So, what is a typical website design process and how do you interact with it as the business owner. A standard website design process is made up of many items and steps that will logically have you provide the required information to your chosen website designer or developer. Typically, during the website design process, you will look at topics such as the following:
- Collecting Your Ideas
- Creating A Website Brief
- Making Inquiries
- Getting Your Website Proposal
- The Project Scope
- Seeing Your Mock-up for The First Time
- Approving Design Elements
- Submitting Your Content
- Building the Site
- Seeking Changes
- Getting Ready to Launch
- Launching Your Website
- Warranties and Post Launch Support
These steps that you will take on your journey have various requirements and interactions that will need addressing. In this article, we will look at these topics and break down the process section by section.
Collecting Your Ideas
The biggest downfall we see in our business is clients coming to us without doing any preparation. Often these clients have no idea what they want from their website. This lack of clarity includes having not thought about content, budget, design, target market, competitors and their industry.
To collect your ideas, you need to look at those items and have a goal about what you want to achieve. To do this successfully, I suggest you get yourself a notebook that you can use specifically for your website and start to make notes about the items we mentioned above. We will cover these items a little more in-depth throughout this book and give you some strategies that will help you on this journey.
Creating A Website Brief
The next logical step after collecting your ideas is to create a website brief that a website designer or developer can use to form a basis for a proposal. The better you did in collecting your ideas above the better your overall website brief will be. Your website brief should discuss the following items:
Introduction – what do you want this brief to achieve and what guidelines are required.
About – The history of the business including projects, products, services and key stakeholders.
Target Audience – Who do you want the website to target where do you find them.
Objectives – What do you want the website to be able to achieve and how will it be resolved.
Navigation Structure – What will the menu structure look like and what will you name the pages, how will they relate to other pages on the website.
Website Features – What are the must-have features for this website and how do you foresee them working.
Competitor Analysis – Who are your competitors and what are they doing that you like. What does their website look like and what do you think that works.
Design – What do you feel the website should look like, what are other sites that you like the look of and how can the designer build your website.
Other Requirements – What other requirements, notes and information can you provide that will help your designer or developer to create a more accurate proposal. This section could include budget information, branding guidelines, etc.
We know that creating your website design brief is something that may seem daunting, however, getting the right steps in place will be more rewarding in the long run.
Once you have your website design brief, it is now time to reach out to a selection of website design and development businesses. We will cover choosing the right website designer and developer in another article. When you reach out you are looking to seek a proposal from a website designer or developer based on your website brief.
Your shortlisted designers would typically want to see your brief and perhaps meet with you to discuss your submission further. The industry usually calls this a discovery session and while it may be free; it may also be a paid session depending on individual company processes. In most cases, the discovery session targets your brief and develops it further using deep-dive techniques.
Getting Your Website Proposal
Once the discovery session is over, or the brief submitted you should receive a written proposal that may be either printed or electronic. Typically, this proposal will provide you with an overview of the design company, a summary of your company, an overview of your needs, a solution to solve your needs, pricing to provide that solution, and the next steps to take.
Usually, this document will be the basis for your project and combined with terms and conditions and scope of work. Typically, most website design companies will take between 7 and 14 business days to develop a good quality proposal for your project. You will need to check the proposal contains your requirements and if you have questions ask.
The Project Scope
Combined with the proposal, terms and conditions etc. is usually the project scope. The project scope is a set of instructions and inclusions that will be a part of your project. Typically, this document is designed to allow both parties to know the boundaries for working together. This document helps both parties to settle any disputes as well as providing complete clarity of the work to be completed.
The scope often also outlines the deadlines and milestones for your project and often includes things such as payment terms, IP rights and more. When you receive your scope, you need to be sure that the contents are precisely what you want, and if not go back to the designer or developer with the changes you expect to be included. The primary purpose of the scope of work is to define what work is covered and what is additional. This document clarifies items that become additionally billable should something need adding later. The critical thing to remember here is that if you have done your content gathering correctly, you should have already outlined everything and henceforth additions to the website outside of scope should be minimised.
Seeing Your Mock-up For The First Time
As a business owner getting a new website developed seeing the mock-up for the first time is often one of the most anticipated parts of the process. This mock-up is your first chance to see and correct the direction of your new or rebuilt website and to provide feedback on the design.
Often these mock-ups are merely an overall design view and perhaps a wireframe or greyscale representation. The purpose here is to lock in an overall look for the site and to provide clear direction on what shape the project will take.
It is important to remember that the design is often varied significantly from the initial mock-up to the final product, changed and tweaked. Typically, you will get a chance to adjust and tweak the final design during the revision stages of your website design process.
Approving Design Elements
Once you have received your initial mock-up, you will most likely be asked to approve the design and sometimes an early opportunity to adjust the layout. Your mock-up is one option or multiple options but ultimately you are the client, and you have the power of choice. If you’re worried about making a bad choice, ask for help or advice from your designer. You can even ask them things like, why they have chosen a particular element style etc.
Typically, you will get an opportunity to make changes to the design at multiple points in the website design process. These changes mean that a poor or uncertain choice now can usually be rectified later within reason. You want to make sure that what you are looking at is ultimately the best solution for your project.
Submitting Your Content
One of the most critical parts of the website design process and often the one that delays 99% of projects. The most common delay we see in any project is the provision of content.
Typically, your chosen designer will provide you with information specific to the delivery of content and if you follow those steps including any deadlines your project will go off without a hitch.
The easiest way to minimise disruptions to the process is to make sure you have started on your content before you even start looking for a designer or developer. Another tactic that can be helpful here is if you are working with third party suppliers such as photographers, videographers and copywriters, make sure they know the deadlines for the content provided and be clear on any consequences for late delivery. Clarity is often the best form of insurance when it comes to keeping your project moving forward.
Building the Site
Building your site is the time where you get to have a short break while your initial website build completes. Depending on the complexity of your project this could be anywhere from 2 weeks in length to several months. During this time your designer or developer may come back to you if they find any issues with content, missing content or if something is simply not working as intended. The critical thing to note here is that communication from your designer may not be as regular as you think and that is because they are probably working hard to develop your project to the deadlines required. If you want a progress report, you can generally ask for one, but be polite about it as your designer is often under pressure from your project and others at the same time.
This part of the project is the completion of your initial build, and it’s time to make tweaks to the project. There could be changes to the content or the overall design. Keep in mind here that these changes are exactly that small changes and tweaks to items and a plan that you already agreed to. Your designer is likely not to make significant changes to the structure and layout or completely redesign the site simply because you changed your mind. That is why it is essential at every stage during the design process to be clear and communicate with the designer and developer. You can read a case study later in the book about not being clear on communication in the case study entitled “But You Didn’t Tell Me”.
Getting Ready to Launch
This the exciting part of your website project for you and often one of the busiest times for the designer or developer. For you, it’s about booking a time and getting your site live to the public. Frantically behind the scenes any finishing touches to on-page SEO, load time optimisation and the site itself are being prepared for and completed. Typically, at this stage of the production process, you will need to negotiate an appropriate launch time and date for your website.
Launching Your Website
The launch date and time has come, and your website is now live. Your website designer or developer may still be making changes to the site or providing ongoing services to the site for a few weeks. Typically, here you will see final optimisations completed as well as redirections for sections rebuilt to keep your SEO on track. Other things that completed at this stage include submission to search engines, setting up of tracking and monitoring applications and other technical factors. You may not physically see any changes to your website, but they will be happening behind the scenes.
Warranties & Post Launch Support
Post-launch is an extra stage of the process, and it covers the future of your website. Most designers or developers will offer a warranty of sorts for any failures that may arise in the work they have completed or any minor issues that pop up. This warranty could vary from none at all through to several weeks or months. Typically, any ongoing support etc. will be outlined in the project scope of work. It is important to remember that your website will not be covered under warranty if you or someone you have given access to damages the site.
Many websites do need ongoing support and maintenance, and typically your designer may offer training either included or paid on how to do this. Your designer or developer may also provide or include a maintenance or care plan product that will assist you with this. In most cases, it makes good sense to get both the training and support options to help you with this.
Remember that your website is an investment in your future and training and support is like having insurance for that investment.