Our 7 Step Approach to Web Design
One of the first things clients ask me is “how are you going to do it?” As in, how are you going to build our website? Each design firm has (should have) their own design process. Structurally speaking, the process often seems quite similar from firm to firm, but the meat of the question lies in what’s behind each phase. Over the past six years we have tweaked and tweaked our approach and we have arrived refined a system that gets results. Here’s how we work:
1. Consulting/Scope Phase
First things first, there is a lot that goes into a web project even before we agree to work with one another. We will ask you to give us a clear idea of the amount of content you need to deliver and any other ideas you might have about your project. We’ll help establish the best way to build and host your site and come to a working agreement.
2. Discovery Phase
Once we have come to a working agreement, we enter into the Discovery Phase. First, we get to know your business (and your competition’s) inside and out and second, we will investigate your aesthetic preferences. Who is your existing client base? Who would you like to expand that base to include? What sort of issues are you currently facing in your business? What’s not working for you about your existing site? Many of our clients are new businesses, so we like to know what their biggest concerns are in starting a new website and talk about how we might be able to build a site that addresses those concerns. The discovery phase is about three things: research, communication, and understanding. We want to see your business clearly from three perspectives: yours, your client’s, and that of a marketing/branding firm.
Once we feel, yes feel–we’ve come to rely upon a combination of research and our intuition in design–like we have a solid understanding of who you are and where you need to go, we begin scouring the web for visual cues and reference sites that appeal to you. Through this process we will create a visual landscape or moodboard of what you like and what you don’t. Design is more often than not a process of elimination: by understanding what doesn’t work, we arrive at what does.
3. Design Phase
Completion of the discovery phase is marked by a couple of clear working strategies. Enter: the Design Phase. We’ve talked about your new website, we’ve researched your competition, now we put pen to paper (or pen to wacom) and start designing. We like to keep this process as efficient and transparent as possible by sharing sketches and concepts frequently. Generally, we come up with 2-3 working directions and then share and refine from there. A lot of clients ask us if we use wireframes. The truth is that usually we don’t, but this really depends on the scope of the project and the amount of content that needs to be delivered. Web design is so ingrained in our thought process that we generally have a clear sense of how to organize information on the page and keep page consistency. However, if we have a significant amount of information to organize we’ll start by organizing content with a wireframe.
At the point at which you, the client, is totally satisfied with the design of the first page we’ve been building, we ask you to sign off on that design and then move on to designing each of the other distinct pages of the site. This work is all done in Photoshop, nothing is coded in the design phase–in other words, these designs have no web functionality at this point.
4. Development Phase
Upon completion of each distinct page design, we move into the Development Phase of the project where the designs are translated into code by our development team. Generally speaking, this usually takes 4-8 weeks to complete, but ultimately depends on the scope of the project.
5. Testing and Change Management Phase
Once the site is mostly programmed, we preform what we call an initial review. Both our team and your team begin combing through the site, testing to make sure everything is designed and functioning properly. In the meantime, our developers will be cross-browser and platform debugging, ensuring that the site is fully suited to work on both Macs and PCs as well as across different browsers. If the site is built with a content management system, all product and/or final content will be added to the site at this point.
6. Deployment Phase
In the Deployment Phase, the site is migrated to the server on which it will be living and then made live.
7. Management and Growth Phase
This is an important–and often overlooked–one. A successful website will be treated like a living, breathing organism. What I’m trying to say is that websites that work well convey a sense of timeliness and growth. This is something you, as the client, need to account for. We can help you develop a plan to keep your website current based on your specific needs. This can involve monthly or quarterly updates and a social media and SEO strategy.