Once you have made the decision to revamp or build from scratch your designers will still need some info to get the ball rolling. This can vary a lot – the more complicated the website the more detail needs to be discussed.
So what is the next step? How will the process unfold? Design agencies vary a bit in their process but at the Cybermill this is what we do:
- Discuss the details of the design with you
- Produce a design draft (usually of the ‘home’ and other key pages)
- Take your feedback, produce a new draft if need be
- Build the website
Sounds simple enough! Here are a few pointers on getting through the first steps:
Discussions with your designer
A good designer can cut through technical jargon so hopefully you’ll be on a similar wavelength straight off the bat. The industry is full of terminology so here are a few key phrases to get you by:
- Design drafts/mockups
Initially we start by producing drafts – these are normally static images sent via email. The mockup is a real representation of the design – so what you see is what you get.
Detailed planning goes into organising the layout, colour scheme and style of the design (we’ll often try lots of variations to see what works). The draft you see is usually the best of a number of iterations.
- Screen resolution
The design of your website will be made to fit a specific screen resolution. We do this to ensure the website will display properly for the vast majority of your visitors, regardless of their screen size. Generally we make website either to fit 100% of the screen (regardless of size), or to roughly 1000 pixels across (the lowest screen resolution used today).
- ‘Royalty-free’, copyright, intellectual property rights
We can’t just use any content on your website – this depends on the license. Some images, plug-ins and so on have a license allowing free distribution – others a restricted license that require permission and/or payment for use. Some content cannot be used at all. So be warned – you won’t be able to use images found via a search engine (without first checking the availability and license).
Once you’ve got through the terminology it’s time to discuss the design. We recommend having a small team or an individual working on the website – the more people involved the more opinions tend to ‘muddy the water’ and lose the focus of the design. Remember the phrase “A camel is a horse designed by committee”. For a small website it is often best to have a single person responsible for the website and liaising with the designer.
Passing a design draft around the office might seems like the best way to canvas opinion, but it can often lead to more problems. The design is a result of conversations with your designer – have you included other people in these discussions? Often an element has been designed for a purpose that needs explaining.
If you do hand out the design draft, make sure to include the designer’s comments (and some of the background discussions) to explain why things have been done a certain way.
Who’s it really for?
The ultimate focus of your attention should be the end user – the person for whom the website is being made. The question should be “will the user like it?”, and not “do I like it?”
Avoid getting too focused on the minor details of the design – particularly in the early stages of development. It’s your designer’s job to fill in the gaps. Put the emphasis on the user – the main visitor to the site. What do they want? Why are they on the website in the first place? What do they expect to see? From this discussion your designer should be able to help you prioritise the content and organise what to put where.
We like our clients to be as forthcoming as possible when it comes to the early design phase. We know it can be hard giving critical feedback but the most important thing is that the new website is done properly.
Focus on what the problem is – then let your designer come up with the solution.
The trick to giving feedback is to qualify your arguments – not just give a knee-jerk reaction. Think about why something needs to be changed.
The designer’s job is really all about problem solving. It’s much more useful to present problems to your designer (and rely on them for the answer), rather than trying to come up with the solution yourself.
Don’t say “I don’t like the red. Use sky blue”
Say “We’d rather not use that red – it’s too much like our competitors’ website.”
Instead of “Get rid of the photo at the top – add this cartoon in its place”
Try “This page will mostly be used by 14-18 year olds. Can we do something instead to appeal to that audience?”
Preparing your content
Some websites are ‘content managed’ – which means that you can edit them yourself later on. Some sites are ‘static’ – which means you can’t. This should have been explained as part of your initial brief and the quote from your design agency.
Whatever the size/scope of your website there are some key lessons to learn:
- Your content can always be changed
For content managed sites a general rule of thumb is that any and all text content on the pages can be changed later. You’ll usually get the opportunity to fine tune things before going live with the new website, so don’t panic about getting your copy word-perfect.
On a static site you’ll have to supply all your information before the launch so the designer/developer can add it to your pages for you. Changes at a later date can normally be made for free or with a small update fee depending on the terms of your contract.
- Remember your end user
As mentioned earlier, always have half a mind on the end user of the site. Research and identify your key demographic and always keep them at the forefront of your mind. If you’re organising your content then make sure to give it a logical hierarchy – pick out the most important information and display things in order.
Keep the jargon and ‘business speak’ to a minimum (on any website) – it can come across as robotic and impersonal, and it’s never fun to read!
- Take note of your competitors, but never copy them
You should never copy your competitors’ text – or their page headings and site structure. By all means take note of how they lay out their website, but try to avoid doing the same thing. It can be embarrassing if a client notices – and if the content is too similar Google may also notice (which can mean a lower results position, or worse penalties).
- Spellcheck, proof read, re-read and re-read again
Always double check your content (particularly if your website will be ‘static’). We do recommend hiring a copywriter if your budget allows – especially one with experience writing web copy. Good text is the heart of your website, and making sure it’s readable and easy to digest is an absolute must. It also helps to ensure your text is attractive to search engines by including popular search phrases in your headings and page titles.
Hopefully the above will help in beginning your new website – if you’re interested in having a website designed then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.