Website design: the stages for step-by-step implementation
Being present online nowadays is a prerequisite for any company. This is even more true for an innovative startup, which, precisely through the Net, can find its way to success. Being present, however, is not enough: a company’s website must first and foremost be professional, both in appearance and content. Fundamental, then, is being able to capture and keep the attention of users, who for a startup represent potential customers, lenders or investors . But how is it possible to succeed in doing all this?
It’s certainly not easy, but rest assured: the in-depth article you are reading, devoted to the different stages of designing a website, is the first in a long series of articles you can read in the coming weeks, all focusing on the best ways to make a website really effective. The first tip, then, if you haven’t done so yet, is to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on this very important and sensitive topic.
Now, however, it is time to get to the heart of the matter: how do you design a website? A single and always valid answer to this question does not exist, since, in order to understand how to design a website, you must first identify your goals. Think about it: you have decided that you need a site, but what exactly do you need it for?
Chris Anderson, editor of Wired USA from 2001 to 2012, once said:
“The web has taught us the power of the network effect: when you connect people and ideas, they grow.”
In the next few lines you will find valuable insights into how you can grow through the web.
Identify the objectives
Identifying the goals you wish to achieve is the first fundamental step in understanding how to design and implement a truly effective website. A clarification is immediately necessary on this aspect: the question about objectives contains within it several others, which concern the results you wish to achieve, the target audience (people) you intend to reach, and the resources at your disposal.
By resources we mean, first of all, the budget you are able to allocate for the design of the website (and for its management), but also the time at your disposal and the professionals you have at your disposal for the design, implementation, care and updating of the site. Not only that, to start thinking about the website to come you also need to assess the amount of illustrations, infographics and video content you have at your disposal to make it complete and graphically appealing.
There is, then, another aspect to consider: is your website an isolated project or is it part of a larger online communication strategy that includes other channels?
What kind of website do you need?
From goals to purposes is a short step: once you have reflected on the former, in fact, the latter will become clearer to you and you will be able to answer the question “what kind of site do you need?” more knowledgeably.
So far, in fact, we have been talking about a website in general terms, but you must always keep in mind that there are different types, just according to purpose. Remember: different purposes lead to designing different websites, in terms of structure, design and content.
One of the most common classifications regarding websites distinguishes between blogs, corporate sites, and e-commerce sites.
Blogs provide information to visitors and are dynamic sites, since within them content (articles) is published and updated constantly. Blogs, in general, are more streamlined than classic sites and, not surprisingly, can be an internal section of a website, be it a corporate site or an e-commerce site.
A corporate site is the so-called “showcase site” of a company in that, just as if it were an online storefront, it presents the company to visitors and potential customers (or investors). To capture the attention of those who visit the site, it is very important that the graphics be modern and eye-catching. The content must be clear, as well as, of course, constantly updated in line with the evolution of the company.
The concept of the “online storefront” also returns in e-commerce sites, which display products for sale that users have the opportunity to purchase within the sites themselves. The content of these types of sites is constantly updated and the pages are adapted to the needs and desires of individual users in order to increase sales.
Thinking about the site on the SEO side (and essential to do so from the start)
Before we look in detail at the various stages of designing a website, you need to take some more time for further thought: it is absolutely essential that, from the very first moment you decide to design a site, it is designed by you to meet the requirements of SEO, i.e., Search Engine Optimization.
Do you know what we are talking about? This concept encompasses within it all the strategies (on-site and off-site) and techniques that are used to optimize the structure and content of a website and to ensure that, in this way, the site can benefit from a better ranking within the search engine SERP. The SERP is the search results page that the engine returns to the user when the user performs a search within it.
You will well understand that enjoying greater visibility within search engines, Google above all, increases the chances of reaching potential customers and investors and, therefore, success. In order for a website to rank well, however, as already mentioned, it must meet certain requirements, and it should do so from its first appearance on the web.
You have to consider, in fact, that it is possible to intervene at a later stage to improve the search engine ranking of a website, correcting errors and taking the right steps, but this is a complicated and, above all, expensive operation. Therefore, to avoid having to invest significant additional resources (in terms of time and money), it is a good idea to think about your site from the very beginning with an SEO perspective.
Choosing domain, CMS and hosting
One of the most important steps in designing a website (SEO side, but not only) concerns the choice of the domain name. It is important that you are clear about this: we are talking, in practical terms, about what appears after the “www” in the address bar (in more technical terms, however, it is a name associated with a physical IP address on the Internet).
Even in the case of the domain name, it is essential to have clear ideas from the outset and avoid second thoughts, so that you do not have to intervene at a later date by changing it, with all the negative things this entails, especially in terms of Brand Awareness.
It is not essential (but is recommended) that the latter be the same as the company’s naming; more important, however, is that the domain name be easy to type and remember (avoid numbers or hyphens, which could be confusing), that it be able to describe the business the company is involved in, and that it contain within it keywords relevant to search engines.
The choice of extension should also not be left to chance: it depends mainly on the nature of the business and the business objectives. Commercial businesses tend to choose the “.com” extension, which is also the most widely used extension in the world. If you have a local business, you can also opt for the “.it” extension, but keep in mind that in this choice you have to think about the medium to long term and also foresee the possibility that in the future you may decide to expand abroad. Another good choice available to you is the “.net” extension, generally used by Internet service companies (but not only).
To proceed to the registration of your chosen domain you have to submit your request through specific bodies, called registrars, where you can also verify that your chosen name is not already in use. In case your chosen domain name is free you can register it, paying the fee provided by the service. Some companies, in addition to the possibility of registering the domain name, also offer at the same time a hosting service, that is, the space that hosts the contents of a website and makes them reachable on the Web.
Another very important step is to choose the CMS (Content Management System), that is, the system that will give you the ability to design, implement and manage the website. There are several of them, and some of them have a particularly easy and intuitive interface and are therefore particularly suitable for those who do not have great computer skills. The choice of CMS, however, is related to many other factors, and it is essential that you know them all. To this specific topic, therefore, we will devote an ad hoc in-depth study shortly.
Design site structure and content
Having completed all the “bureaucratic” formalities, you can now turn to the actual website design. Where to start? From the so-called information tree (or architecture) of the site, that is, from the strategic structure that will allow users to move within the site according to a defined, clear and intuitive logic.
Designing menus and sections
It is important that you know some important notions about web structure. Obviously, each company or startup is unique and has specific needs that are different from others, but you should know that it is possible to identify some essential elements that cannot be missing in the structure of a website, especially a startup website.
Let’s start with the “Home page“: it is crucial for a startup to show on the home page the products or services it provides, the main advantages its solutions can offer, and positive testimonials from those who have already tried the products or services. Keep in mind that the main information should be placed at the top and remember to include several calls to action for users on the page, so as to push them to navigate within the site and form a stronger relationship with your brand.
The other key sections of a site are the pages:
- “About Us” to introduce your startup and your team of professionals to customers and investors;
- “Products or Services” to show your products or services in more detail with complete information about how they work, price, purchase and delivery methods etc.; and
- “Contacts” where you list all methods by which you can be reached.
As additional “top-level pages” you can provide a section devoted to your “Portfolio“, “Legal Pages“, or “Company Blog“. In this regard, remember not to overdo it: the general guideline is not to design more than 7 “top-level pages”. If you need to add more pages, you can create subpages, but again, don’t forget that ease of navigation is a prerequisite: a user should find what he or she is looking for within your website in no more than 3 clicks.
Thinking about content
Having decided on the basic sections that will define the structure of your website, you need to reason about the content that will populate the various pages. For each section you need to jot down the text, images, videos and other content you already have and the content you still need to get. Don’t rush: at the planning stage, you don’t need to have all the content ready to publish. You can always make it later, but the important thing is that you always have the design of the site as your point of reference.
As far as texts are concerned, having said the importance of search engine optimization, you can follow some general guidelines: use short and simple sentences, adopt a tone of voice appropriate to your target audience and, above all, show rather than tell (concrete examples make more “appeal” to readers).
Layout and draft graphics
The layout and visuals of the site also play a key role in its success. Many startuppers and entrepreneurs make the mistake of overdoing visual effects, not considering that adding a lot of graphic elements distracts users and makes the site considerably heavier, thus making it more complicated and slower to navigate.
Likewise, you should not use more than 2-3 colors on your website. A thick rule used for a balanced use of colors is the so-called “60-30-10” rule (60% main color, 30% secondary color and 10% accent color, which gives a touch of originality to the page).
In choosing colors, however, you should consider more than just the number: always keep in mind that colors, like words, convey messages and elicit psychological reactions in those who look at them and can therefore be useful in presenting your brand and communicating your startup’s positioning, reinforcing corporate identity.
Even the choice of font should certainly not be left to chance: it is not important that the font of your texts be particularly beautiful, but it is absolutely essential that it be easy to read.
You are about to approach the final stage, that of website implementation, but it is very important to get there prepared. The theoretical thoughts you have made about site structure, content, and layout must be reflected in practice, and so you need to introduce the concepts of wireframes and mockups.
The wireframe is a graphical draft that, on paper or through online software (recently also with the help of Artificial Intelligence), puts the skeleton of the site with all its structural elements down on paper.
With the mockup, on the other hand, you take it a step further in that it represents a snapshot of the website design that also includes graphics, colors and content.
These two steps allow you to understand what can be improved in the design of the website, but the “litmus test” remains the testing phase, which is essential to make sure that all elements are in the correct position within the site, that buttons and links work properly, and that all pages are perfectly navigable. Only then can you declare the website design phase finally over.
Tags: Digital marketing