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Website Design – How to Get Exactly What You Want

The Perfect Website Design Process 

If you are planning to start a website or do a redesign of your current site, Chris Green of Design Web Studio sheds light from his experience to help you – the client – get what you want.  This is the complete website design process, and you may want to bookmark this if you know you’re going to need it in the future.  Here’s what Chris has to say about the process: 

Web Design expert

Chris Green,
Our Author & Expert Web Designer

What I have found over the 8 years I have been designing websites is that each client has different issues and problems with understanding or following a design process. Some clients find some of these steps tedious or boring, and I can wait weeks for a simple piece of information like updated keyword-rich content or improved graphics. These delays disrupt the design flow and can make the whole project a chore for both my client and I.

How could I streamline this process?  How could I make it more interesting for the client or just stop hassling them so much? Over the last few weeks I have asked this question to many web designers around the world, and from their responses I have created what I believe to be the best strategies for implementing a robust, designer- and client-friendly, web design process. 

First, our web designer group generally agreed that the whole design process for a larger site should use the agile development approach.  That means that the whole design sequence should be broken down into small development chunks to be discussed, designed and approved. Once all the development chunks are completed then the whole design can be delivered.

For smaller web sites, most designers use the waterfall approach to design a website because it’s quicker:  just meet with a client to discuss their needs, then develop prototypes, templates, wireframes; design the site; test and tweak and finally deliver the finished site.  The disadvantage with using the waterfall approach is that it becomes harder to implement changes within the design — this is where clients can become frustrated and design time starts spiralling out of control. Using the agile development process eliminates this problem and saves time if clients know that they will be updating and changing often.

Each step below has been designed to steadily reduce the designer/developer and client interaction. So here goes:

Step 1: Information Gathering Meetingwebsite design information gathering

At this face to face meeting the client wants guidance, focus, and well defined deliverables that can be demonstrated (although not necessarily in this meeting but definitely in the next). The meeting should be a Q&A discussion. Before the meeting the client should have a copy of the questions so they can prepare some answers. Discuss questions like:

  • What’s important to you about a website (at least 2 examples)?
  • What do you want your website to portray?
  • What would make your website successful?
  • What would make your website fail?
  • Why do you want a website?
  • Why are you having your website redeveloped?

In this meeting be sure the client is aware that no matter how good the site looks, unless they do a lot of marketing, it’s a waste of money. The client MUST drive traffic to their website in order to achieve the purpose of the site, which is generally to generate leads, sell a product, and/or close sales.

Discuss the hosting. If you don’t, there may be issues later when their existing server is not compatible with your build.

Finally, you need to ensure that any additional work that is done after the site is completed – changes, updates, fixings things they’ve broken, and restoring backups – is either a part of the total development fee or not. Discuss the costs of ongoing maintenance.

Make action lists for both of you, with deadlines. Both the client and the designer should have time lines for which they are accountable. (Or if the company is large enough someone should be delegated to be responsible for the site.)

At the end of the interview summarize and discuss your payment procedure.  A “retainer fee” is a good idea as it helps motivate both of you to act promptly.

Step 2: Planning Meetingwebsite design planning

Most website designers/developers have only one planning and signing off meeting, but my survey results showed that two very close together meetings helps the process. The short gap in between lets both parties collate the information and refresh themselves for the final signing off meeting.

In the planning meeting show the client examples  — prototypes and wireframes of the design, navigation etc. Go through the bullet points from the information gathering meeting and how they fall into the plan. Show your expertise by giving them some “What if your website could do this” examples. (Phrasing your advice this way makes it easier to drop these new ideas if the client doesn’t like them.) Don’t assume your client is as savvy with the “design” language as you are; make sure the client understands what you will do and how.

If adjustments are needed at this stage, agree and document everything clearly (but briefly) so both parties understand their roles and responsibilities.

Step 3: Signing Off Meetingwebsite design signing off

Get everything signed off by the client in this final meeting, taking note of your client’s reactions and body language. If you suspect any confusion or negativity address it here. Show the client a basic template design with colours and their company logo and decide on a go-live date. After the meeting write the proposal and send it to them soon – this gives a both sides a reference for all that has been agreed upon.

Step 4: Design and Developmentwebsite design

Before you start any designing, first collate all of the content because content can affect the design and aesthetics of the site. Second,collate all images. If the images supplied by the client are not good, and they are not prepared to pay for a photographer, then you need to find stock imagery for them. Don’t wait until the site is developed and the client points out the bad images — content and imagery need to be confirmed at the very start. Then at last, complete the design as specified.

Step 5: Testing and Deliverywebsite design delivery

After testing and just prior to delivery, teach the client how to manage their own site. You can use pre-written lessons and/or videos. This is particularly important if you have built or provided a content management system.

Finally, after 3 months get together with the client to review the website and discuss ideas and improvements for the future.

If you would like to read Chris’ previous post on using social media versus your web, click here.

Thanks to Chris Green, web developer for Design Web Studio, for helping us all to understand what the process should be. Please share this article with your business friends and clients – they’ll thank you for it!

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