There are many things to consider when designing a website, regardless of whether you are doing the work yourself or seeking the help of a professional developer. While it may be easy (and fun) to get wrapped up in the aesthetics of choosing colours, typefaces, layouts and images, there are a few basic elements that need to be determined before you begin the actual design process. The first step is to review and consider the past, present and future versions of your website.
PAST: Examine Your Current Website
If you’re an established company with a website already in place, you will need to consider how your customers are currently using it and why you need a design change in the first place. It isn’t a best practice to constantly change the layout of your website as your repeat visitors may get confused. It’s also not a good idea to update the site “just because” and you should make sure to have a new goal in mind for your new website. For example, are you looking to revamp your overall marketing or branding strategy? Are you struggling to keep visitors on your site? Do you want to introduce a new product/service and want to incorporate an e-commerce section? It’s easier to narrow down your website design options once you have a solid strategy planned.
If you’re a new startup or don’t currently have a website, you may have more freedom with the design, however there are still some preliminary considerations to keep in mind. These might be based on the industry you are in or the type of business you have, and can impact the layout you choose or the aesthetic elements you want to add. Ever notice how all banking websites generally have the same look and feel? While we often hear that it’s a good idea to stand out from the crowd, there are other times when it’s best to have a similar look and feel.
PRESENT: Creating a List of Needs and Wants
Determining your business goals will help determine the needs of your new website design. Having a solid outline of your needs help guide the design process, especially if you are having it designed and developed professionally. You should also have a list of “wants” for your new website design, but make sure the wants don’t take away from the needs. In general there are a few basic sections that you should have on your website, no matter what industry you are in:
- About Page: Describing yourself and/or your company and what you offer
- Contact Page: Details of how to contact you, and your physical location(s) and hours of operation if necessary
- Navigation: Menus must be easy to use and easily accessible no matter what device someone is using (ie: mobile friendly)
- Analytics: This will help you track how many visitors are coming to your website and which pages they are spending time on (among other things). A great free option is Google Analytics. [http://www.google.com/analytics/]
To start the planning process, write out a list of all the things you want to include on your new website. From there, separate the list into needs and wants, and then prioritize your list of wants into order of importance and “nice to haves.”
FUTURE: Maintaining and Updating
Are you planning on launching your website and not having to update it more than a few times a year or will you need to add new content regularly? If you’re having your website developed professionally, will you or someone at your company be able to do minor updates, or will you need to contact your developers for every change? Thinking of these future use questions at the onset of the redesign process will help determine which type of platform is best to use (whether it’s coded from scratch or uses a Content Management System such as WordPress or Joomla) and can also help identify any future costs.
Now that you’ve examined the website you currently have (if applicable), created a list of your needs and wants, and determined how it’s going to be updated as your business grows, you should be set to start looking at some new design options!
If you’re building the website yourself, start exploring the different Content Management Systems available. If your website is being developed professionally, consult with some design firms to see if there are other elements you might be missing, and if you want to focus on e-commerce, be sure to read the article Leverage Your Retail Store by Taking it Online. [http://quickbooks.intuit.ca/r/social-media/leverage-retail-store-taking-online]
Nicole Q-Schmitz is the Multimedia Manager at Startup Canada and is a freelance Multimedia Content Designer and Marketer, with a focus on branding, graphic design, web design and social media. She provides holistic brand and project solutions to individuals, businesses and volunteer organizations and has recently launched a Home Renovation and DIY Blog.