My website design process

by | Oct 7, 2017 | Website design advice | 0 comments

If you are interested in hiring me, then please read this article so you can better understand my process and how it all works.

STEP 1: GET THE DESIGN BRIEF

The first thing I do is establish exactly what the client wants and needs. To get this info, I ask the client to fill out an online questionnaire.

This helps me find out:

  • Who the client is and what they do;
  • Why they want a website (website objectives);
  • What they want on their website;
  • Who their target market / ideal customer is;
  • What services they require (web design only, copywriting, website photography, SEO development,  etc)
  • Timeframe
  • Budget

Sometimes, if it’s a small and simple job, a coffee meeting or Skype call will help me get all the answers I need.

STEP 2: CREATE PROJECT PROPOSAL AND SERVICE CONTRACT

I then create a project proposal, which includes an overview of the project, scope of work, time frame, the quote and the terms and conditions of service.

I send this to the client and once it’s been signed by all of us, only then do I begin designing the website. In most cases, I also request a 50% deposit to be paid up front.

STEP3: REGISTER CLIENT DOMAIN NAME AND SET-UP WEBSITE HOSTING

If the client needs a new website, I’ll register their preferred domain name and sign them up for hosting with my preferred provider in South Africa, which is Hetzner. I’ll then register the domain-related emails they want and help set them up.

I am also more than happy for clients to register their own domain names and manage their own hosting, provided that the hosting provider allows WordPress installations (most do so this is normally not a problem).

If the client already has a domain name and hosting, I’ll just make sure it’s the right hosting plan for what they need now. If it’s not then I’ll usually request that they transfer their domain to Hetzner or change their hosting plan. This is a relatively straightforward process that I will guide them through.

If clients wants me to manage their hosting, domain and emails via Hetzner, I charge a standard R200 per month (this includes the Hetzner hosting fee plus a small admin charge). This is for unlimited bandwidth to and from the website.

STEP 4: CREATE PROJECT ON TRELLO

I’ve found that the most efficient way to manage multiple projects and all the bits of information unique to each one is to use an online project management system  such as Trello. It’s simple and free-to-use for clients.

I upload all the important docs for the project including the final proposal, time frame and service agreement. I log in important milestone dates and I sign the client up via their email address (they’ll get an email inviting them to join).

Trello is really easy to use and clients have told me how great it is to have all the important  information in one place so they don’t have to go searching through their inbox.

STEP 5: RESEARCH AND STRUCTURE

Before design work begins, I spend time getting to know my client’s business and its needs. I try to find out about the company’s history, their values, their unique selling point, their brand positioning, how they market themselves, what they want from their website and their plans for the future.

Most of these answers I get from that initial questionnaire I sent, Google, conversations we’ve had, their website (if they have an existing one), their social media or from any marketing information they send to me.

I then research their industry and competitors to build a deeper understanding of their business and the environment it operates in.

At this stage I’ll also ask the client to send me all the content they want on the website, including corporate identity, images, videos and copy. The easiest way to get this info to me is by uploading to a cloud storage service such as Dropbox (free to use for up to 1 gig of storage).

I’ll then use all of this information to create the website wireframe and information architecture. This shows the structure of the website (navigation and pages) and is used to guide the layout, hierarchy of content and marketing funnels when design work begins. I’ll also choose the colour palette, which will be based around the client’s brand identity.

During this stage, I’ll also begin keyword research and planning for the search engine optimisation side of Ruby Studio’s web design service.

STEP 6: START DESIGNING HOMEPAGE ON A DEVELOPMENT SERVER

I design live on a development website linked to Ruby Studio’s URL.

Some web designers create static mock-ups in design programmes like Sketch or Adobe Photoshop, which they then send to clients for approval before developing the website. Personally, I’ve found this limits my creativity and my designs are much better when done in a live online environment.

I start with the homepage layout design, asking the client to take a look once I’m happy with the first draft. The client is then able to request changes as I progress with the design.

Once we’re both happy with the homepage, header and footer design, I then move onto designing the next pages as per the scope of work.

STEP 7: SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION

I use the findings from my keyword research in step 5 to create a SEO plan for the website. This will include URLs, meta titles, meta descriptions, alt tags and keywords for every page on the website.

I will check, and possibly optimise, all the website copy and image names to ensure they match the keywords being targeted.

At this point, I will also resize page images and edit descriptions for social media so that when a webpage is shared, the correctly-sized image and info are shown.

If the client has a bricks and mortar business address I will make sure they are registered on Google My Business as well as other free local directories to start the process of creating backlinks.

Usually I advise my clients to start a blog from their website. Fresh, relevant and interesting content is the number one way to gradually improve a website’s search result ranking and build reputable backlinks, which means more organic traffic, more leads and more sales.

STEP 8: PROOFREADING AND CHECKING

Once I have the final website design draft, I go through each page, reading each word to make sure there are no mistakes and checking to see that every link works. I worked for many years as a sub-editor, so proofreading comes naturally to me.

I will also ask the client to check thoroughly to make sure they are happy with how things look and sound.

STEP 9: TESTING

I design websites to look amazing on PC, laptop, tablet and mobile phone screens.
In this testing phase I make sure the website works perfectly on a variety of popular devices, operating systems and browsers.

At this point, I’ll also request the final payment.

STEP 10: GO LIVE!

I set-up the website on the client’s domain and we go live. I also set up Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools tracking.

Usually I’ll design some pretty social media collateral and an emailer so the client can share their big news with their fans and customers.

I’ll also show the client how to make minor changes and updates to their website as well as how to blog. I include a detailed and easy-to-understand ebook instruction guide with every website design handover. The client can also choose to opt for one of my maintenance packages, some of which include blogging, conversion tracking and SEO development.

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