Designing a quality, unique website requires the right combination of art, technology, and communication skills. It is vitally important to the success of any professional website project for the client to be actively involved in helping the designer identify and understand their true wants and needs. Web designers act as both creative coach and translator of ideas. Turning ideas into concepts, incorporating customer feedback, and prototyping rapidly creates a hands-on, evolutionary workflow for the customer, producing maximum results and a pleasant customer experience.
Step 1: Learn a little (or a lot) about the client's business
Once a client has committed to building a new website, it's time to dig in and learn a little about the business and the specific requirements. This can be done through a simple questionnaire for smaller sites, or may require many hours of consultation for larger ones. Some of the questions asked include: website goals and objectives, target audience, color and style preferences, examples of preferred websites, etc. If a client already has specific text and images that they would like to have included (maybe from an existing brochure or catalog) it is time to share the files and information with the designer, and the designer will in turn review it and share an objective opinion on the usefulness and quality of the customer supplied materials. If a domain name does not already exist for the site, this would be a good time to decide on a name and have it registered. The designer can help as little or as much as necessary in this area. Once all information has been received, work will commence immediately on the custom website design. Idea sharing and customer involvement is always welcomed and encouraged.
Step 2: Review design concepts and pick a direction
Normally, a customer will have initial design concepts to review within a few days. Some projects can take substantially longer to reach this initial stage, depending on the level of research and discovery being done for the customer in other related and possibly interdependent areas, such as designing a new corporate identity (logo and entire brand) or building an information systems solution into the website. The design and layout of the home page and first-level inner pages come first. This offers the customer a view of the possibilities and how different ideas work together at different levels. Then, one will be selected for further refinement. Existing works by the designer can often be used as a starting ground and modified to create a unique, yet familiar, look and feel. In the case that the customer is indecisive or doesn't fall in love with one of the initial concepts, additional designs will be presented. After a design and layout concept has been chosen, revisions to that design and layout concept will be made until the customer is completely satisfied.
Step 3: Review revisions and ask for feedback
Once the design and layout has been approved and finalized, detailed content will be entered utilizing the selected design guidelines for consistency and beauty. Content can be supplied in almost any electronic format such as email, Word or even scanned text. In the case of larger consultative web projects, content can be created for the customer as part of an overall marketing and branding campaign. For images, content can be shot by the design team, supplied by the client, or in some cases purchased or custom created by the designer. There is also the option of choosing imagery from a gallery of quality royalty-free work at no additional cost. Just describe what is wanted, and the designer will pick the perfect images for the job. Or, if preferred, the client may choose the images themselves and the designer will certainly assist in the process a level with which the customer is comfortable. Customer supplied content can be supplied as soon as it is acquired - there's no reason to wait until the web pages have been designed. In fact, often times the best design concepts are born of the content.
Step 4: Finalize your website.
All concepts and revisions can be viewed online and there is always an open channel of communication to the designer. Once the customer is completely satisfied with the finished website, high-quality website hosting is offered, or the website can be implemented at a third party host of the client's choosing, as long as appropriate security access and necessary software tools are available.
This article was posted on March 27, 2006