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How To Use This Guide
This guide is broken up into sections for your convenience. We understand every person and project is unique. Your approach to web design is going to be different based on your understanding and experience, and of course the type of website you are going to build.
We’ve broken this guide up into the following categories:
- Where are you in the process of your web design?
- When it comes to my web design, I care about…
- Do you understand the varying costs of web design and development?
- I have specific requirements for my website.
- What you’ll need before and during the web design process.
1. Where are you in the process of your web design?
2. When it comes to my web design, I care about…
3. Do you understand the varying costs of web design and development?
4. I have specific requirements for my website.
5. What you’ll need before and during the web design process.
I already have a design I just need development work done.
If you already have your web design put together, but need to have it come alive online, you’ll need a web developer. In some cases, if you are just using a drag and drop website builder, you may not need a web developer. But, that is not always recommended, especially if your site requires any custom functionality (don’t just rely on plugins).
If you haven’t already done so, you may want to make sure that you’ve thought through and answered other important information like:
- What do you care most about getting out of your website?
- Does your web design have any specific feature requirements?
- Have you developed a customer persona to make sure your site serves them best?
- Does your website need to be a specific CMS (content management system)?
If you have already put together a design, chances are you may be the best person to bring that site to life. Or perhaps the designer could. We’ve put together a free resource for building WordPress websites fast and easy without any coding knowledge.
I am starting a brand new venture.
If you are starting a brand new web design this guide is perfect for you. You’ll want to read through most of this article to get a really good overview of what you should be considering.
The most important thing to remember as you start a new venture is asking yourself,
“how am I going to get people to my new website?”
It’s incredibly important to think of this first and foremost. Understand your customer and build the site that you know they’ll love. Building a website can be relatively “easy,” however, it’s never easy and rarely cheap to get a lot of people to visit your site. Remember this as you go through the process of your web design.
If you are starting a new website, you have a lot of questions you should answer. We recommend reading this list of 100+ questions you must ask when developing a website.
I am looking for a refresh of my organizations’ website.
If you currently have a website but need a new, fresh design, it’s important to make similar considerations like you would for a new website.
- Why are you looking for a new website? Are you looking for more traffic, leads, etc.?
- Are you looking for more features for your website users?
- Are you looking for the same solution you have now, but with a more modern look?
It’s always important to keep your audience front and center.
Do you know for sure that a new website is going to help you better serve your audience and therefore better serve your organization’s needs?
If you believe a new website is what your visitors need, then start by asking yourself what has been good about your current website? Do you know what your customers think or say about your current website?
There are a lot of common issues that people overlook when they design a new website for their organization. More often than not, the focus is on the new look and feel, but there are other very important factors to consider like:
- Web addresses and URL structure changes
- Content migration
- Internal linking structures
Visit this article for insight into what to consider when rebuilding a website.
What are your motivations for a new website?
- Are you simply updating from the stone age to a mobile-friendly, responsive website and you don’t care about anything else?
- Do you want more conversions from your site?
- Do you want more traffic?
- Is it a combination of these things?
If you have a website now, it’s important to do a full audit of what is working and what is not working on your current website. An audit can help you understand more clearly:
- what you need to build for your target audience
- what issues currently exist and how they can be addressed in a new site
- potential strategic opportunities for traffic and conversion growth
I’ve never done this before and don’t know where to begin.
Read this article and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. In our experience the more questions you ask, the better result you’ll get from your new web design project. If you’re really lost, we provide free consultations. They are hassle-free and we don’t sell anything, just present all your options based on your circumstances.
Having a unique and beautiful design.
Having a unique and beautiful design can set your brand apart from your competition. If you’re looking for incredible design, make sure you’ve got a good budget to go along with it. Also, make sure that a beautiful design aligns well with the results you are looking for out of your site.
Will a great design inspire your target audience to take the action you’d like them to take?
The function needs to lead before form. Meaning, make sure your site does what it’s supposed to do, first. Then feel free to dream big and make a unique, fun design or interactive feature. Just makes sure that what you dream up aligns with what your site needs to offer your audience.
- does your design help your target audience find what they need from you?
- does your design represent your brand well?
Getting leads from my website.
If you don’t want to get leads from your website, what do you want a website for?
Getting leads is a no-brainer, but it’s rarely as easy as putting a “Contact Us” form on your landing page.
If you are trying to get more leads from your website you need to understand your target audience.
Here’s a real example of a great inbound lead generation process that we used in writing this article:
- To come up with helpful content for this section we Googled, “how to get leads from my website?”
- The top organic result was from HubSpot (9 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Website for Lead Generation)
- We visited this article and right away identified their lead magnet on the page. A call to action that reads, “Download the beginner’s guide to converting website visitors into leads for your business here.“
- HubSpot, an inbound lead generation authority, invested in writing the best answer to our question, “how to get leads from my website?”
- For that, Google rewarded them with the number 1 spot in the search engine results page.
- Since I was there to read about lead generation from my website, they knew I would be inclined to download a guide to converting website visitors.
With the right strategy, investing in writing great content and SEO can pay off for lead generation from your website. It can:
- increase qualified (the kind of people you want to your site) traffic
- increase conversion rates (the number of people that take an action on your site that you desire them to take)
How to get started with lead generation from your website.
To get started with lead generation from your website, start by considering your customer or target audience.
- Who are they?
- What do they like?
- What are they searching for that is related to what you offer?
- What does their journey to buying from you look like? What are they doing, asking, experiencing before they are ready to buy your product/service?
Put some strategy behind your blogging/content efforts.
Getting sales from my website (eCommerce).
We could write a novel here. There are many different considerations to make and questions to answer if you are building or re-building an eCommerce site. If you’ve read through this guide, you’ll notice we say it a lot, but start by investing time into understanding your customer. Get obsessed with it. Who are they and what do they love about your product? What pain does your product alleviate?
Putting up an eCommerce store can be relatively easy to do today. There are all kinds of eCommerce platforms that would allow you to launch a site and sell products over the weekend.
What isn’t as easy is getting people to your store and making sure they make a purchase.
Get more details on getting traffic.
When it comes to getting conversions there are also many different ways to make them happen. Depending on what you are selling, your conversion opportunities could look quite different.
Giveaways and contests are a great way to capture your visitors’ emails to use to drive conversions later, but they aren’t for every product or industry.
If you are just getting started with eCommerce.
If you are just getting started, you’ll need to pick the eCommerce platform that best fits your needs. Generally speaking, we prefer Shopify It’s great for the DIYer all the way to the enterprise level. It’s affordable and incredibly user-friendly for the store manager.
Getting more traffic to my site.
When it comes to getting traffic, there are many different places to get it from.
- Paid advertising (Facebook, Google)
- Organic (search engines)
- Direct (people type in your URL)
- Social (social media channels)
- Email (coming from your email marketing campaigns)
You’ll need to figure out which channel is the best for you. One of the best ways to start is by using a tool like SEMRush to see where your competitors get the majority of their traffic from. That will help you narrow down your strategies and which channels are most important to you.
You can try SEMRush for free, here:
All of the above (I want to dominate my industry).
If you want to get more sales, leads, have the best design in your industry and get a ton of traffic to your site, you better have a great budget to work with, or be willing and able to learn a lot along the way. It takes a lot of time and persistence to be the best in any industry. Really, you should strive for all of the above, but depending on your project goals and audience, you’ll want to give more attention to other areas.
We’ve seen ugly websites that convert. We’ve seen beautiful websites that don’t get any traffic. You can never focus on web design alone and expect your audience to come.
Just having a site up. I don’t care too much.
If you simply want a website online to prove to your customers that you exist, then a lot of this content probably doesn’t matter to you. While I’d love to challenge your assumptions that your website is just a glorified Yellow Page or not important in your industry, if that’s what you want, you can get it. With the motivation to just have a site, you can get one on the cheap and in many cases the best place to start is by doing it yourself with a website builder like Squarespace or perhaps hiring a tech-savvy family member or family friend to do it.
You might realize along the way, though, that a lot more goes into web design than you think.
I say I’m familiar, but I’m not sure.
Websites can range in costs from a few dollars a month (with a do-it-yourself website builder) to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. We’ve had the pleasure of working on everything in that range. Disclaimer: we don’t do web design or development for a few dollars a month, we’ve just offered consultation to local area startups, family, and friends who don’t have the budget for professional web designers and developers.
There are hundreds to thousands of questions to answer when building a website. Each of those questions needs to be properly investigated and understood by a professional.
The House Analogy
Imagine you tell your realtor you want to buy a house. What’s the first question he is going to ask you?
What’s your budget?
Why? Because he needs to know what kind of houses to show you. If your budget is $100,000, you shouldn’t be looking at 6,000 square foot mansions with indoor pools and a robot butler.
Web design is similar. Start with your budget, then consider your project goals (what you really want out of your website), and determine what you can get for that and who needs to be involved.
If someone provides a quote for a website without gathering more information from you, that is a sure sign of an unprofessional web designer. Much like a house, you’ll get more with a bigger budget. More rooms, better features, higher quality material, etc.
When you have a larger budget, you can afford to spend more time and bring in professionals in each area of web design:
- design and user experience
- project management
- content and copywriting
- web development
- SEO expert
- professional photo and video creation
Our advice is always to determine what you have to spend first before shopping for a web designer. Or work with a consultant (we offer that) to help you navigate the world of web design to find the best freelancer or agency for your specific web design project.
My website needs to be on a specific CMS (Content Management System).
If you need to use or prefer to use a specific content management system, you’ll want to work with a professional web design and development team that has experience with that particular content management system. Your content management system is the software you use to change/edit or “manage” the content (words, images, videos, links and anything else on a web page). It’s important to pick one that works well for the person(s) who will ultimately be managing the site.
Depending on your requirements, the content management system you use isn’t the most important item to consider. We beg to differ because any site worth building should be built on the right foundation. Using the house analogy (above), it’s safe to consider your content management system as the foundation of your house. It’s what your website is built on and from it, you can build anything on top of it with the tools and technology it comes with.
Some of the most popular content management systems in web design are:
- WordPress (our preference and powers 33% of all websites)
My website requires some special functionality.
There are often cases in web design where you’ll need your website to do something specific. This could be passing data to a CRM or some other software, building a membership site, creating a dashboard for users to interact with, etc. The possibilities are endless and as the world continues to develop the web and the technology that supports it, what’s currently impossible becomes possible.
If you have a crazy idea for a feature or need your website to do something custom or complex, you’ll need a true web developer. Depending on the situation, you’ll need a front-end web developer (the visual side of your website that people interact with) or a back-end web developer (the database side where all content and information is stored to be displayed and interacted with). A full-stack web developer will be great at both front-end and back-end web technology.
Content (written copy, images, videos).
Your website is nothing without great content. From the experience of an agency that has worked on 100s of websites, this is often the biggest struggle agencies have when working with organizations. Too often the expectations of content are not addressed early on:
- who produces it?
- where do you get it from?
- what content is important to the end user of the site?
- when will you use video vs image vs words?
- how will you display the content?
In our opinion and professional experience, content is crucial and foundational to effective web design. In many cases, web designers will design a home page and other pages of a website before knowing what content will be on those pages and deciding whether it’s the right content to put on those pages.
Content for the web isn’t necessarily the same you’d put in a magazine or brochure. You need to think about the user and how they want to consume content. What’s going to make their experience great?
When it comes to the web design process. Start with gathering, creating, writing content first.
A good web design process follows these 5 steps:
Content begins at the planning stage and should be wrapped up by the design stage.
Read about our web design process
It can be incredibly helpful to think through content by first understanding the language your audience uses to search for your product, service, or topic. Do keyword research early on so you know exactly what pages your site needs and what content you need to include on those pages.
If you haven’t picked a color palette for your website, chances are you also need to do some work in brand development and brand identity. These are crucial in your journey to execute a great website design.
Make sure you pick 1 or 2 fonts for your site that match your brand. Don’t pick too many because that will have an effect on site speed as too many fonts loaded on the page will take longer to load.
Customer persona (understand your customer for the best results from your website).
The last on our list, but most certainly the most important. Know your customer.
The better you know your customer (or the user of your website) and the more obsessed you can get at helping them, the better your web design will be.
Web design can be fun, but a lot goes into and no two web design projects are alike. There’s a lot to consider if you want to turn your website into a vehicle for growth and opportunity for your organization.