  • Do you need help finding a good website hosting service? If not, do you already have a website host?
  • If you have a logo you’d like to use, can you provide the design files for use on the website? (If you had another designer create a logo previously, can they provide the design files?)
  • If you don’t have a logo, would you like me to design one? Do you have any ideas of what you’d like?
  • Have you written any content? Or would you like me to take information from you and write the content for the website?
  • Do you have an idea of what pages you want the website to have?
  • Have you had any thoughts about layout or any design ideas you like?
  • Have you already got any images you want to use? Perhaps of your office, your shop or your products? If not, you may need to arrange some photos once we’ve decided what’s needed.
  • Do you think there’ll be any other content you’d like me to create? Would you like me to source stock photos if you’d like to use them? (It’s worth bearing in mind you can be more personal by avoiding using too many stock photos)
  • Will be any web forms, such as a contact form?
  • Is there any information you’d want to be always visible on your website? (This really depends on your business, for example, if you’re a writer wanting to promote your work then you might want something visible on every page showcasing your latest work)
  • Would you like me to help with ongoing SEO work (Search Engine Optimisation), such as advice about social media promoting, assisting with blog writing etc.

2. Content Creation

If you’ve asked your designer to help writing the content for your website (also called copy) then they’ll generally do this before they started designing the visuals. In my experience, the content generally drives the design. There’ll be a message you want to get across on the website and good content is the start of that. Not to mention having great content that your users will enjoy is a cornerstone of SEO. It’s important to remember that the search engines are there to serve the users, not the websites.

There are certain things you designer will probably do before actually writing the content as well, such as looking at keyword searches that your business should focus on. I won’t go into the specifics here, but SEO is a consideration at each stage of the process.

There’s a good chance your designer (or copywriter if you’ve employed someone specifically to do this) will need to ask you more questions about you and the business while writing the content. They’ll probably want to share updates with you to get your feedback as well.

3. Design

steps web designers take - the designer starts designing

Now the design work can begin! It’s time to select and refine a colour palette and initially wireframe the website layout. If you’ve asked your designer to, this will also include designing a logo. Out of all the steps web designers take, this is perhaps what we think of most.

There can be a lot involved in the designing stage, and the designer will almost certainly go through different iterations of site design to chisel one out you’re both happy with and ticks the boxes for what your business needs.

Again, prepare to be provided with updates and requests for feedback regularly.

4. Developing (or writing the code for the website)

This actually means writing the code, or HTML markup (as well as other parts like any CSS (for styling of the website) and Javascript (for added functionality and interactivity). This is the part that will bring the other sections to life! You’ll actually get to see what the finished, interactive website will be.

This may be one of the steps web designers take if you’ve hired one, or you may have hired a separate developer to carry out the coding/markup work.

The shortness of my description of this section compared to the first three should not make you think there’s not a lot of work involved. There’s a lot of technical knowledge that goes into creating a functional, bug-free, and above all mobile responsive website; but that isn’t the purpose of this post. Having the design and content created, however, does help make this stage much easier. While designing the website, your designer probably has a good idea of how they’ll construct the code.

5. Getting the website online, bug fixing, and minor changes

Ideally, this will be a fairly small part of the process, but perhaps the most exciting. You get to actually see the website live.

Your designer has probably already talked to you about setting up a hosting account at the latest as they’re finishing step 4. If you’re arranging this yourself, they’ll ask you for the login details so they can set the hosting account settings for you (there are certain things like setting up an FTP login (File Transfer Protocol; it’s just a way to get your website files into the host’s server), and helping you get an email account set up that might want help with). Whenever I do this part, I’d always offer to sit with my client when I set these up so they have an understanding of what I’m doing.

Lastly, once the website is live, there might be some small bug fixes or perhaps even minor changes to make. Although your designer/developer would have tested the site on different browsers and made sure the website is well suited to mobile users, there’s always the chance a few changes need to be made. If they’ve already got an FTP account they can make those changes and upload the new version straight to the host server.

6. SEO

Although it very much feels like you’ve hit the finish line, and in many respects you have. But there’s generally going to be follow up work to be done in the form of SEO.

As I’ve mentioned before, SEO is a consideration at every stage. It’s one of the steps web designers take that permeates every aspect of the project. For example, you should make sure the content is engaging, written well, the design flows and keep users engaged etc. But also, your designer/developer will have optimised the code for SEO. Technical on-page optimisations include:

  • How you write the title of each web page (they should generally all be slightly different)
  • The meta-description (you don’t see it on the website, but it’s what search engines use as the description in the search results)
  • How you write the navigation section, lay it out and how it’s coded
  • Image optimisation for speedy loading
  • How your designer/developer writes the image descriptions. (They’re called alt-tags. You don’t see them if the image is working but they’re there and search engines pay attention to them)

There’s other work you need to do as well, such as building incoming links to your website (called backlinks). There’s a number of ways you can do this. The best is by having fresh content, usually in the form of a blog. You can also get other websites (ideally good websites that have some authority in your particular business area) to link to you. Remember: If you have good content, other websites are more likely to link to you.

Then there’s social media promotion too. You cannot ignore social media; they’re such a powerful tool to reach wider audiences when used correctly.

Conclusion

I hope that gives you a good idea of the steps web designers take and the work involved in creating a custom website that works well so you know what to expect.

In my experience, the discovery, content creation, and design stages are the most important three. The design being complete and one you’re both happy with makes the coding work (step 4) much easier. If you/your designer carried out in-depth content creation and design there will likely be fewer changes at this stage. Lastly, if the discovery meeting is done well then accurate and detailed content can be created which in turn drives the design stage. You wouldn’t build a house with poor foundations; there’s no reason a website is any different.

By: Scott Cole

July 27, 2017 |

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