Having a site designed (or redesigned) can be an exciting prospect – it’s your opportunity to carve out a space on the internet and choose how to present yourself to the rest of the world. However, to make the design process as smooth as possible, you’ll want to have made preparations ahead of starting the project. Not only can this sort of planning help to make designing your website much more straightforward, but this initial groundwork can help make your site a success in the long-term, too.
So, what should you have done before work commences on your site? There are various aspects to consider, and the depth to which you will go into these varies greatly depending on the type and complexity of site, but all should be considered to at least some degree. In this short series of blog posts, we’ll look at how to prepare for your next design project – we’ll start with research.
You may have consciously, or unconsciously, started to do this already, but the first port of call is to research what’s already out. This part of the design process will not only give you some ideas for the site but also help you to contextualise it.
Often this takes the shape of looking at websites of your competitors as well as other sites that achieve the general aesthetic that you might be after. Whilst looking at these, note any specific design features that you like/dislike. Think about the colours being used, imagery, typography and the overall look-and-feel. Be as specific as you can and don’t worry if you don’t feel you can articulate it precisely. Also, don’t be afraid to use plain English – it’s often better to avoid technical terms if you’re not quite sure of their meaning as this can sometimes create more confusion when used incorrectly.
You should end up with a shortlist of two or three sites that roughly encompass the main aesthetic you’re after, perhaps with a few smaller details inspired by other sites.
Aside from pure aesthetics, take the functionality of the research sites into account, too – and consider how users would interact with the site. For example, if you’re setting up a shop, imagine you’re a customer looking to buy a couple of products from the site you’re on. How easy is it to locate the products? Did you have to search or were you able to easily find it from the navigation? How clear is the product description? What about product imagery? What’s the journey from basket to checkout like? If you wanted to get more in-depth here, you could create a range of user personas that take into account the demographics of specific users and their background.
If the project is a redesign of an existing site, you should also be thinking about why you’re looking to redesign your site in the first place. Is the current design simply outdated or are there some fundamental problems with the site? Try to think of things that you would like your new site to achieve that your current one doesn’t, and how this relates to the sites you’re researching. It’s important to think of redesigns from this angle so that you can take full advantage of the opportunity to tackle any issues with the existing site.
Next Step: Content
Considering the websites you’re researching from these different angles is obviously a little more time-consuming, but it’s well worth the effort. When you pass this research document onto your web designer, this should give them a reasonably clear idea of what you’re looking for as well as highlighting any specific challenges that need particular consideration.
Once you’ve your website research, you’ll be in good shape to start the next phase of preparation: creating your content.