Website design process – Client briefing

This article is especially for clients who are developing a website for the first time. I have also included a list of tools for new website developers. Following the process of website design is critical to contributing meaningfully and for a successful internet marketing strategy. Well thought content, design & SEO (Search Engine optimization ) are your marketing tools on net, so pay attention to your website designer. Please spend time reading the following:

Designing a website is not the same as DESK TOP PUBLISHING.

There are millions of websites out there. Without having followed good website design principles, the chances that someone will find your website, is like trying to search for a needle in a haystack.
Google.com, Bing.com, search.yahoo.com are all online search engines that help users of the World Wide Web find the sites and information they’re looking for. But for Google or any other search engine to understand your website, and be able to categorize it correctly, your website needs to be designed following certain website design principles. Most search engines use automated programs (sometimes called spiders) to look for relevant information in your website based on keywords, description, header tags and relevant content found on the web site pages.

Once you have hosted your website, efforts need to be made to increase its visibility. Websites are listed in online directories, similar to yellow pages.Yahoo Directory, DMOZ are online directories, there are many more free and paid. These directories are organized by real people who discover new sites and relevant information by exploring the Web themselves and by reviewing submitted sites.

 

Your website designer needs to register your website with different online free and paid directories. You can further increase the visibility of your website, by joining relevant forums, uploading your portfolio etc. These factors will help you increase your page rank.

 

You need to find ways & reasons for people to visit your website such as keeping your site updated by providing latest helpful information that relates to your product or services, maintaining a blog of your important professional activities on your website etc.

 

Its possible to keep track of your visitors in detail by installing freely available scripts. Tracking your visitors will help you in fine tuning your website.

 

You will from time to time want to update you website. If you are tight on budget, affordable content management system such as WordPress maybe your best solution to avoid website maintenance costs. Click here to read about WordPress CMS (Content management system).

 

Website provides an opportunity to address global audience, communicate interactively with the visitors, gather information, fine tune the website based on visitor analysis etc. Here is the brief of the process.

a. Information gathering, research and ideas:

The most critical step in the web design process is creating an accurate project definition. The website planner is used to gather information. Many other things also need to be taken into consideration when designing the look and feel of a web site, so we ask a lot of questions to understand your business and your needs.

Most importantly the things we consider are:

  • Purpose of the website

What is the main purpose of the site? Is the website about your business, or you want to share/provide information, promote a existing service… ?

  • Goals

What do you hope to accomplish by building this web site? Some of the common goals are either to advertise your business, or share information.

  • Target Audience

Is there a particular group of audience who you think will help you reach your goals? Consider their age, sex or interests – this will help us determine the best possible visual style for your site.

  • Content

What kind of information will interest the target audience on your site? Is there anything that you can showcase better than your competitors?

Tools:
Using Mind Mapping – Web definitions – A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Check the following links:

http://www.mindmeister.com/

http://www.spiderscribe.net/

http://www.text2mindmap.com/

File sharing and collabration

http://drive.google.com/

https://www.dropbox.com/

b. Current site exploration and competitor sites:

We can check an existing site technically for markup, SEO & usability issues. The next stage is to analyze competitor websites. This job is best done with your help, so as not to miss business related nuances. We then post you a technical specification document that outlines your requirements along with tasks and timeline for the project.

c. Designing the most suitable information architecture and site map:

 

The information gathered is arranged by level of importance. This helps to arrange topics and sub-topics as a site map and is essential in developing a consistent, easy to understand navigational system. A site map provides a visual representation of the content and complete site structure.

Tools:
Draw site maps

https://creately.com/app/
http://slickplan.com/
http://www.jumpchart.com/

d. Creating wireframes:

We are now on our way to creating a mock-up. But before that, we create and share with you a diagram that is called wireframe. Wireframe is a simple drawing of the chunks of information and functionality for each page in your site. Wireframes include the containers for all the major elements of the page. Elements include navigation, images, text content, functional elements (like search) and footer.

We create a wireframe for the home page, each unique second level pages and any other significantly different page on the site. Once approved, the visual design process begins.

Tools:

Great review of wireframe tools

http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/wireframing-tools/

e. Mock-up of home page and inside pages:

 

Here is where we get down to photoshop and design a visual style that includes information with regards to:

Branding – Tying the overall brand, colors, mood Target Audience – Designing for visual impact and taking care of navigation, usability issues. Grid – Keeping the elements structured to a grid system.

f. Development:

 

This is where web site creation begins. We take all of the individual elements such as illustrations, images, charts, text from the prototype and use them to create the functional web site. We also take your content and distribute it throughout the site, in the appropriate areas.

 

We use the latest tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Flash, Flash actionscript & XML, PHP, MySQL, javascript for custom coding. We check for cross browser compatibility and acceptability. Our programmers are also experienced in customizing plugins that can be integrated in your website for additional features.

 

We also provide services to create 3D photorealistic visuals such as architectural renderings, product models, animations, and panoramic views

http://www.adobe.com – tools for website design and graphics
http://www.coffeecup.com/html-editor/ – website design software
http://www.genfavicon.com/ – favicon generator

 

g. Development (Content Management System):

 

You can choose to have your site designed using a Content Management System in case your business/service requires frequent and rapid changes. In simple words, a Content Management System provides you a backend user interface that lets you make changes to the website without having to pay an extra amount for a yearly maintenance contract. It is necessary to have a little knowledge about fundamentals of website design and management. More advance self management will require training. If you do not want a full blownup CMS, there are alternate CMS that are easy to use and easy on the pocket. These let you make text and image changes but restrict structural changes to website.

 

Whether you are planning a personal site or a complex e-commerce website, we can provide a spectrum of Content Management System solutions (CMS), so that you can fully control the content on your website. We work on Joomla and WordPress platform.

Links:

http://www.wordpress.com – directly host your site here for free. Pay and you will be able to add a custom domain name
http://www.wordpress.org – download wordpress and host it to your server
http://www.joomla.org – another CMS framework

h. Search engine friendly:

Search engines crave content. They do not recognize how aesthetically pleasing your site is but rather will digest the content of your site to understand its subject matter. This is not to say that we will need to sacrifice design for content. We try to maximize the best of both worlds.

We make the site search engine friendly, which means setting up your website to rank higher in the search engine results pages for key terms that are relevant to your business.

Tools:

  • http://www.seomoz.org/
  • http://www.seorch.eu/

i. Quality assurance testing, uploading, delivery:

 

Our Project Plan also contains formal testing of the site with regards to contents, links, functionality, validity, accessibility, browser/OS/resolution, usability, search engine optimization, and security.

 

Your site will be uploaded to your webhost so you can watch the progress online from anywhere. We give you two week assistance upon delivery, to correct or make any changes that you request.

Tools:

  • http://validator.w3.org/
  • https://browserlab.adobe.com/
  • http://gtmetrix.com/

j. Website Maintenance:

 

Your web site though complete requires maintenance. One way to bring repeat visitors to your site is to offer new content or products on a regular basis. We will be glad to continue working together with you to update the information on your web site. We offer maintenance packages at hourly as well as yearly reduced rates, based on how often you anticipate making changes or additions to your site.

For those of us in the business of website design here is a link that I would like to share with you all. While a business is client driven and satisfying them is most important, it requires lot of different skills….with one of them being able to educate your client without making him feel like a high school student. The post outlines what happens in the hectic life of a freelance designer…tips to avoid getting into situations. http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/workflow/educating-your-clients-8-lessons-for-web-designers-to-teach-clients/

sachinwalvekar