The Website Design Process: 6 Steps To Get It Done Right

March 1, 2022
By John Hawley
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With the rise of new technologies and tools on the web, it’s easy to oversimplify the website design process. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated, either!

We’ve said it before… and we’ll keep saying it ‘til we’re blue in the face! The value your website has simply cannot be overstated. On the digital frontier, your website is arguably the single most important asset your company owns — who else will be available to advocate for your business 24/7? And nowadays, standards on the web are higher than ever. You need a well-designed website to drive conversion and make your business stand out — so it’s important to make sure your website is set up correctly. 

But we understand that getting started with your website can seem daunting. We won’t sugarcoat it, there are quite a few logistics involved with the website design process, and it’s collaborative by nature, so it can take some work on your end as well. Especially if you aren’t familiar with the whole process. 

Not to worry — we’ll break it all down here into easily digestible bits. These are the 6 key stages to the web design process:

Table of Contents

1. Discovery

We take the time to learn more about your business. The holistic design process removes guessing and uncertainty from the equation. 

2. Defining Scope

We clearly define what the finished product looks like. This helps us combat scope creep and overages.

3. Content Generation

We either generate content for you, or gather all of the required content for the website from you. This includes all written content and visual content such as photography, video, etc. We’ll handle creating iconography and graphics.

4. Initial Design & Review

You kick back and relax, and we handle the initial design phase! We then send you over a page or wireframe for initial review.

5. Final Design & Review

We wrap up the rest of the website and make our final checks along with any minor revisions you may have.

6. Launch!

We push your site live from our development environment, and celebrate a job well done!

Getting Started

We know it’s super exciting to get the ball rolling on your new website, but here are a few things that are helpful to have a general awareness of. These tips go a long way in helping you avoid potential pitfalls or unwanted friction in the web design process. Of course, a professional agency will guide you through these — but it never hurts to get a leg up!

But we understand that getting started with your website can seem daunting. We won’t sugarcoat it, there are quite a few logistics involved with the website design process, and it’s collaborative by nature, so it can take some work on your end as well. Especially if you aren’t familiar with the whole process. 
Decide the right fit for your business.

Everyone’s businesses and needs are different. But if you’re serious about building your brand presence on the web, you’ll want to work with a reputable and professional web design agency that will build your website on a robust CMS like WordPress. using a sophisticated Website Builder, rather than a templated theme. And ideally one with great reviews from unbiased third-party platforms. When budgets are limited, we recommend looking into using services like Squarespace or Fiverr. You’ll be able to get something done cheaply, but sites made using these platforms are likely to have shortcomings in uniqueness, custom functionality/layouts, or the in-house resources a design agency has to make a website that can compete on a national level.

Establish who the project stakeholders are.

When there are too many stakeholders or points of contact involved, the website design process can become convoluted and drawn out. We find having only a couple of members to spearhead communications from both the agency and client sides helps keep the project moving forward.

Define expectations.

What do you need from your new website? And what do you want? Do you need custom functionality like Calendars, appointment applications, or Interactive maps? Laying out your needs upfront means fewer surprises down the road. No agency enjoys telling clients certain features will cost an additional fee because expectations were not defined.

Assemble as much content as you can upfront.

Any custom photography or video you own, what copy should go on the website, and so on. This helps your agency design your website with all the pieces of the puzzle right from the start.

For this article, we’ll be running through our approach to the holistic website design process. Of course, every agency is different. You should expect some variation of the website design process depending on who you work with — but these best practices are researched and rooted deeply in over 20 years of experience. Using this methodology takes a site from conception to the finish line without guesswork or leaving anything to chance.

Website Design Process Step 1 — Discovery

Step 1 — Discovery

We start the website design process off with some self-discovery and introspection. First, take a deep breath in… hold… now exhale. Just kidding! This isn’t yoga. That said, we do spend quite a bit of time meditating about your company. 

Before we even put pen to paper and sketch out our first design idea, we’ll take the time to understand your business goals and needs as much as possible. Any skilled web design agency will make sure this step is never skipped.

Because in order to diagnose what your site needs and how to design it in a way that works for your end-users, we need to understand the how, what, and whys of your business and its needs. In order to do that, we send over an in-depth questionnaire that asks you questions to guide you through the website design process. However, you might already have all this laid out in your branding guidelines. In this case, the onboarding process gets a little easier — but there are still some things that the agency may need to know.

Answering these questions is absolutely essential for us to devise a solution that will work for your business. Skipping this step is the same as throwing darts at a board and just hoping something sticks.

But we understand that getting started with your website can seem daunting. We won’t sugarcoat it, there are quite a few logistics involved with the website design process, and it’s collaborative by nature, so it can take some work on your end as well. Especially if you aren’t familiar with the whole process. 

No one can guarantee results with guesses. This is why we always design websites holistically — using this methodology always lets us reach a website design that solves our client’s problems and satisfies their needs.

Here are just a few examples of questions we would ask in our brief:

  1. What’s the primary objective of your site? For example: do you want people to download your app, buy products, raise awareness, or contact you for services?
  2. Who is the site for? What’s your target audience? What would be an ideal experience for them?
  3. What isn’t working on your current website? What is?
  4. Is there content from your previous website you’d like to keep (text, images, videos)?
  5. What features do you absolutely need on your website? And what would be nice to have?
  6. Who are your competitors? What should be similar/different from them?
Website Design Process Step 2 — Scope

Step 2 — Defining Scope and Expectations

Now that we’ve spent time immersing ourselves in your business and establishing the goals of your new website, we can move on to step two: defining the scope of the website and making sure expectations are crystal clear.

Aside from a written statement of the project’s scope, we love to outline your website using sitemaps.

But we understand that getting started with your website can seem daunting. We won’t sugarcoat it, there are quite a few logistics involved with the website design process, and it’s collaborative by nature, so it can take some work on your end as well. Especially if you aren’t familiar with the whole process. 
An example of a sitemap for a website.

Sitemaps are like the architect’s blueprints of your website. They outline the information architecture of your website and explain the relationship between all pages of your website. This makes it easier to determine how many pages are on your site, what features are needed on each page, and so on.  

Defining this upfront allows us to combat scope creep, which is helpful to both us and our clients in keeping a project on time and on budget. It’s also crucial in developing your internal linking strategy and designing the best user experience for your clients.

To illustrate, think of building your website like building a house. Making changes to the blueprint of your house after it’s halfway built is probably a recipe for a budgeting disaster (unless you’re Jeff Bezos). Moving the bathroom from one room to another after it’s built means having to readjust the plumbing, electrical, the walls… you get the point. It would be a significant rework.

For us, on the agency side, this isn’t necessarily an issue — we can be flexible. We always want to stoke our clients and delight with the final delivery. However, increases in scope do mean increases in the budget needed to accommodate a higher workload. And depending on the scale of the increased scope, this can also mean adjustments to the delivery schedule. 

This is why total transparency is key for both parties! Defining the scope upfront and sticking to it once work begins ensures that there are no surprises involved in the website design process. It’s worth mentioning that you can always add to or adjust your website after it’s built. After all, when you create websites with a design system in mind, adding on new pages becomes much faster!

Website Design Process Step 3 — Content

Step 3 — Content Generation

Content generation is all about assembling the written and visual content that will populate your website. The written portion encompasses the text on the site, and the visual includes any photography, video, and so on.

This step can be completed in a variety of different ways depending on factors like your team composition and/or budget. More specifically, it can be more or less involved on you or your team’s behalf, depending on whether you need us to create content or if you already have content to supply such as copy, video, and photography — you can leave the design to us. We’ll work together with you and the solution that fits your business best!

Regardless of the method you choose, we always require that all content is assembled before starting to build out your site. This is the last phase of website pre-production, so any deviations from the established and approved plan will result in changes to both scope and budget. In some situations, we can apply some placeholders — but ideally, they should be relied on sparingly.

As we mentioned before, the holistic website design process is all about removing all guesswork from the equation. Having all of the content upfront allows us to get a bird’s eye view of where everything needs to go.

Let’s take a quick look at both types of content that will populate your website.

Written Content

The written content of your website (also known as copywriting — not to be confused with copyright law) is functionally the most important piece of the puzzle. There are three critical functions it serves for your site:

Driving engagement and action.

Dull and dense content is daunting and will make people’s attention spans drop like flies. Even if you have a lot of content, breaking things into “bite-sized” sections with catchy headlines helps keep things light and engaging. You should always have a professional copywriter create your brand messaging.

SEO.

Your written content is critical in defining the visibility of your website on search engines. Well-written content that’s optimized for search engines will help your site rank better and become easier to find organically on the web.

Informing the design.

From a website development standpoint, written content directly informs almost everything about the design — it’s impossible to design a page without knowing what purpose it serves, and the written content tells us exactly that. In all fields of design, the form always follows the function. Web design is no exception.

Naturally, our team is always happy to deliver professional copywriting for our clients. If it’s within budget, we always strongly advocate for it — the more we can professionally produce and optimize the written content of your website to fit your brand and SEO strategy, the better. 

However, it’s also pretty common for our clients to supply their own copy. Sometimes custom content generation may have already been assembled in-house, had been done by another agency, or isn’t within budget. Regardless of the situation, we’re always more than happy to work with any content you supply. 

Visual Content 

The visual content for your website is pretty straightforward, but shouldn’t be overlooked — this involves any photography, video, or any other visual medium that needs to be included in the site. High-quality visual content does the following for your website:

Nail the first impression.

Users will form their first impression of your site in less than a second. Having professional, high-quality visual assets will ensure that they don’t immediately bounce from your site because they don’t think it’s up to their standards. The competition online is fierce but fortunately, many businesses don’t invest in good design.

Increases engagement and clicks.

It’s widely known that visual content is a huge engagement and click booster. For example, people are 85% more likely to purchase a product after seeing a video of it. Think of your own purchasing habits — assuming all else is equal, would you buy something off amazon that has a single low-quality image or one that’s rich with images, videos, multiple product angle shots?

Helps convey your message.

A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million words. People are able to process images and video much faster and in greater depth than text, so having great images or video assets helps convey your brand messaging that much clearer.  

We always recommend going the extra mile for your visual content. The right media can really elevate a design from pretty good to absolutely outstanding. Photography is an especially important element of your visual content. Hiring a professional photographer or a production agency with a trained eye for composition and detail is instrumental in ensuring your assets are high quality. Remember, your brand is like a chain — and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Website Design Process Step 4 — Design

Step 4 — Initial Design and Reviews

The pre-production phase is now complete — we’ve done our research, the blueprints are defined, all content is assembled. We’re ready to engage our design engines and go full-steam ahead!

While there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes on our end (design iteration and exploration, in-studio review sessions, and so on) you can just grab your beverage of choice, kick back, and relax. We’re here to make this part easy for you — design is what we do best!

Typically, the first thing we’ll work on is the completed landing page (or home page) of your website. This way, our clients have something concrete they can review. While rare, any desired changes to the design direction may be made here. Our goal is to stoke our clients with a website that’s on-brand!

For our clients with larger websites, we instead send over wireframes of the entire website. Wireframes are incredibly useful, but typically don’t give clients much of an idea of what the end product will look like. That’s why for most small or medium-sized websites, we’ll just go ahead and send over the completed landing page first.

Website Design Process Step 5 — Testing & Review

Step 5 — Final Design, Testing, and Reviews

Once the landing page’s design direction is approved, we will go ahead and carry that aesthetic forward through every single page so your website has fully consistent branding. There’s not much else to say about this stage — we simply get the job done!

After we finish up the rest of your website, we take the time to thoroughly review our work. We run through our checklists to make sure that everything is up to par — from making sure all buttons work as they should to ensuring everything looks consistent from mobile to desktop. And of course, we make sure your website page speed is as fast as possible.

Once all of our checks are complete, we submit the site to you for a final review. 

At this point, we can make any smaller design or text changes in order to finesse the site further. Once things look great and we have final website approval, we’re ready for liftoff. It’s time to launch your website live!

Website Design Process Step 6 — Launch

Step 6 — Launch and maintain

Awesome! Your website is finally ready to go live. We push everything from our development environment to go live on the web. Then we all pour a glass of bubbly to celebrate a job well done!

So, we’re all done, right? Well… yes! But not entirely. Much like a car, a website requires constant maintenance to continue operating smoothly. 

Ideally, you want to consistently update WordPress and any plugins you’re using along with security checks, and create daily backups in case anything goes wrong. Our agency offers all of our clients this along with a complimentary year of hosting and maintenance as a thank you for their business. Afterward, there’s a yearly maintenance and hosting fee to continue to keep things running smoothly.

Of course, if our clients have their own hosting and/or maintenance company, or just want to take it into their own hands, we’re more than happy to hand the keys over — it’s your site, after all! We just want to make sure you’re thrilled with your new website and to make the website design process as seamless as possible for you.

Ideally, your website should be constantly be adjusted and updated with new content — based on user feedback, further review, and page analytics. That’s why we design our websites using design systems to make it easy for you to build on what’s already there. So when you’re ready to tweak or expand on your website after its initial launch — the foundation to building something new is already there, ready to go.

We’ve just covered quite a bit of ground, so feel free to ask us if you have any questions about the website design process. We at Mighty Fine Design Co. are a Tampa and Atlanta-based agency that specializes in delivering websites with great design and user experience, and we’d be stoked to help you take your business’ website to the next level.

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