There's more to web design than simply an idea. Getting the best out of your idea includes research, development and then producing it. "We don't just colour in a few doodles, there's method to our madness."
Let’s dispel the initial myth… design isn't simply about whatever comes into our mind at the time. It's about actively reflecting your business, engaging your audience and getting results. The ‘wrong’ design isn't going to help you engage with your customers or grow your online business.
So, how do we do this?
1. We do the quant: Quantitative research; or the collection of all factual data that is available to us.
For example, a current website audit. This is the proposal and technical specification of what the website should be doing and achieving, what the platforms are that we’re designing for, architecture and wireframes or prototype, personas or customer profiling, any current marketing statistics. We check google analytics, look at the bounce rates, the heat map and try and get a feel for what people are doing, a design brief and brand exploration.
If it's possible, we like to have a workshop with our clients, go to your premises, have access to your brand guidelines, photography and printed material. We find out what makes you tick, so that we can get the best possible understanding of your business and your customers.
2. Next comes the qual: qualitative research; or exploratory research.
I call it the 3 I's.
- Immersion: We read, write and immerse ourselves in all of the data above that we have collected, as well as going through your current website and checking competitor and peer sites.
- Inspiration: We get inspired. Even if it's a mixture of in our head, outside in the garden, at the local cafe or on our computer, we get started on what designers do best. Being creative. After carrying out the immersion technique, our inspiration is then shaped by, not our own, but your values.
- In-situ: We aren't tied to our desks, we get out there. The cliché is very true… ‘Inspiration is everywhere’. We'll be able to understand your audience better if we hang out where they hang out, buy the things that they buy and even experience what they experience.
3. Develop the idea
A web designer touches on a whole lot of different aspects of the entire design process. Of course this includes visual design, but also the whole user experience - from the interface to interaction, to outcome. This isn't a print page, but rather an application to be used. Unfortunately they cannot just be good ideas, they have to appeal to the target audience.
- Style board: After having immersed ourselves in both quant and qual, we create some parameters. What fonts represent this client? What colours? What style? What imagery? This is so much more than just a mood board, it translates the brief into tangible elements. This style board is what shapes our design.
- Concepts: We then begin to work on the initial concepts in our software of choice. They're rough drafts to try out a few ideas and work them up far enough so we have a clear direction. What we're trying to achieve right now, is an emotional engagement.
- Layouts: After the wireframes were briefly looked at, they are now studied in depth. It is our responsibility to figure out how best to engage your users with each element of content to gain the required reaction.
- What to present: Then we present you with the layouts, showing structure and style. We explain the inspiration behind everything. From why we used the particular fonts, colour or style, to what the reasons behind the layout is and why the elements are positioned and styled in the way they are, how the user will feel and how this design translates the requirements and values of your company into a working design that will meet your required outcomes and goals. Yup, we do it all!
4. Production (line)
Now that we've got your feedback, we can work on any changes or suggestions you might have - hopefully it isn't too much! Then we move on to all of these things...
- Page types: Here we back-track to the drawing board a bit. We bring in all that quantitative research and, once again, immerse ourselves, starting on each different page type. These are just as important, so we keep our eyes open in regard to attention to detail and UX (user experience).
- Style guide: For consistency across all your page types, it's imperative that we use your style board throughout to maintain continuity. Yet, once we've finished all the page types we create a fully up to date ‘style guide’, that documents to the client and developer every style, font and colour that we've used. This ranges from what menus and their drop downs look like, to what the heading and sub heading styles are, as well as text styles for optimum usability and engagement, links, quotes, buttons, etc. We also make sure that our fonts are all web fonts and that we've set the colour palette.
- Design Assets: Once the main templates have been designed, there are often additional assets that have to be created for the site. For example, a complete set of banners for a rotating homepage slot or a set of images for a case study portfolio. These assets can be created when the development begins, so there tends to be an overlap in work.
- Review: We really care about our designs, so we don’t just hand them over to development and then forget all about them. We follow them through, review them and make sure that those pesky developers haven’t cut a single corner (not that ours would of course!). The developers are the people who bring our designs to life and we always make sure that the output is what we expected, across many platforms, before we present it to our client.
So, there you have it! We don’t just colour in a few doodles, there is method to our madness.