Once upon a time web design was on par with nuclear science; a skill considered by the masses to be so complex thus reserving it for intellectuals and computer geniuses. Today, with approximately 1.8 billion websites on the web (thanks to Netcraft for this statistic!) it seems web design has become more mainstream. In this blog we look at some of the basics of web design and an excellent place to start is with a definition.
What is web design?
Web design is the process of creating a website and considers all stages from conceptualisation through to actual website build. There are many different skills and disciplines required to build a website, so as a web designer you may specialise in certain areas of the profession, but may not know too much about other areas. Some of the areas of web design include graphic design, search engine optimisation and user experience design. The work of a web designer is incredibly diverse!
How do I start the process of designing a website?
Creating a website is a project so requires the same principles as that of effective project management. Planning is the first step in website creation, and in this stage, you will need to plan out the deliverables of your intended site. Considerations include:
• Who are you targeting?
• What value will your website provide?
• What is your budget for the website build?
• When will your website go live?
Creating a sitemap at this early stage is critical. This map lays out the architecture of the proposed website, giving a very clear overview of the different pages and navigation functionality. There are lots of great options on which to create your sitemap. Some notable ones include:
Once you have your plans laid out, it is time to enter the commissioning phase of the website design project.
Template or Code?
Once upon a time, you needed a Masters in Computer Programming to create the foundations of a website. Nowadays there are pre-made templates available for purchase, leaving you to tackle the styling and content. Squarespace, WordPress and Wix are well known ready-made sites, but there are so many options for beautiful pre-made templates that are just a click away.
Templates are fantastic for those looking for a basic website for a relatively limited audience, but medium to large businesses will want to invest in web development from scratch to create a unique online presence.
If you want to give coding a go, it is not outside the realms of possibility. There are lots of courses available online that can give you a little glimpse into the coding world; most of these courses will equip you with the need to know coding basics to start you on your way to excellent web design.
By the time you get to the content stage of your web creation, you have built the shell. Also, you potentially have purchased your domain and picked a web host – more on this here.
Hopefully, in the planning stage, you have worked out your desired style and feel. Some websites will be word heavy while others will rely on lots of beautiful imagery to tell their story. You may be creative enough to carve out the copy yourself, or you might require a professional content writer to find the words for you.
Some common mistakes that occur in this stage of web design are overcompensation with lots of words; the meaning can get lost in the text. Make sure to keep content simple, concise and meaningful; a healthy balance of imagery and words works best.
Branding is weaved into the content step; are you going to design a logo? How will your website make its stamp on the internet? What is its unique calling card? Often overlooked is branding and if it is not hitting the mark, your audience may not come and all the other hard work put into your web design is fruitless! Never scrimp on branding!
Beautiful words mean nothing without effective optimisation; at least when we are talking about web content. With a veritable feast of websites on the internet, being seen and heard takes work. Search Engine Optimisation grafts on your behalf and when it is done right it can have compelling results. SEO fundamentals can be learned by most, but mastering the art of implementing the right short, medium and long-tail key phrases take expertise.
You can certainly attempt to optimise your brand-new website, but you may need to consider outsourcing this function to an SEO professional.
OK, the website is looking amazeballs but before you go ahead and launch you will need to conduct some tests. If you have internal links, check they are working; broken links may mean that there are coding errors. There are website testing tools that can assist you in this stage; Browserstack is a popular one, and you can avail of a free trial before committing.
Launching a website is the reward a web designer reminds themselves is coming. After weeks or months of toil, hitting the “go live” function is incredibly exciting and makes it all worth it. Once the dust settles and the audience comes, the work of a web designer begins all over again!