Whether designing a new website or redesigning an existing website, it’s important to follow a structured process. This will help ensure that your website design project is built on a solid foundation and is optimized to support your digital marketing and business goals.
Start by clearly defining your objectives.
Write down all of the goals you have for your website. Then, rank them in the order of importance to your organization. Common objectives include:
- Evolving or establishing a brand: Whether modernizing your image, conveying technical differentiation or projecting greater scale, websites are perfect for brand building.
- Helping customers / clients self-serve: From downloading manuals and technical information to accessing frequency asked questions, a website can help current customers and prospects to get the information that they need, 24/7.
- Generating leads: Whether it’s organic search, paid search, referral or direct traffic, it’s important that the website converts visitors to leads. Leads provide a direct way of measuring ROI (return on investment).
Develop personas for key visitor groups.
After establishing objectives, determine what type of visitors you will have on your website. This is known as persona development. Start by trying to categorize your visitors into clusters, based on one or more these segments:
- Stakeholder Type
For example, you may determine that the key visitor groups include customers, investors, employees and vendors (this is clustered by stakeholder type). Developing personas also requires defining attributes. In this example, the customer persona may be an engineer, with an age of 25 to 45, and 70% male.
These personas are extremely important to website design — they will influence key content and UI/UX (user interface / user experience) decisions.
Determine a website structure that fits your personas.
The best way to approach this process is to simply create a sitemap. With your personas in mind, define where content should be located on the website. Start with the homepage, then move on to the top-level navigation items, and then define sub-menu items. You should go down as many levels as necessary. Websites that have thousands of products may require five or more levels (e.g. Products –> Master Category I –> Category A –> Sub Category 1 –> Product XYZ). However, the fewer clicks that a visitor needs to use to get to their desired content, the better. Best practices include:
- Minimize main menu items to keep the design as clean as possible
- Clearly define menu items and ensure that content can only logically appear in one location to avoid confusion
- Reduce clicks to help visitors reach their desired content quickly
- Determine what each persona wants to do on the website and the path that makes most sense
- Verify that all the information you need to satisfy each persona is available on the website
The sitemap can also be aspirational and indicate future content that will be added after the website launches. For example, you may not have content ready for a Markets or Applications section, but it’s important to note where that section would fit and navigation to get there.
Approach website design with a wireframe first that focuses on UI/UX before fully completing all elements.
The design phase is extremely exciting — it’s the first time you will get to see what your new website will look like. However, we believe that starting with a black and white wireframe eliminates biases to colors and certain elements, while focusing on the actual user interface. The wireframe should show the location of all content, such as the logo, contact information, main menu, search, banners, text, and specifications. Major pages on the website should have wireframes to ensure consistency. Wireframes should be refined to provide an outstanding user interface where information is logically presented and the visitor will be able to easily navigate the website.
Once wireframes are approved, design elements should be carefully selected. Key considerations include:
- Colors: Your website colors should reflect your brand. They should also be used for highlights and to indicate which item is active, such as the current page. Lastly, and most importantly, a color should be designated for items that the visitor can interact with, such as links. All colors should be harmonious and provide functional cues.
- Fonts: Websites can now use advanced fonts that weren’t available just a few years ago. As with printed material, it’s important to select a font that has high readability. The size of the font should be balanced based on personas, allowing visitors to easily read the content while presenting as much of it as possible. Font sizes need to be set for paragraphs, headlines, bullets and many other styles.
- Images: The photography and illustrations on the website should reflect your brand. They should also utilize your colors when possible. Engaging images help tell a story and reinforce messaging.
- Icons: One way to make information easily digestible is iconography. Icons can provide visuals cues and break up large content blocks.
Write content that is short, direct and engaging.
Copywriting on websites should be closer to a print ad than a novel. It’s important to use short, direct sentences, break content into bullets whenever possible, and minimize the use of the passive voice. The Flesch Reading Ease Test is a great way to analyze copywriting to verify that it is easy for visitors to read.
Select a CMS, code the website and pull it all together.
While content is being developed, the CMS (content management system) can be selected. For most websites, WordPress offers the best combination of performance, usability, customization and security. The website design will be programmed into a theme and individual pages will be created based on your sitemap and content.
While there are many other considerations for website design, such as hosting (e.g. DreamHost), UAT (user acceptance testing), training, and SEO (read making smart SEO improvements for additional information), the above elements are the key building blocks to a successful website design or redesign.
Get started today!
Call us at 908.369.9300 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a no cost, no obligation website design consultation and discover how we can help you better engage with your customers!