The process of creating beautiful, functional websites has certainly experienced great leaps and bounds over the past decades. What used to take design teams months of work can now be done by just about anyone in a matter of minutes.
However, while web design tools have improved, the principles behind them remain the same. For anyone wanting to build visually pleasing websites, those principles are worth understanding.
In this post, we'll take you through an overview of how to design a website.
The first step in understanding the web design process is to know its many terminologies. Don't worry, though – compared to other areas of web development, web design doesn't usually involve any overly technical concepts.
Look refers to the design elements that make up your website. This can be categorized into either color scheme, font, copy (or written content), and visual media (like photos, videos, icons, etc.).
Feel is how the above visual elements are skillfully combined to make a website usable and aesthetically pleasing. Feel has to do with the kind of layout you use, including the position of the navigation bar and footer elements. Your website's feel is the overall experience a user gets while he or she is browsing through it.
An essential aspect of web design is responsiveness, or how well your website adapts to the visitor's device. Techniques like auto-resizing elements or a hidden menu bar are crucial, so your site appears excellent across devices.
There are also many types of websites, depending on what your goals are.
A blog is the most common website you'll encounter. It's made up of blog posts, which are articles that either inform or entertain the reader with valuable content.
The other popular website is an eCommerce site, otherwise known as an online store. As the name suggests, it's where businesses can sell products and services to customers online.
A lead generation site aims to showcase a business's products or services to attract potential clients. There are subsets to these, such as portfolio sites used by freelancers or online brochures used by companies or creative agencies.
Lastly, agencies, law firms, and hotels use a professional service website to allow customers to browse through their services. Some, like hotels, enable people to book online as well.
You'll often hear the terms "web design" and "web development" used interchangeably with one another, even though that’s not entirely accurate.
As we've discussed, the website design process deals with the visual aspects of your site. It's concerned with how the user interacts with your website and the general experience they have with it. In a sense, web designers are like artists, using color schemes, fonts, layouts, and UI elements to paint a beautiful website.
The website development process is further broken down into either front-end or back-end development.
Front-end refers to the part of your website that users see and interact with. Aside from implementing the visual plan from a web designer, front-end developers also create forms, ensure responsiveness, and build interactive features. The back-end deals with what's happening behind the scenes – how data is processed and passed on to the front-end.
With that being said, there is considerable overlap between the two. For instance, if you're using a website builder to create your website, you're essentially doing both web design and development.
One of the first steps to design a website is to define your goals and objectives, as every decision you make should be in support of that. This helps visitors and search engines instantly know what your site is about, which can help with SEO.
For example, suppose you're planning to sell online. In that case, you need to invest in an eCommerce platform and possibly a payment gateway. If you want to create a blog, you'll focus more on content publishing tools.
Your layout forms the heart of your website's look and is thus one of the most crucial steps to build a website. A poorly designed website can turn people off, which can hamper your ranking and conversions.
While designing from scratch can give you complete creative control, it's often easier to start with a template that's close to the aesthetic you're trying to achieve. You can also look at other websites you admire for ideas and inspiration.
Every page of your website should have a similar look and feel to maintain visual consistency, which should tie-up with your branding. You can achieve this by sticking with a standard color scheme and reusing UI elements throughout the site.
Once you've finalized your website's look and feel, the next step on how to design a website is to gather all the assets and content you'll need. These can include images, videos, logos, written content, and so on. Basically, everything you'll need to bring your web design to life.
Now would be a good time to outsource asset creation. For instance, you might need to hire a freelance writer to write your website's copy or blog articles. You can also source stock photos and videos from legal sources like Shutterstock or Getty Images.
Your domain name is the URL of your website – essentially your address. Picking a relevant and memorable domain name is crucial because it's how people will refer to your website. It can also impact your SEO.
Register for a domain name as soon as you can to claim it immediately. In case someone else already has your desired URL, try playing around with variations of your domain name. Consider extensions, like ".biz" or ".edu," depending on your type of organization and your location.
Once you have your design plan and assets ready, the following steps to create a website deal with turning that plan into reality. This process starts with picking a website platform.
You can choose several website platforms, depending on your goal, budget, and skill level. WordPress, Webflow, and Wix are the most popular right now for general-purpose sites. If you're building an online store, there are eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento you can start with.
Whichever platform you choose, make sure it supports the goals and features you want for your website.
Usability is an essential factor for providing a fantastic user experience. By making your website easy to use and navigate, you'll ensure visitors stay long enough to engage with your content.
You can optimize usability through clever placement of menu bars, usage of readable fonts, and clear call-to-action (CTA) to eliminate confusion as to what users should do next.
Similarly, you also need to optimize your website for SEO. Intelligent use of relevant keywords, internal linking, and fixing technical SEO issues are significant website development steps to increase your Google ranking.
Depending on the nature of your website, you'll need to install third-party software and plugins to maximize your site's effectiveness.
Restaurants and hotels, for example, can increase their conversions by installing a booking module to receive online reservations. An appointment scheduling solution like Calendly can also help facilitate bookings for consultants, coaches, and doctors.
There are also extras you can install to help drive engagement with your site visitors. Live chat, for instance, can help provide a better shopping experience to your customers by giving them an avenue to answer their questions quickly. Connecting your website to your social media channels can also encourage people to share your content.
With everything in place, the last step is to publish your website to make it available to the public. Congratulations, you now have a working website! But the work doesn't stop there.
You need to actively update your website with fresh content to make it relevant to your visitors. You should also continually monitor essential metrics like traffic and conversions through tools like Google Analytics.
With powerful website builders and design tools available to the everyday user, it seems like a web designer isn't needed anymore these days. Indeed, you can use themes and templates to create beautiful, functional websites in minutes. For anything simple, this is a viable option.
However, the problem with templates is that they are available to everyone else. Creating a custom-designed website is the way to overcome this, and stand out. However, not every business owner has the time or expertise to design one from scratch.
It's in these situations that hiring a web designer or agency is a big help. An expert web development agency like Expedition Co can help you create a website that's a perfect fit for your brand's overall goals. Contact us today, and let's start a conversation about your website!