The Website Design Process

What goes into designing a website? There is a lot of planning and preparation involved. Designing a website is like building a home in that It is much easier to make changes in the beginning on the blueprint than it is in the middle of construction.

The web design process is a collaboration, and the majority of client participation is at the beginning during the planning and materials gathering phases. The information below lays out the steps and what is required to make the web design and development process smooth, efficient and successful.

Phase 1: Planning

Questions to ponder at this phase are more conceptual than technical, similar to a marketing plan.

  • What do you hope to achieve by having a website? What are your goals?
  • How would you describe your organization and its mission?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sort of content do you wish to share with this target audience? Is it in the form of information you wish to share or products you wish to sell? What sort of interaction does the audience have with this information?
  • How would you organize this information? Can you put together a list, in outline form, of the pages?
  • Will your website require any specialized technical tools, such as a database, a shopping cart, customized scripting for an online form or calculator?
  • Do you have a domain name?
  • Do you have a web host?
  • How are you planning on maintaining the site? Do you need a maintenance plan? Or do you have someone in-house to maintain the website?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your time line?

Phase 2: Information Gathering

The type of information you are going to share with your audience and how it will be organized have been determined. Now it is time to collect your materials.

The list below is a sample of materials that need to be gathered and tasks that need to be completed before beginning development on a website. Exact materials will be determined by the website's features.

  • Copy: The hierarchy of the website and its pages have already been determined. Now the copy for each page needs to be written. It should be proofread and spell checked.
  • Graphics: This includes photographs, illustrations and logos. Having graphics prepared in a digital format reduces costs.
  • Keywords: If you are choosing to promote your website, 10 keyword phrases geared towards your target audience need to be provided.
  • Domain Name: If you don't already have a domain name, it will be set up at this time.
  • Web Host: Your website will receive its home with a web hosting service.
  • E-commerce: If your site includes a shopping cart, you will need the following:
    • Software: E-commerce software will have been determined in Phase 1. This is the time to set it up and prepare it for customization.
    • Merchant Account: If you require and merchant account and / or gateway for taking credit cards, this is the time to set it up.
    • Inventory Categories: What are the categories and sub-categories for your items?
    • Inventory Items: Which items go into each category? What is the item name and item number?
    • Inventory Graphics: Each item needs an accompanying photo.
    • Prices: What does each item cost?
    • Attributes: Color? Size?
    • Shipping: How will you charge for shipping?
    • Policies: What are your shipping, return and privacy policies?
    • Other: Are there any other requirements, such as digital downloads or a section for wholesalers?
  • Database: If your site includes a database, you will need a list of the following:
    • Software: Database software will have been determined in Phase 1. This is the time to set it up and prepare for customization.
    • Fields: What information categories will be displayed? Much of this will have been determined in Phase 1.
    • Records: Is there existing information that needs to be imported into the database?

Phase 3: Design

It is not until this phase that we start putting together a picture of your website.

In the Phase 1, your vision for your website was determined, along with preferences and dislikes both aesthetically and functionally.

All of that information will be used to come up with an initial design in graphic format, and through a series of revisions, the design of your website will be developed.

Phase 4: Development & Testing

Now that the look of the site has been determined and the design approved, the functionality will be created.

The graphics files created in the design phase are transformed into CSS Style Sheets, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, JQuery and any of the other languages and components needed to create your website.

As these features are implemented, they are continually tested to ensure that all is functioning as planned where the pages appear correctly in the major browsers and devices, the links go to the right places, etc.

Phase 6: Ongoing Maintenance & Promotion

Putting your website on the internet is just the beginning! In order to get a return on your investment, it is a good idea to periodically update your site to keep visitors returning to see what is new.