The Web Design Phase
The Website Design Phase
The Web Design phase is a critical phase in creating a future winning websites. The “Look” of the website is established during this phase and without a great looking website, you will struggle to keep new visitors on your site for long. This phase is critical for both the web owner and the web design team. And of all the phases in developing a new website, this must be a great collaboration…
This must be a great collaboration – Can you elaborate?
When a client has taken us on as their design company (BeareWare) – we have usually already asked a lot of questions and done a lot of research in the proposal/quoting phase. We have established a good feel for what the client wants, we have reviewed the client’s business model, brand and marketing concepts, and we also have established what we are required to deliver. We’ve asked the client to identify the types of websites they like, which has helped identify some sample looks. There has already been good communication, but the design meeting is when we really finalize that website look.
So, What Is Involved with a Design Meeting?
The aim of a design meeting is specifically to be able to leave the meeting with a clear design plan, which will lead to final design samples for the client. We design a lot of websites – and with that we could simply decide based on “our” knowledge what designs might suit the client. But, we know that this is not our website, it is the client’s website – and our design meeting exists to specifically review the details of the client’s business model, their marketing and branding models, their images, logos, sample marketing literature, key demographics, and the specific results they desire from their website. It’s usually a very dynamic and exciting meeting. Our design meeting check list highlights the importance of the meeting and also the info that is covered:
Design Meeting Check List:
Business Model Review: Review the business plan of the client.
Corporate Logo: Review corporate logo, brand and corporate colors.
Marketing Material: Flyers, Brochures, Newsletters – review of marketing material.
Domain Name Analysis: Domain names must match brand & slogans.
Sample Websites: Existing sites that the client & design company found (and like).
Design Inventory: Images, Logos, Advertising samples as well as website samples.
Design choices: Menu design & navigation, website aesthetics (colors & flavor).
Web Content: Review menu items content-wise; establishment of source of content.
3rd Party Software: Review 3rd party software that may integrated into the website.
Next Steps: Design timeline and next steps in process.
So it’s really a team effort?
Absolutely! Over the years we have had a lot of design meetings – some are held on the phone, but most are on-site meetings. We have had a few clients along the way who have relied heavily on our recommendations and leads, with other clients knowing exactly what they want. But every client has collaborated with us as a team to produce the best possible website design for their company. It is our job to help the client identify what main results they are looking for from their website (which is usually achieved by reviewing their business model). Every client may not have a business model written down or formalized, but every client does have a business model – and we encourage them to expand on their models so we get a full understanding of that in a design meeting.
After you’ve established the look the client likes – is that it?
In a design meeting we also look at the marketing material and discuss the menu items and content that is available for the development. This is a critical area that can be easily overlooked. It is also a great part of the meeting that goes from “visual design” focus to “written content” focus. It makes the client really look at what they have marketing wise – and also to clarify the key modules and menu options on their website. Designing the look is fun – it’s exciting – the possibilities are intoxicating. Content is really the muscle behind that great design, and good content is hard work! A great design will get a new prospect to “bookmark” your site, and make the mental note that they like the site (in the 3-5 second test) – but content is king when it comes to the prospect getting the information they need.
How much bearing does content have on the design?
Content really can play a big part in the design of the site. One of the biggest areas we look at is the client’s industry and how important content is to that industry – as well as the client’s capability of producing content. Nothing is worse than old information sitting on the home page of a website, so we really review this with the client who requests News areas on their home page design. To have news stories coming off you home page requires a constant content stream. We emphasize this clearly to the client. Being realistic in your content capability is also very important.
RSS Feeds are now helping out in areas where a client may want updated content on their site – but don’t have the time to produce a great deal of content on their own. RSS Feeds (Really Simple Syndication) are a popular technology for notifying users of updates to content in a website, blog, or even an Internet TV channel. For example: a community website wishes to report news from their regional area, but the site owners don’t have the time to produce or reproduce this news themselves every day. So we set up an RSS feed from a regional newspaper on the client’s website. The headlines are updated on the client’s website as they are updated on the regional newspapers website – and then when a visitor clicks on the story, the newspaper’s website then opens up with that particular story. When they finish reading the story and close it they are still on the client’s website. For the website owner, you have provided some updated news that may keep bringing visitors back to your site – and the regional newspaper website has been delivered to your web visitors (which helps increase their advertising value) – so it is a great example of a “win win”. The key is to understand when this would be a good fit with your site’s content (and when it is not).
And Now For The Design Samples
During a design meeting our design director, Vicki Payne, and I (as project manager) will meet with the client. We take a team approach, because there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle in successfully launching a website. Our design director’s role is to leave that meeting with a design plan. We will usually produce 3-5 design samples based on the design meeting. The key outcome is the actual look of the website – Home Page – then subsequent (Standard) pages. This process of design is really where the great design companies differentiate themselves from the rest. Having a great designer is what this phase really comes down to. No matter what caliber or how many developers or programmers you have on staff, no matter what company hosts your site or how solid your Content Management System is – the designer is the key ingredient in the web design phase. I can’t think of a more important task than ensuring your prospects like what they see when they visit your website!
Designs are created – samples are reviewed – website design is selected!
Our design director then creates the sample designs and posts them online for the client to review and make his/her selection. The client will sometimes select one of these design samples as is, and will sometimes request modifications – requesting that different aspects of the samples be pulled together, for instance, to make a final design. We understand the importance of this to the client, and encourage the client to contribute any ideas, input or suggestions he or she may have at this phase – so the design process continues until we have the client’s final selection.
Once the design is selected, we have completed the design phase and commence the development phase (next week’s blog topic). We are on our way with our client’s website – the client knows what their website will look like and they are always excited. As stated above, this is a very exciting phase in the development of every new website. e work very hard with our client to ensure that we have a great outcome from this phase. Our clients work very hard, too – and there is no doubt that the collaboration of both the design company and the client is the formula for future success!
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”