Planning is really important!
Kind of an obvious statement. But, it’s true. Planning is very critical to the design process. Especially when it comes to the web. Over the years, we’ve learned this the hard way. Planning keeps you on track, it helps you identify the real reasons you are engaging in the process at all and it helps to give you crystal clear vision of the final result. That said, many times plans are changed along the way when new information becomes available, but that’s ok. A plan is an educated guess on the information that you have at the time.
When you’re starting a web design project, it’s easy to get really excited and just want to jump into the visual design. We all want to see our amazing looking site that’s going to blow the competition away. If we can take a step back and take a breath, however, we can save ourselves a lot of hardship and struggle down the road.
Have One Decision Maker
Before you begin planning, be sure to appoint a person responsible for the project. Not 12. Why? Because the more people responsible, the less people are responsible. Having one decision maker streamlines the process and keeps the project on track. Don’t fall into the “design by committee” trap. It’s no fun.
Discover Your Goals
When starting a website project it’s a really good idea to figure out and write down what your goals are. Your goals can range from wanting more subscribers, to increasing sales, to more downloads of your eBook or less calls to your office to save wasted time. Whatever the ultimate goal of the site is, you should be crystal clear at the beginning of the project. These goals will guide the project and all of the design decisions along the way.
Define Your User
This is a step that many people look over. Your users are the only thing besides your goals that matter! Your website should be designed to do two things: 1. Help you meet your goals 2. Please your users. Many times we think of what we want, or what we like. That is the wrong approach. It really doesn’t matter what we want, it matters what our users want! They are the ones visiting the site!
Being clear on who your user is is essential. Knowing their needs, wants, likes and dislikes can help you design a site that will appeal to your users and help you connect with them. With a focus on users instead of personal preference, we can build a site that is much more effective. This also makes our decisions more objective than subjective.
Plan Your Content
What are the main pages that you want on your site? Subpages? A blog? Plan what out what pages you will want on your site first. Then, figure out what kinds of content you would like to have on each page. For example, you might want to have a Homepage and About page and a Projects page. Each would have normal body copy. The homepage may have a few small paragraphs that cover certain key areas of your service. The Projects page could have image galleries of recent work with areas for case studies to be written. Once you have all of the types of content that you need and where it will go, now you can go ahead and create that content.
It’s vital that content is created before the design process begins. Without content, there isn’t much to design. So, have a good idea what should go into your site.
Map It Out
Creating simple sitemaps and wireframes helps you to visualize the flow of information in a simple way. The benefit to sketching out these simple renderings is that you can rearrange them quickly and get the flow right. This helps us get the basic pages and layout of the main pages down before it becomes tedious to change—keeping costs and timeline within restrained.
Now you're ready to start the visual design process. Planning things out can be a bit boring, but it is well worth it. It makes a huge difference in the quality and effectiveness of the final product.