Every effective website uses a variation of this simple, 5-step design process. Website designers use many terms, but this sum the process of getting from zero to a fantastic online presence. Whether you hire someone or build the site yourself, don’t skip steps or jumble the order — you’ll regret it!
Rookie designers (and business leaders) love getting to exciting steps (#3–4) without the homework of #1–2…and drop #5 completely. Don’t be that guy. Put in the sweat at the beginning and everything else flows better. All the fancy design in the world is a waste of time and money if it doesn’t reach your business goals. Great colors and impressive graphics are merely art if they don’t solve a problem. Design is not art. Business is not art class.
1. Define the Problem
Why are you considering upping the ante with a website? What problem are you trying to solve and what will success look like when you get there? What goals are you driving towards and what performance indicators will you rate your progress by? These questions are vital. It’s important to know where you’re going…before your start. Define (in writing) things like the project timeline, available resources and budget, and how your team will communicate throughout the project. This will save you countless aches and pains—whether you’re contracting a professional or not.
“Our job is to connect with people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better off than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.” — Seth Godin
2. Discover the Vision
Every business leader is tempted to make major decisions under limited assumptions of their company and brand. Proximity clouds our perspective, we don’t see ourselves clearly. So, you need an evaluation process to peel back the layers and get to the root of your identity. At Ragon Creative, we perform a brand questionnaire, on-site interview, and deep research into what makes our clients tick. Because, at the end of the day, people invest in your passion and vision for a solution to their problem. Look past the product or service you’re selling to the solution it provides.
Perform a thorough inventory of written and visual content. The tone, style, and types of content you like to produce hold great bearing on what type of website should tell your brand story.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” — E. F. Schumacher
3. Design the Solution
Good design doesn’t start on a computer. It also doesn’t end on a digital screen. When developing your screen flow and design, make sure to stay focused on your customer and their experience. Burn through twenty good ideas to arrive at the best solution. It’s worth a stack of post-it notes and a few lunch meetings. Cover a whiteboard with diagrams, sketch on paper, and then transition to the computer screen. Attack it from every angle to find weaknesses and finish out with a brand guide for your visual graphics. Brand guides and style guides appear like overkill at first, but they are the visual anchor to your brand. An exciting website launch is worth nothing if you can’t continue producing content in a unique, consistent image. You need a strategy to move forward with, post-launch
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
4. Develop the Tools
Design your website with the chosen platform (WordPress is our weapon of choice) in clear view, and develop the platform to take full advantage of the design. The development phase is the stage where media, blog, and social media tools of the website are established. Dig deep into digital marketing; deploy baseline search engine optimization (SEO) tactics and analytics tools. Run your site through the gauntlet by testing various internet browsers and devices. Develop the technical aspects of your website platform, and develop your content strategy with equal fervor.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs
5. Drive it Home
Okay, so you’ve got a great design and a solid foundation for it to proclaim your brand identity to the world. You even have the right tools set in place to create and capture new marketing leads through interaction on your site. But don’t get lazy. Now is the time to take charge and drive the process home. Launching a new website is never the easy button for a successful business. Your new website is a marketing platform. You have a shiny new vehicle that can communicate your content to the right people, in the right way. Stay focused. Provide great value, publish remarkable content, and watch your organization move forward. Consistent, measurable growth is possible.
Don’t forget to repeat this process often (at least every year). Organizations have a habit of letting websites either grow like weeds (or lay stagnant). If you keep a good eye on your business goals and harness your site’s potential, then it won’t take much to move forward!
Repeat this 5-step process throughout your organization’s marketing initiatives. These same concepts apply to every marketing platform or strategy you might undertake. Define the problem, discover the vision, design the solution, develop the tools, and drive it home!
We love giving credit where credit is due, so I tip my hat towards Michael Schafer at Openbox9 and Terry Atwood at Ossip. They’ve shown me that creativity and forward progress come from the commitment to a simple, executable project process.