I’m constantly asked what my process is for web site design. There’s actually a lot of thought that should go into a new design, before the “design” actually happens. This usually involves a lot of listening to the client, and a bit of research on our own.
Before starting the design, it is important that everyone on the redesign team understands your brand. Because brands evolve over time, this is also a great opportunity for self rediscovery. Brand is perception. And every outward message and image shapes perception, from your tagline to the person who answers the phone. Once you discover what your brand is the next step is to mold it into what you want it to be.
An open discussion with your team of managers, marketers, and salespeople will tell us not only who you target, but by what percentages. We are interested in who your target audiences are now, but also who you would like them to be moving forward.
What is a customer looking for when they come to you? Do they know what they’re looking for? Prioritize your content on the site, specifically on the home page. Different coding techniques allow you to present information in a variety of ways. Let the content define the presentation. Create a site map to clearly organize the site’s architecture and content.
The design process begins with a home page content map, most likely in a wireframe form. It will determine the relative importance of each element on the home page, but won’t necessarily determine the look and feel of that page. A visual hierarchy of all elements, including the navigation, will ensure ease of use. Additional wireframe templates should be created as-needed.
Once the wireframes have been approved, the layout and design can commence. The designs should answer all of your requirements in a usable and visually interesting way. The layout, each message and every color, font, and image should be used to engage your audiences so that they follow the appropriate “calls to action.
Additionally, the goal is to have your site reach out and guide a user to the content within the site, and not just be a presentation of options and information. The site’s navigation has to be intuitive and actionable, so that users can easily access the information they need.
The design won’t answer your needs if you don’t take the time to figure out the questions up front. On a recent call with a client, she told me they didn’t know how to determine what should be on the home page. I asked her, “What do your customers ask for over the phone? Give them that on your website.”