If as a marketer, you are tasked with delivering and launching a new website, you might think that the starting points is to find a great designer, outline a quick brief and let them go about setting it up. However, in reality there is so much more to it, with a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration. Great websites do require great design but they also require careful planning and consideration of a number of factors before design can begin. Design is a huge part of the process but it is just that – a part of a bigger process and not the only component.
Like most areas of marketing, launching a website should be treated as a project from the outset and that means upfront planning to ensure that what is delivered as the end result is what you actually need.
The starting point for any web design project is to establish if the site is a completely new one or a redesign of an existing site. A redesign can be slightly trickier as the impact on existing traffic should take this into account and factored into the project plan. It should be considered as one of the major risks of success for the launch of the site if traffic numbers to the site fall off a cliff because site redirects weren’t fully taken into account. The planning phase should also address a number of questions to ensure the requirements and scope of the project are clear.
The questions which should be addressed include:
- What product / service is the site promoting? This is important to help build guide a designer on the type of style that could work.
- Who is the target audience and what is the typical persona being targeted? Again, this will contribute to the style that will work, something that will work for a young, quirky audience isn’t going to down too well when promoting something more serious.
- How will the site be updated moving forward, is this built on a simple CMS that will then be updated by the owner of the site or will ongoing support be required? This will help establish the scope and timescales involved.
- What are the requirements for the site – is this an information, brochure type site or will it need to support e-commerce? If e-commerce then some thought needs to be given to platforms and technology integrations required to be able to process sales, capture information and keep that detail safe.
- What is required in terms of content and who will be responsible for writing that content? And - what sections are required on the site? This will help build a structure to the site and should include things like what will be included in the resources section and what forms are required for capturing contact information.
- What images are required? Will there be a requirement for product imagery, stock imagery or will these need to be factored into the design requirements?
- Are there brand guidelines already in place? Whether building the site as in-house designer or as a freelance designer or agency, a designer will need to know if there are any specific brand guidelines, styles that need to be factored into the design.
- Expected timescales. The project plan needs to reflect what can be done based on the scope in the timescales expected.
- Integration with social media accounts. Establish what social media accounts exist and how these should be integrated into the site. Will these be links to the accounts only or sharing buttons from certain types of content or will it even include a feed from any social channels on the home page?
- Landing Page Requirements. Will this simply be the website as it is created or will there be a need to add landing pages to direct traffic from adverts?
This exploratory phase of website design is extremely important and can save a lot of wasted time and effort in the long run if done properly. There is no point saying “I want a new website” if you can’t answer the questions outlined here. What you end up with might look fantastic but if you haven’t addressed up front what you want the site to achieve then you can’t measure the success of having the site in place.
The next part of a web design project is to create the initial designs which will then go through an approval process.
Only once all of the planning and initial design approval takes place can anyone then move to the actual design and build phase.
Finally, once designs are in place and the site is made live there is a testing phase to go through. This involves testing page links, making sure any redirects from any existing site are in place, testing the site on different web browsers, ensuring the site is responsive on mobile, testing payment if the site has an e-commerce requirement and testing forms which have been added to the site for capturing contact details.
In summary, I would split a web design project into 5 key areas:
- Exploratory and Planning Phase
- Initial Concept Designs and Approval
- Final Designs and Implementation
- Go Live
In my opinion, the biggest and most important part is the Exploratory and Planning Phase. This determines the requirements, the scope and the timescales as well as the measurement of success once the site is live. Most importantly, it builds a comprehensive brief for a designer to work from. A great website might finish with great design but the great design work comes from very careful and meticulous planning work at the beginning.
Barvas offers a built-in web design planning template which lets you set out the structure to all of the questions you need to address in the exploratory and planning phase and then offers the ability to turn that detail into a project plan to manage and co-ordinate delivery of stages two to five.