This article looks at the universally agreed principles of good website design and the process the Website Design Studio uses to develop a website.
Website design principles
When designing a site, we always keep the following principles in mind:
- The website should be designed to suit the target audience
- The website contains useful, focused content
- The website’s graphic design does not dominate the site – it should complement the content
- On each page, there should be a common navigation system, preferably at the top and bottom of the page
- The navigation system should be simple and intuitive to use
- The web pages should be designed so that they are easy for a search engine to find
- The web pages should be designed so that they download quickly
Here is a sobering thought: visitors to websites are notoriously impatient. First impressions are critical. If the site takes a long time to appear, or the navigation system is complicated, or the content is confusing, or something does not work, you can be sure that your visitor will hit the back button and be out of your site in a flash.
The website design design process
Each project is different, so it not possible to cast a web design process in stone. However, most projects follow a process similar to this:
1. Initial discussions – by email or telephone
The initial stages involve discussion about the objectives of the site, budget, number of pages required, design ideas and content. Let’s look at these in more detail:
Budget: Our websites tend to range in cost from £150 for a simple, one page site, to over £600 for a large, 30 plus page site. Most ‘average’ sites fall somewhere in the middle. The cost of your site depends on the number of pages, the complexity of the graphic design, and any special features you have on your site. Before you commission anyone to produce a site for you, decide what your maximum budget is and inform the web designer. That way, there will be no nasty surprises.
Number of pages: We will need to you give us some idea of the number of pages you will require. You will also need to decide whether you require image enlargements (so when a visitor clicks on an image, a larger version of the image is displayed – this is particularly applicable to artist and photography sites).
Design Ideas: Some clients already have ideas about how they want their site to look and work. Some even have existing artwork which can be used on the website to maintain the company theme. If you have no fixed ideas, looking at competitor websites can be a great start. If you send us links to websites that you particularly like the look of, this is a great help to us as it gives us a headstart on the graphic design side of things, and also from a content point of view.
Content: You will need to provide the text content for each of your pages. If you are not confident in your writing skills, we offer a copy writing service where we take your content and re-write it so it has a professional touch that will impress your visitors.
Add-ons: We will discuss any optional add-ons you may wish to have with your website such as search engine optimisation and statistics so you can see who has been visiting your website, how many times they have called, roughly where they live etc.
2. Hosting and domain names
We will arrange the hosting for your site and register a domain name. We can also put up a temporary holding page for you while your site is being developed. This is useful as you can include some basic information about the site, and your contact details in advance of the site launch. It also means you can begin using your website address on any promotional literature.
3. Draft page designs
We will provide several (normally 3) design concepts based on your requirements. It will usually take around a week to provide these initial web site designs. These drafts are essentially mock-ups of how your website will look and feel. They will not work – you will not be able to click on anything. But they will give you a good idea what your site could look like.
We will expect you to offer comments on these mock-ups – good or bad. Design is a very personal thing, so we don’t expect you to like everything we produce. But we will note your comments and revise the designs to your satisfaction.
4. Create template web page
Taking the agreed mock-up as a blue print for your site, we will then begin the next stage which is the build stage. Here your site will begin to take shape as a proper working website. Changes to graphic design are difficult at this stage which is why we ask you to sign off at the mock-up stage.
5. How long will it take to create my website?
We can produce an average website in a week if a client has all the text and images we need ready to go on the site. In practice, it is unusual for clients to have all the information ready as it takes time to collate. Most of our sites take a month or so to develop from start to finish. However, we should point out that it is very unlikely that you would be waiting for us to complete work for you! The onus is usually on the client compiling the content (unless you want us to compile the content for you of course).