Whether you are a Web designer, or the buyer of Web design services, the planning phase of the Web design process is the most important phase. Planning requires a significant amount of effort before there is a visable product, so it is sometimes a hard-sell to business people, especially those who are used to "flying by the seat of their pants." I often find, however, that once involved in the process, the client gains valuable insights into their business, their market, their clients, and their competitors. Taking time to really plan a Website project, which requires stepping back and thinking, in a systematic way, about how they are approaching their business, gives the Website buyer an unexpected added value, especially if they are in start-up mode.
The first step in planning a Website is define the project. You want to make sure that you, as Web designer, and the client are on the same page, and remain on the same page throughout the project. The following are questions that need answers:
The answers to these questions should be put into a "creative brief" or "project definition" document that will be used as a touchstone throughout the design process. The information in the planning documents should be as detailed as possible, and based on as much empiricle evidence as possible. Having someone fill the a questionnaire off the top of their head will be useful, but to the extent it rely's on guesses or false assumptions, it will provide flaws in the planning and therefore flaws in the finished Website.
The temptation to do a Website on the cheap can be overwhelming. The casual, non-technical Internet user may find it hard to see why they should pay hundreds of dollars for a website, when they get one for free with their Internet service. They have people on staff that are good with computers and can handle putting the Website together. Those employees know the company, so should be better for the job than somebody from the outside. These may seem like valid reasons for not choosing to have an outside company design and maintain your Website, but consider the following:
Ease of use is not easy to design. Nothing is more frustrating than going to a Website and not being able to find what you are looking for. Chances are that a person not educated in information and interface design is going to make some serious errors in designing a Website, which will lead to negative user experience. Studies have shown that a negative experience such as this does reflect negatively on the company or brand associated with the Website. You can be seen as the best in the field at your core business, but a poorly designed Website can undo this reputation, or at least prompt your customers to question it.
Websites made for free look it. Unless you have someone on staff that is experienced in graphic design, your Website, created in-house, is going to look cheap. Like it or not, appearance does effect the way current and potential customers evaluate your organization. An unprofessional looking Website can affect your credibility in the eyes of your customers, and influence the overall feeling they have about your company.
Web Design is an inexpensive professional service. Thanks to the Dot Com crash a few years ago, the Bay Area is awash with unemployed Web Designers. It has never been less expensive to have a professionally designed and maintained Website than it is now. If you don’t have plans to upgrade your Website, chances are a number of your competitors do. Have you looked at your competitors’ Websites lately? How do they compare with yours? Are you willing to give them that edge?
Conclusion – It’s better not to have a Website at all than to have one reflecting less quality, expertise and effort than you put into your core business.
You're probably expecting some basic information on html coding, page layout, graphic design tips... the typical basic Web design primer. You might want to dive right in and finish your Website tonight! As with many aspects of work and life, rushing in without proper planning can have disasterous consequences. Lack of planning often leads to failure.
There are many reasons for wanting a Website. Among them are:
Knowing the answer to the question "Why do I want a Website?" is the first step - the first answer to a long list of questions that need to be addressed if the Website is to be a success.
When designing a Website for a client, I always ask the following questions, or variations on them. I don't always get all of the answers, and even when I do, I'm not always allowed to address them in the design. However knowing as many of the answers as possible is a big step towards the goal of a successful project. Documenting the answers in a creative brief or similar document is also helpul in keeping focus on the goals.
Armed with this information you are much more likely to stay on target, all the way to your goal of a successful Website.
What is Web design? The definition of "Web Design" can vary, depending on who you ask. Web designers working for one company may perform different tasks than Web designers working for another company. The basic answer is that Web design is the design of a Web page or Website, including the information and user interface design, but not including programming. Programming falls under the definition of Web development, or Web application programming (to name two of many).
At a smaller company, with fewer people and more overlap of job descriptions, Web design can be defined as the whole production of the Website from start to finish. To clarify this a bit, let's outline the process of creating a Website from scratch.
In this step, the Web designer finds out as much about the company and its clients as possible, paying special attention to the user audience of the Website.
Project definition documents are created as a guide to the creation of the Website. It is important that the scope, audience and goals of the Website are clearly defined during this stage, so the resulting project definition can be used as a touchstone to keep everyone on track throughout the process.
3. Information Design
How will the information be broken down and presented to the user? If what the user will be looking for is well defined in the discovery and planning stages, this will be an easier job. The information design, or information architecture, step includes design of the navigation and is the most critical step in making the Website user-friendly.
4. Graphic Design
Graphic design may seem trivial to some, but it is also a very important factor in the usability of the Website. It isn't just about making the Website look pretty. It is also about visual balance and readable typography, both of which are critical in the creation of a user-friendly Web design.
When these steps have been completed, you have a finished Web design. Loosely speaking, putting it together is called Web production, and making it work is called Web development.