From the user’s perspective, a great website works intuitively. From the website owner’s perspective, a great website serves a purpose. Building a great website means designing it with both of these perspectives in mind.
Over the years, clients have often come to us with existing sites that focus too heavily on one perspective or the other. Those that focus excessively on the user experience have sites that look slick but offer no real value. Those that focus too much on their end goal — whether that is a purchase, a booking, a call or simply to inform the user—often result in disorientating information overload.
Our step-by-step process for building a great website is balanced and finds the sweet-spot between user-friendliness and value for money.
The concept stage requires clients to answer five key questions. Their answers will determine the kind of website they need and form the foundation of the design process.
It is always easier to answer these questions with data to hand, so building an existing website from a pre-existing one — even if the previous one was poor — is usually a more straightforward process.
Still, data is not a requirement for answering. Where it is not available (and it usually is not) we work with clients to make best estimates.
What websites do you like to use, and which do you not?
First and foremost, we have to understand what a client likes and dislikes. Their personal preferences might not be best practice, but they can be indicative of what they feel their current digital presence (if they have one) is lacking.
What are your competitors doing?
Knowing this is helpful for two reasons. Firstly, the client’s website will inadvertently be held up in comparison to their competitors. More often than not, some competitors will be doing some things better than the client. Secondly, users now expect ‘industry standards’ in terms of design and what the website can do. If there is information lacking from a client’s website, you can be sure users will notice.
Who is and/or will be using the website?
Determining who the users of a website are might sound impossible — the web is accessible to anyone. Of course, access to data from a previous website might give an inkling but even without data, there are ways of making estimates. One strategy is to invent characters (aka personas) that describe the characteristics of a typical user. Give these imaginary individuals names and preferences, define why they are visitng the site and what they hope to do when they are on it and build from there. Approximations like these can be very useful in the design process.
Why are they using it?
This is worth saying again. Why is the user on your site? Web design is about far more than just creating something that looks good; the functionality is key. Understanding why users are on the site and what they hope to achieve by visiting it means the site can be designed to achieve their objectives.
What do you want the visitor to do with it?
A website must serve a purpose for you, the business that owns it, as well. Knowing what that purpose is — for a user to make a booking, a purchase, to inform them, or whatever it may be — is vital for the final build. A website should act like a funnel, always directing the user towards the desired end goal.
The answers to the concept stage ultimately inform the design stage. At each step we work with the client to ensure that they are happy to move to the next stage.
First, we create a sitemap. Essentially a flow diagram of the website, the sitemap determines how the website will work from the user’s perspective. It helps check the site works logically and intuitively and, importantly, funnels the user to the right destination.
A wireframe will be created for each key page on the website. This consists of blocks to show where text, images and buttons will be positioned. This stage is important to ensure that all the needed functional items have been included and are logically in the right place. The developer will use this and the site map when they eventually come to build the website.
Development with images and text
It is only at this point that we begin to seriously consider aesthetics. High-quality images and articulate copy are vital to ensuring a website presents the correct impression and looks appealing and up-to-date, but their choice is ultimately directed by the sitemap, wireframe and client brand guidelines.
Developer build and testing
In this final stage Bulletin will hand over the design of the website to the developer who will then build the finished product. This is highly technical and requires an understanding of code, but one that ultimately relies on the designs that come before it. An analogy might be a bricklayer following the designs of an architect.
At Bulletin we have extensive experience designing and building the websites that are tailored for every client, helping them spread the story of their brand, reach a larger audience and drive traffic to their web pages and keep them there.
Contact Laura Wells to find out how we can help you with building a great website and tell your brand story digitally. You will reach a larger audience and drive traffic to your web pages and keep them there.