One can argue that there are many ways to design a website, to which I disagree completely. There is only one way to design a website properly in my mind and that is a four stage process that our Toronto web design studio employs which includes everything from strategizing to analyzing user data well after the website has launched. If done properly, a website design can last for years adding much more value for your clients.

Strategy and Research

Believe it or not, many designers skip this step and just get right into the creative. This is a huge mistake! By carefully analyzing existing website user data and researching the competition and industry related websites you will give yourself and your client a much more sturdy foundation form which to build on. Creating a clear strategy based on these metrics will ensure a more successful finished product.

Let’s assume you’ve got data collecting because you’ve installed Google Analytics at least a month before you’re ready to start planning the new site design. You can then focus on important features like:

analytics-data

Screen Resolution

A crucial element in any website redesign is average screen resolution used by website visitors. If the majority of your traffic is using a resolution of 1024 pixels by 768 pixels you know you must keep all the important elements and navigation of the new design within those dimensions. Creating a new design for a higher resolution means important information will likely be lost to visitors as it will not appear on screen with they visit your website. Secondary information can exist below the fold and rely on users scrolling down the page to find information as in this day and age we’re accustomed to scroll.

Commonly Used Browsers

Browser versioning and technology is another key item of information you should consider. With the emergence of HTML5 this can get a little tricky. If the majority of your users are currently using a version of Internet Explorer, we know that most HTML5 features are not yet supported fully so xHTML and Javascript would make a better solution for your new design.

Competition and Related Industry Websites

This research can turn up some pretty interesting results. By checking out some competitor websites you can get a sense of style within the industry. Depending on the comfort level of your client you may choose to design a new site that fits within the industry norm, or if you have a more adventurous and confident client you may create something completely unique within their industry. Either way, knowing where the bar is set will help you create a new design that gives your client a leg up on their competition.

Target Audience

Who is the new site design targeted at? For example, If you’re targeting adults in the professional world, more often than not you’ll want to avoid using bright primary colours that you would typically use for a design geared towards young children. By knowing your audience, you’re better equipped to deliver a solution that effectively conveys your client’s message to the right people, which in turn creates a more successful web design solution.

Design and Creative

This is the most fun and challenging part of the process. Many clients will only request one design concept in order to keep costs at a minimum, which is understandable. However, much of the time we will run through a few different ideas before presenting a selected idea to the client. If you feel strongly enough about an alternative to show both ideas, do it. Remember you’re the professional and the client has contracted you for your expertise and design knowledge. Offering more than one idea is a slippery slope as you want to avoid offering too many solutions. However, showing two ideas will often give your client some insight they may otherwise have not thought of.

Development

Once your design has been approved it’s time to start building the concept into a working website. As most users are not fully ready for HTML5, it’s most likely in your best interest to work within the confines of xHTML and javascript to achieve the experience you want. When you’re ready to present to your client, be sure to test, test and test again for bugs as well as opening up the site on a secure development server for your client to review and provide feedback. Once you’re sure your new site is bulletproof and is ready for the world, launch!

To Launch, or Soft-launch?

I’ve been doing this for a long time now and have gone through the process of launching websites of all shapes and sizes. My personal preference is most often the soft launch. Reason being is that you have a window to user test your website and gain valuable user analytics in order to improve and modify your site before pushing it to the masses. Sometimes, this extra step proves to be extremely valuable and can turn a good website design into a great website design with a little extra effort.

Post Launch Analytics

Once your new site has been live for at least 30 days you should have enough analytics data to start gauging how well it’s performing with your audience. This step is crucial as it allows you to modify pieces of the site and enhance or further customize the user experience and better convert your visitors into customers.