When embarking on a new website project, whether it’s just to redesign your existing site, add new functionality or pages functionality, or a completely brand new website build we know there are plenty of questions around how we design and develop websites. The world of website design and development can quickly get overly technical with new terms and it can be fairly daunting tackling a project that essentially is your business’s home online. Because I know this, I wanted to give some insight into how we work with you to design and build your website.
When we get involved with clients to design and develop their websites we consider ourselves part of the team for the duration of the project. It’s important that we understand your business, products, and services as much as possible so that we can do our best work. A discovery meeting is where we hash out all the info we need so that we can get to work.
Websites are all about content. From general photography to product photos, all your page copy, product descriptions, blog posts, and well-thought-out service pages. You should also consider other kinds of content like video as well as newer technologies like augmented reality. Content is what sets you apart online so planning the content you need for your website allows you to see what content you have to work with as well as what content you need which is really the starting point for your website.
We work with clients to collate all their existing content so we can see what we have. From there, depending on your goals we can suggest and facilitate new content ideas. All content gets shared with us in a Google Drive we’ll set up for you and schedule when we will create the new content if there is any new content to develop.
Style guides, design & prototyping
Some of our clients have existing style guides and brand identities that we work with but for clients who don’t we develop a style guide and brand identity which clients can use for other elements of their businesses. So what is a style guide? Well, it’s all the design elements that we use when designing your site. It includes colour palette, font type as well as other components like what all the buttons on your site will look like or what will product archives be comprised of. It’s essentially the building blocks that get used over and over on your website to maintain a consistent on-brand look for your site.
Once the style guide has been created we start to use the information we gathered in the content planning phase to determine what pages we will design for the site. Most simple static sites that simply showcase a business’s information are usually between 3 and 5 pages. These pages could be the home page, about us page, services pages, blog page, and contact page. All businesses are different so we try to understand the business thoroughly during discovery and let that inform what pages are best to design to best showcase that specific business. For more complex sites and eCommerce sites pages will include product archives, single product pages, cart, and checkout pages as well as custom functionality pages like membership content pages.
Knowing what pages will comprise the website allows us to then drill down into what each page will be. Using the content planning we did, we design and prototype out each page. Using the brand style guide we developed as well as the content planning we did allows us to design each page with your content. During this design phase, clients have access to the platform we design in and can check in on the designs at any point remotely.
Once each page has been designed we prototype the design. This essentially means we connect the pages using some cool tools which let us preview the pages and how they interact. It’s essentially the last step before we start developing the site online. Prototyping is important because it gives us a better understanding of the user experience and user interface. Prototyping lets us present you with a working model so you can also get a good sense of how the design feels and how the users will interact with your website.
Once all the designs and prototypes are signed off it’s time to start developing the site online. We try and avoid at all costs designing during this development phase. All content, design, and page structure should be completed during the previous phase. The development phase should just be taking the designs and “copying” them to your online working website. All media is organized online in a media folder and components are built out and used across the website.
Development isn’t only transferring the design online but also includes important backend considerations. We use 3rd party plugins for things like security, website speed, and caching as well as connecting your sites to Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Depending on the kind of site we’re building the development phase can last 1 day or 2 weeks.
Other elements in the design phase include basic search engine optimization. This includes titles, descriptions, featured images, permalinks, targeted keywords, schema selection, and social sharing images and descriptions for all pages, posts, post categories and for eCommerce stores, this means the same for all product categories and products. This is quite a time-consuming process but is well worth it.
Revisions and handover.
Once we have completed the development of the site and everything has been optimised we review the site with you. There should be very few changes as most iteration and revision is done in the design phase. We complete any last small changes and content updates and hand over the site to you. Many of our clients pay us to maintain their sites monthly so this handover doesn’t mean we won’t continue working on the site and optimizing things like speed and SEO. We always recommend all our clients write blog posts about their business, industry, or products and services. Despite being valuable for your potential customers it also goes a long way for SEO as Google likes seeing websites that get fresh content often. Whether we are maintaining your site or you are looking after things it’s important that content updates are done month to month.
Hopefully, this has been helpful in clarifying how we design and develop websites for clients. In truth, there is so much more to this process but what’s most important is that the communication between us and clients is constant and clear. We want to build a website that you are proud of and are happy to share far and wide!