The No-Nonsense, Step-by-Step Guide to Designing Websites

Back in the day, the only real way to promote your business was through paper advertising or local ads, and anyone who has checked out that method of advertising will know that it can be unpredictable at the best of times. Your ad could easily be overlooked amongst competing information or your leaflet would end up in the bin as junk mail.

A website, on the other hand, advertises your business and keeps on doing so indefinitely. Better yet, the people who visit it are already interested in what you do, and you get a chance to make a big impression that converts them into clients. But how effective your website is, to a large extent, depends on the information you present and the way it is designed.

It’s all too easy to get bogged down in trying to design a website – unless you use a simple, step-by-step approach such as the one I’m about to outline. Yes, there are other ways to approach website design, but in my experience, something like this gives the best results.

1. Decide what you want to achieve

Begin at the end: who will your website target, and how will it benefit both you and your audience? This is your goal, and anything that doesn’t contribute to it isn’t important to your website’s design. In fact, it could even detract from it.

Think about the reaction you want to get. Do you want people to be amazed, impressed, delighted? How will this lead them to contact you / buy from you / like and remember you?

2. Define the purpose of your website

Having a website for the sake of having a website isn’t going to do much for you. Although you may have already got a broad idea of the true purpose of your website while you were thinking through step one, you need to define the goals you want to achieve and the indicators that say you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

3. What will your website’s visitors want to see?

Think about the people who visit your website. Who are they? What do they want? How will your website lead them towards fulfilling a want or a need? Think about the scenarios that will lead people to your site and the situations these people may find themselves in. What will they be looking for? That’s what you need to give them in an easy-to-access format.

4. What’s the personality of your website?

Yes, websites do have personalities, and the one you choose will have a huge influence on the design decisions you’ll make. You already know what your visitor’s persona and situation is likely to be. Your website is the “person” who is going to try and help them. It’s also going to bring together the needs your visitors have with the needs of your business and brand.

5. Map out ideal scenarios

Before you even consider the site map you’ll implement, think about user experience, remembering that you also have goals and you want to unite the two.

· What page does your user land on?

· What step will visitors take next?

· How will they move around the site to get the information they’re looking for?

There are two ways to present this thought-process. You can either draw a sketch, or you can think about it as a conversation between two “people,” the visitor (who is a person) and the site, which is a virtual person from whom the visitor gets answers. How does the website lead the user towards the action you want them to take?

6. Now you’re ready to begin work on your site map

In the previous step, you looked at how people would interact with your website. Now, you need to use this information to create a site map. Your guiding principles are that the path to the desired goal should be clear to visors, and that they shouldn’t have to go through a long and complicated journey to get there.

Even if you have a lot of information to present, try not to have too many segmented pages. Your website visitor wants easy answers, and complex subdivisions will not help them to find what they want. Clicks are a signal of intent, but don’t weaken that intent by making your visitors click through more information than necessary to get what they want.

7. Now for rough sketch

Your sketch doesn’t have to be beautiful, but what it will be is a minds-eye conception of what people will ultimately see when they visit a page on your website. You can create a more refined model of what you have in mind later, but the sketch represents your basic thinking.

· What does your top-level navigation menu look like?

· What about necessary extras like log-in pages?

· Where is your logo situated?

· How will you use the screen space available?

8. Think about your focal points: what will you draw attention to, and how will you do it?

You might think that every single thing on your web page is equally important, but your site visitors won’t. They’ll be looking for things that grab attention, and you need to decide just what these will be and how to go about getting them into the limelight.

So, what gets the most attention?

· Large elements

· Strong colours (don’t dilute their effect by using them in too many places)

· Contrast

· Movement (but be careful of using too many animations, also think of how the eye moves)

· Elements surrounded by clear space

· The top of the page and the middle of the page (see research on visual tracking)

Remember that we looked at what your visitor wants and what you want the website to do? Elements that relate to these two things will be the ones that get the most high-value viewing space.

9. Now create a mock-up page

Once you have it, and it’s looking good, evaluate it critically. A visitor should be able to tell what your web page is about at a glance and without reading much text. In fact, at a glance, they’ll probably only see headers and images and get a brief impression from sub-headers. Images will definitely form part of this first impression. If they like what they see, your site visitors will take a closer look.

10. Fine-tune and finalise

By now, you’ve reached a point where all you need to do is to fine-tune the design. You know what you want the site to achieve and what its personality is, and you know what your visitors want and are ready to lead them to your solution. Any tweaks you make will be related to the questions you asked yourself early on I the process.

Don’t get too bogged down in details. If time is to be invested, let it be on something that adds value – a focus point that elicits a desired response. And do keep it simple, clean, and fresh. You may want to tell prospective clients a million things, but they only want to know a dozen. Stick to that dozen.

Finally, you have a website. All you need to do is follow up

How effective is your website design? The way your site visitors behave when they’re there will be the acid test. Are they following the paths you thought they would prefer? Are they finding what they want and clicking through to it, or are they bouncing right back out and going elsewhere? Most importantly, are they reaching and following through on the desired actions you planned for them?

Information you get from website analytics might not alter your entire design – in fact, it very likely won’t unless you skipped all the steps we’ve discussed, but it might indicate the need for a little adjustment in places.

You’re good to go! Now you and your site visitors are ready to enjoy your website.

Thanks for reading one of my posts again and I hope it provided you with some value and I hope to see you back next time!

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