Website design is an integral part of getting your brand online.
You should understand the various roles and options available so that you can make the best decisions and create the best looking site possible. You have to know your way around the web design process if you want your site to look good!
Keep reading for your guide to understanding how websites are created, and what to look for when you’re designing a website.
Understand Your Own Priorities
Why are you looking for website design? What are your goals? Who is your target audience?
You should ask yourself these questions up front. Understanding your own priorities is the first step in the website development process.
People put up websites for many reasons, but you could separate the needs of prospective website operators into roughly three categories: personal, business, and enterprise.
Hobby or Personal
A personal blog or website can be anything, including a simple HTML page. Or, it could be a hosted interior page within a social network like Facebook. There are no standards or expectations for personal blogs.
Only your imagination limits what you can put on a personal blog. Most personal blog sites are either designed by the blogger themselves, or they use some kind of off-the-shelf design system, like WordPress or Wix.
A business website should be designed by a professional website designer or firm. A business website is a portal where your very reputation is on the line, and what you create can make or break your ability to succeed.
You’ll also need developers and SEO experts. As a professional entity, it’s worth it to hire the absolute best designers and digital marketing specialists like this company.
The enterprise-level website is rarely designed by an outside firm. If it is, it will be part of a larger campaign or marketing scheme created by a consultancy arrangement. Enterprise level companies need many full-time developers and designers, often working in teams, to maintain their online presence.
At this level, it’s more about maintaining standards across the entire platform. The mobile app should have the same fonts as the website, which should have the same color scheme as the written marketing materials. Coordination and communication are key elements of creating a coherent presence across all platforms.
Professional Design Services
When you move up from a hobby blog site to a professionally designed website, the website development process can seem intimidating. The good news is that you’re the customer, and the customer is always right! Professional designers will make you look good with ease if you know what you’re doing.
There are many different tiers of designers. You should choose someone based on their reputation, skills, cost and previous work.
You can find designers online that will create a website for you for as little as $5. On the other hand, an advertising agency can charge $20,000 for an enterprise-grade e-commerce site with personalized design elements. A big part of this aspect of website design will be directly tied to what kind of budget you have.
A popular method of getting professional design work is to host a design contest. In a design contest, you post your requirements on a marketplace site like freelancer, and designers compete for the prize you offer for the contest.
Some contests are open, in that the submitters can see each other’s work. Some contests are kept closed and private. Design contests are arguably the best way to get inexpensive designs, but they remain one of the least understood techniques.
Design contests work best on large marketplaces where lots of designers can see the project. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, just post a description of what you want. As the submissions come in, you can make comments to improve their chances of being selected.
Sites like freelancer.com will allow you to post a guaranteed contest. That means you will accept submissions over a certain period of time, and you promise to pay a certain amount to a winner at the end of the contest. You can’t get your money back in a guaranteed contest. Once you put it up, the money is gone.
This is a real incentive to put a submission in! Depending on how much you pay and what kind of design you’re looking for, you might get dozens of entries.
Another of the popular website design process steps is submitting a Photoshop Document (PSD) to the client before actually creating the design code. Designers will produce a PSD “wireframe mockup” of your site. This will have the basic look and appearance of the final product, but it won’t be a working version.
PSD is the native file format used for high-resolution images in Adobe Photoshop. There are many designers who can create a PSD but who never code.
PSDs are generally a lot easier to make than a working website. That is why they are usually created before the website is coded. A PSD is considered an intermediary step in the web design process.
Many design firms have specialists who are good at either making PSDs, or converting them into working code, but very few people are good at both skills. Experienced, professional designers can often code directly in CSS and don’t bother with the PSD step.
That’s not to say that firms who do PSDs are inferior in any way. It’s just an optional part of the process that some companies use, and others do not.
There are two basic types of add-ons that you can use on your WordPress site: plugins and themes. A plugin generally changes the functionality of a site, or what a site can do. A theme generally changes how the site looks, or the way a site appears.
There is a lot of overlap, especially with commercial themes that often put functionality right into the theme.
Choosing a theme is a major part of the WordPress web development process. You should understand that commercial theme developers are independent of the WordPress community. They are people who are trying to sell you something, and you should decide if that is something you really need or not.
Free WordPress Themes
The WordPress Foundation runs the site wordpress.org. The .org repository, or “the repo” contains thousands of free WordPress themes. The themes are peer-reviewed by other WordPress developers and are very safe.
You can access themes directly from any WordPress installation. Just go to:
- Appearance >> Themes >> Add New
From here you can browse the thousands of free themes that have been provided by the WordPress community.
There is a lot of confusion about if the free themes in the .org repo are superior to commercial themes available for sale. With very few exceptions, the free themes are superior in every way!
The free themes are subject to a security audit. The code must be publicly available and is scrutinized by other developers for bugs and flaws. Commercial themes often obfuscate their code, making impossible for peers to review it.
The security protocols on the .org repo don’t apply to commercial themes. The free themes are not allowed to track your site or report back data about you without your specific, opt-in authorization. Commercial themes have no restrictions because they aren’t maintained by the WordPress community.
The bottom line is that you should think twice about purchasing a commercial WordPress theme. Generally, the free themes are superior in every way.
Hiring for the Web Design Process
Of all the various website processes that you’ll have to manage, nothing is as globally available as website design. There are designers in every country and every city in the world. Millions of people understand the basics of website design and can help you set up your site.
Hiring a designer can be challenging if you don’t know what to look for. Ask to see samples of previous work, and ask the prospective designer what exactly they did on the project. Most professional designers will have portfolios. Ask about their methodologies.
These will be either standalone websites of their own, or groups of documents held on a social media site like Instagram.
You aren’t limited to designers in your local geographic area. Website design is a remote position if ever there was one! A website designer can work on any site, from anywhere in the world. There are many global marketplace sites where designers sell services.
Ask to see customer referrals or samples of previous work. A good designer will have happy clients that will gladly speak about the process of working with him. The savvy business person will have those phone numbers handy for you to call.
Getting Into It
The best way to understand the web design process is to go out and design a website! It is more of an art than a science. The best way to learn it is to do it.
Life is an adventure, and it’s not going to live itself! Check out our blog for more great articles that can expand your personal and business horizons.