Three Things to Do Before Designing Your Website
Google “how to create a website” and you’re bound to find all the basics you need to get started. It’s true, almost anyone can create a website these days. But not everyone can create a great website.
Here are three tips that will get you ahead in the early part of the design game and make your site stand out from the crowd!
- Know Your Goals
- Understand Your Audience
- Keep It Simple
Block off time to determine your site goals
Know Your Goals
As with any project, you will only be able to measure success if you are heading toward a clear objective. Physically writing down your goals at the beginning will greatly increase your chances of success and produce a clear, understandable design that will excite both you and those that visit your site.
Set aside some time to focus solely on your goal-setting. Start by imagining the end product of your website, go crazy with your hopes and dreams, and write those things down, or draw them out, depending on your style. Include your site’s purpose and functionality, along with how it will integrate with your business or personal goals. The process of blocking off time to determine your goals will do three things:
- One, you will be forced to define your scope and goal of your website
- Two, you’ll be able to recognize what you can already do and what you need to work on
- Three, and most importantly, you will begin developing a plan that will take you where you want to be
This last item is the most difficult to come to grips with. You’ll likely ask yourself questions like, “Man, can I do that?”, “Wow, do I have the time for that level of effort?”, and even something like, “Do I actually want to do this?” Do not shy away from your questions! This really is the hardest part.
If you can answer all these questions with a resolute, “I’ll give it my best shot!” you’ve already overcome most difficult hurdle.
Now that you’ve explored where you want to go, mentally noted the steps that will take you there, and discovered your strengths and weaknesses, there’s one more item to take care of. Now it’s time to create an “order of importance” list with a step-by-step process to follow. With your goal in mind, you will be sure to have the right perspective as you tackle this next step.
Be intentional about every aspect of your site. Remove all excess and use your design elements to speak clearly.
Understand Your Audience
A lot of small businesses skip over this part… and later suffer for it! Just like having a goal to set your course, identifying and understanding your audience will pinpoint where to focus your time, money, and effort. If you are working with others, clarify the definition of your audience together to be sure you’re all heading in the same direction.
As a designer, it is crucial to be able answer the “who is my audience?” question. Create a client/buyer persona (or maybe more than one) that describes your target audience. Be specific -this will help you later on as you publicize your website. Once you have defined your audience, begin to create with them in mind, and retain full awareness of your goal. As the designer, your job is to connect your audience with the goal of your website. Here are a few items to consider when creating personas:
- Geographic location:
- Description of their circle of friends:
- Where they spend their time:
- Their specific problem:
- How you will help them with this problem:
These last two items are extremely important! With so many people flooding the market and constant distractions vying for people’s attention, you must be able to quickly convey that you understand their problem and that you will be able to help! Be prepared to eliminate design elements that you may personally like, in order to gain the audience you need. The goal is to communicate well with your target audience. Everything from coloration to word choice will be a form of communication from you, the designer, to them, the audience. You are the liaison between the product your site provides, and your viewers.
Be intentional about every aspect of your site. Remove all excess “clutter” and use your design elements to speak clearly.
A viewer decides within less than a second whether they like your site or not
Keeping it Simple
Now that you know your goals and audience, it’s time to put your project together! As ideas turn into a visual product, sometimes it can feel a bit “off.” If this happens, make sure you aren’t cluttering up your site with extra features/colors/sub-designs.
If there are two disparate designs being worked on, be careful not to get trapped in the mindset that they must work together or you’ve wasted your time.
It’s a good thing to have to put a design aside. While it can be a lot of work, it’s one of the best problems to have. Don’t force the two differently designed pages to work together. You know your goal, you know your audience, so keep the design that fits best with those known parameters. Set aside the other design. You now have a second really great design to fall back on or to use elsewhere. It is a good thing to pare down, to reassess, and to save a design for another time.
A viewer decides within less than a second whether they like your site or not. Remove the unneeded items, draw attention to what’s important, and keep it clean. It is good to be a strong critic of your design, and even better to be able to set aside good ideas for the sake of great design and clear calls to action.
Pare down your design style while on a project. Simplify, be intentional, be precise, and stay within your “goals and audience” parameters.
Putting it all Together
With great design reflecting you/your business and clear calls to action, your new website will stand out from the crowd. More importantly, your site will become an essential facet of your public image and revolutionize the way you do business. We follow this process with all our clients and have seen the benefits time and time again. Give it a try… We bet you will save yourself time and headaches down the road, and ultimately have a website that makes you proud!
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