Shopping for a new website can be a very confusing and intimidating experience. Sometimes it is hard to judge if you are getting your money’s worth or not. For small businesses or non-profit organizations, there isn’t a lot of room for error, so selecting a web designer should be a thoughtful decision process. Hiring the right web professional for your project should be like hiring a good mechanic; they have a deep understanding of the technical process, but the best ones are honest about what your needs are. In the coming weeks, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on how the design process works, some of the things your web developer should be thinking about when building your website, and what to look for in a web designer or SEO consultant.
While I’d like to really take my time to analyze each of these specific thoughts in more detail separately, for now I’d like to make a sort of outline of what’s to come. Putting my thoughts and my design process down helps everyone to see what web design really is at its core, which is problem solving.
A good designer asks a lot of questions at the beginning of a project. This isn’t because they’re inattentive, it’s because they are trying to discover what problem your website is trying to solve. There’s a perception that web design is a creative process, like art, and there is a portion of it that is, but the majority of it is closer to science. In order to fashion a good solution, the professional web designer gathers as much information as possible at the start. This saves vast amounts of time later on, and may even reveal things about the project that were unknown to the client and the designer beforehand.
Asking questions leads to even more questions in this initial stage. Who is the intended audience? What pain point are you solving for them? What is the intended outcome of the audience interacting with the website? What do you want them to do? How do you want them to feel afterwards?
After we have some of these questions answered, the next question becomes, how do you get these users to reach the goal you have set for them? What is the hierarchy of goals? Which goals are most important, and why?
Google Analytics can answer some of these questions. Such as, where are the users coming from? What is their technical level? Are they using it primarily on a phone or tablet? On a desktop? On a really old desktop?
Who is maintaining the website after it’s been launched? What is their technical level of knowledge? How much training do they need with the website? This one is a huge one that a lot of people, both clients and designers, tend to forget about. A site that is updated regularly has life, and a site that is never updated is like an old house that needs a new coat of paint and the lawn mowed. Activity shows life, and this also builds trust in your organization.
Once we have all that, we start thinking about strategies and techniques for achieving these goals. What types of content will we use? What types of images, colors, and fonts should the site use to elicit the desired mood and thoughts? What paths do we want the users to take through the site? And these are just some preliminary considerations. As we test and see how our target audience actually uses the site, we may change things to make them easier to use or find.
This is an awful lot to cover, but this gives you a good idea of the details that I’ll be writing about in the subsequent weeks and months.