There are steps in the web design process that aren’t as fun as creating a beautiful design or coding an ajax rich interface, and for this reason they are often neglected or completely omitted. These steps may not be necessary to take a site from concept to production, but in terms of achieving the objectives defined by the project’s stake holders, they could make all the difference.
Define and Completely Understand Site Objectives
How many times have you started designing a website based on less than detailed requirements, only to find yourself frustrated later by numerous changes and additions? This can be avoided by taking extra time with the client to learn what the site is all about and what it’s objectives are. In most cases, this should be achieved before any design work begins. Doing this gives you a clear picture of what the web site is to become and how it is to behave. This helps you and the client to define features and requirements up front, and aids in the prevention of drastic scope changes as the project progresses.
Know the Target Audience
The target audience are those people who will be using the site. Obviously, understanding the site objectives will give you a good idea of the audience, but further examination is required to fully understand what type of users these people will be. Once you have a good understanding of this, you can design features to best suit them. Including this step, prevents wasted time in trying to build a site that pleases everybody.
A wireframe is used to set the layout of a site without using color or design elements. It defines the size and position of page elements such as headings, navigation, and content blocks. Using a wireframe helps those involved in a project determine and set proper priority and emphasis on significant parts of a design. Sure, it is an extra step, but when layout revisions need to be made, it is much quicker to reposition a grey boxÃ‚Â than it is to rework complicated design elements. Once the wireframes are complete and they have been approved by all parties involved, adding the color, graphics, and typography is much easier.
There are applications built specifically for creating wireframes, but I find that Photoshop works just as well.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Its surprising how many web designers don’t realize the importance of SEO, and its more surprising how many do not know what it is. Search Engine Optimization is simply taking steps to increase the amount of traffic a web site receives from search engines. This is really an ongoing step. One that should begin in the early stages of your web design process by determining proper key words. Then it should continue as the site is developed by utilizing proper HTML markup, and including internal linking as content is built.
The success of a web site hinges on the amount of traffic that it gets, so leaving SEO out of your web design process prevents a site from reaching it’s full potential.
Hopefully you see how these steps can help you build a better web site and do it in a more structured and efficient manner. In future articles, I will further explain how to successfully implement each step.