You are wondering how to approach your website design?
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about effective website design.
Let’s get started.
20 years ago we didn’t even think about online presences, now most of us have one. From our social media profiles to your business website, a big part of our lives happens on the Internet.
And because of that, the Internet has become one of the most cost-effective marketing channels for most businesses.
However, projects need to rethink their marketing if they want to make a dent in the online world.
More and more people are making decisions on information they find in search engines or social networks.
And ultimately all these channels should lead to your website so you can fully control the user experience of your audience.
Most people assume wrongly that the most important thing to a website design is how good it looks.
Based on the experience I had with my clients and the research done by many other content marketing experts like Hubspot the most critical design element is user experience.
What’s a Website for?
Does your project need a website? It’s a good question to make yourself before investing in building one.
Some projects can start without a website by using a social profile to promote their products or services.
If you don’t have enough money to invest at first, a facebook fan page and a simple blog might be all that you need for a while.
For a more established project or startup with more sophisticated needs, a professional website is a must.
It will allow you to completely tailor the user experience which will, in turn, improve your brand’s reputation, marketing, and sales.
However, that can only happen if you approach your website design with that purpose in mind. And as we said before: don’t confuse a good looking site with an effective one.
Doing it yourself
If you’re starting your business with a lean budget, this might be the best option for you.
Among the free (or cheap) do-it-yourself options there’s Wix, WordPress, Bandzoogle, and Weebly. If you don’t have previous experience with website design and coding I only recommend these if you have lots of time to waste on it, have an excellent eye for aesthetics and can don’t expect too much of your website.
Most of those options won’t give you a professional looking website but sometimes depending on the current stage of your business and its nature such a site might not be needed, and you might be better off investing your money in other areas.
There are also many templates you can buy for 20 or 50 dollars in sites like themeforest.net and can give you a professional look. As with other page builder sites, you’ll need to have an eye for design if you want to implement those templates in a professional looking way.
Hiring a professional web designer
Hiring professional web designers for the job can be a great option if you have the budget for it. It will save you time, and if you hire the right people, you should have a tremendous ROI from a properly design website.
There are four primary areas in which the people you hire can make an enormous difference compared to doing it yourself. Those are branding, professional design, code quality, quality assurance and marketing.
Hiring a web design team
There are some freelancers out there with plenty of experience in all the areas that can give you an excellent result, but they’re hard to find and usually costly.
It’s easier to hire a whole team of experts where a specialist covers each area. One of the biggest pros of hiring a team is the fact that a well-managed group of people is more capable of fulfilling deadlines than a single person.
In 2nomads for example, we usually have more than one developer working on projects and backup professionals in case a team member gets ill or any other eventuality. We found this to be a significant security measure to secure deadlines for our clients.
That said, some projects (because of their size or complexity) are meant for a team and are impossible to be built by a single person in a reasonable amount of time.
As you can probably imagine by now, there can be many people involved in the development of professional websites or web apps.
In most of my big web design projects, the team members involved are usually a creative director, a project manager, an online marketing expert, a copywriter, a designer and several developers.
What about Hosting?
Hosting is another vital piece of the puzzle.
Many clients make haste to hire a hosting (usually the cheapest one) without much knowledge of the consequences. If you’re capable of managing your server you can expect excellent results at a meager price; otherwise, you’ll better ask the professional involved with the development of your site what they recommend.
The primary issue with bad hosting services are slow load times and down times (your site goes offline for a specific period), which can make you lose lots of money. But you should always consider the quality of your provider’s support team.
The Phases of a Website Design
The web design team you hire will determine the amount of web development phases but here are the usual steps involved in building a website.
1. Discovery Phase
During this phase, you set your goals and strategy for your online presence.
2. Design Phase
If you hire a website design team during this phase the copywriter, marketer, project manager, and designer all sit down together to discuss the best approach to communicate the right message to your ideal audience.
The work starts with wireframes and copywriting, once the texts and the layout of the website are approved the designer starts working on mockups.
Sometimes for lack of budget or different reasons you can start the website design without the final texts and content. That said, It’s not a great idea because content will always have an impact on the design.
You need to consider that changing content during design will usually have some extra costs if you hired professionals to design your site.
The result of this phase is usually a mobile mock-up for small devices such as phones and a desktop mock-up for laptops and bigger screens. Depending on the budget mobile mockups can be ignored (with some risks) and hopefully a reasonably good interface can be built based on the desktop version.
3. Development Phase
When mockups are approved, it’s time to develop the website. This phase can be the longest, depending on the number of developers involved.
There are many ways to build a website, and the technologies used can have an enormous impact on load times, user experience, maintenance costs and ease of use. I usually develop sites using WordPress or Jekyll and a plethora of other technologies.
During the development phase, professional web developers usually work directly on a building site called development site which is hosted online and available to receive feedback.
4. Quality Assurance Phase
The days of simple websites are gone. Nowadays you have a plethora of devices, screen sizes and browsers (the new and the ancient ones like Internet Explorer 9 or 11). It’s quite complicated to make a site work well in all of them, and usually, your team will need to make some compromises in specific screen sizes, computer specs, and browsers versions.
This critical phase is about fixing bugs, working on accessibility and some other issues that might show up during development.
5. Launch Phase
Launching your website will typically require some preparation and planning, especially if you already have a site online and are launching a new version for it.
For this phase,** your team will prepare the hosting and domain** and also migrate the development website to its final destination.
Registering a domain
The domain is another vital aspect of your online presence which can have an impact on SEO. We recommend you handle the registration but always consult an online marketing professional before hiring a domain.
A CMS for your websitc design
CMS is the acronym for Content Management System which is a graphic interface for handling content in your website.
The simpler the interface is, the more probable is that you can handle all the content on your website yourself (if you have time for it). WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are the big players.
The reason why Jekyll can be so great is that WordPress, and other similar CMS use a database which makes them slower and also easier to hack. When we work with WordPress, we work hard on security and optimization, but it’s still a more insecure and resource-hungry CMS than something like Jekyll.
Do you need a Blog?
You’ve probably read a blog at some point or another, so you know what we’re talking about. If the content was helpful, you probably kept reading from that author, and sooner or later you might have even hired her or recommended the blog to someone else (who might have).
That’s why content creating is an impressive marketing approach these days. The effort compounds over time: content lasts, specially written one. You can have an article written ten years ago get you a new lead today.
If you’re planning on selling a product or service on your website, a blog is probably a great way to achieve that goal.
You can read more about why you need a blog in that post of mine.
You need to consider maintenance costs when building a website for your project.
Many things can get broken in a website, and there’s also the hosting monthly (or annual) fees and domain registration costs (usually paid once a year).
Simple websites like those built with Jekyll require almost no maintenance but more complex platforms like WordPress do.
There are significant security updates from time to time, very regular updates for all the plugins and themes (if you used a commercial one) and some other stuff to take into consideration.
Beyond that there’s also the fact that websites with blogs will have to deal with constant content creation and if things go well, answering comments.
Sites also tend to need regular content updates, new landing pages, etc. In these aspects, WordPress is a valuable tool for those who don’t wish to hire someone to maintain the content on their site.
That considered, it’s a good idea to check if the person or company building your website will be offering you maintenance services. Companies tend to be more reliable in this aspect than freelancers.
Also, have in mind that handing off maintenance to a developer who didn’t build the site in the first place often comes with some extra costs related to learning what the previous developers did.
Why do prices vary so much?
If you’re already searching for professionals to build your website you probably noticed a vast range of prices. Some companies are just expensive, and some other are merely cheap, but there’s usually quality differences involved.
The determining factor in pricing is the how much value the web designer can offer you. As you know by now, web design goes way beyond just making a good looking website, but most of the time a cheap site means that the designer is only focusing on the aesthetics and not taking enough time to plan for success.
We explained the ideal process behind developing a website, from proper planning to launching. As a general rule, the more steps and people involved, the more expensive a website design become.
Another considerable factor involved in pricing is the size of the project. A website with two o three pages doesn’t cost the same than a website with 20 pages.
However, even then you need to take into consideration the complexity of those pages. Does the site need animations? Complex and fancy behaviors?
After that there’s the payment method issue, in 2nomads we favor fixed prices over hourly payment. We believe it forces us to work more efficiently and with as much quality and speed as possible.
It’s also way more straightforward for the client to know exactly how much they’ll have to pay from the start. There are some cases, though, when it’s impossible to make a proper estimate. In such cases hourly rates tend to work better. Very complex websites, web app development, maintenance, and other scenarios demands hours rather than fixed prices.
1. If your budget is low, focus on a social profile. Or alternatively, build your website using a template or a page builder.
2. If you have enough budget, hire someone to start helping you and guiding you through the branding process.
If you visited 2nomads’ website, you’ve probably seen our Brandit™ plans. This specific service is designed to cover your brand development by working on the elements we discovered and worked on during our Roadmapping session.
3. I put a lot of time into creating the content on my blog. If you want to say thanks, then please use the share button to share them with others.
4. Do you have questions about your website design or suggestions to improve the guide? Please leave a comment below.