The focus of the first step is to gather all the necessary information for the project. As a design team, you should ask relevant questions to go deeper into the business needs. Carefully analyze the client's requirements, define the website purpose, and determine the goals of the website. The most popular targets are information sharing and money-making, or both of them. Your team has to think about how business goals can be reached with the aid of a good website.
Next, research the target audience. What is the group of people that you would like to reach first? What is their age, interests, and habits? Answering these questions will help you to determine the best design style for the website.
Designers need to get acquainted with the website content. What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on the website? Is it specific information regarding a product or a service, online shopping, or maybe something else? The content and design are directly interconnected with each other.
Using the information gathered from phase one, it is time to put it together and make a detailed website plan. At this point, a site map is developed. Site map is the list of all main topic areas of the website, including sub-topics, if applicable. This map will clarify what content will be on the website and will help to understand the navigational structure. The future customers are end-users of the website — their journey has to be as simple as possible. The basis of an easy-to-navigate website is an excellent user interface.
Next, research the target audience. What is the group of people that you would like to reach first? What is their age, interests, and habits? Answering these questions will help you to determine the best design style for the website. Designers need to get acquainted with the website content. What kind of information will the target audience be looking for on the website? Is it specific information regarding a product or a service, online shopping, or maybe something else? The content and design are directly interconnected with each other.
As a part of the design process, it is essential to carefully and tastefully apply such visual elements as the logo and brand colors, to strengthen the brand identity on the website. During the design phase, the team usually creates one or more prototypes for the website. A prototype is typically a static image, which represents the final look of the website. A good idea is to create clickable prototypes to help the client feel the website before development begins.
This step usually requires a lot of communication with your clients — e.g., email exchange, collaboration via content sharing services (Dropbox, Zeplin). The client should be informed throughout all the design and development stages to ensure that the final website matches their needs, taste, and vision. Idea exchange and brainstorming are crucial at this step.
Communication between your team and the client should remain constant at this step. The client will need to see the changes applied to the website so that all the necessary corrections can be made easily. A great advantage for every designer would be an understanding of front-end development basics. These involve writing valid HTML/CSS code in compliance with web standards and various web browsers. This knowledge will make team collaboration more comfortable and prevent any misunderstandings. Once the development is finished, everything needs to be fully tested.
When the content and the visuals are in place, the testing process can be started. Every page has to be tested to make sure that all links are working and the website is displayed correctly in different browsers. Even the word order in titles and descriptions has an impact on the webpage performance in various search engines. Later, when you have some traffic on your website, you can apply A/B testing techniques to find the optimal combination.
Once you are given a final approval from the client, it is time for the website to go live. But before that, the site should be ran-through for the last time to confirm that all files have been uploaded correctly, and the site is fully functional. Besides, the website domain name should be registered, and web hosting accounts set up.
Other final details of this step include plugin installation (for WordPress or other CMS-driven websites) and Search Engine Optimization activities. SEO is the optimization of your website's title, description, and keyword tags, which helps the website to achieve higher positions in search engines. Website optimization for search engines plays a vital role because it ensures that the created website is visible to people, and they can easily find it.
Maintain Your Website
Once the website is live, some regular maintenance is usually required. User testing can be run on new content and features over and over to improve usability and discoverability of features. This all can lead to new design and development tasks.