Ashley Morris

The journey from choosing a designer to the live website

About the author: Ashley Morris is a Creative Web Designer here at Fasthosts. Ashley is hugely passionate about web design and has advanced skills in scripting, creative design, wire framing, and user interaction. Within this article Ashley taps into both his Fasthosts experience and freelance work to give us an insight into the process of web design and what to look for in a good designer.

Welcome to our Insights article series brought to you by the Fasthosts employees. We’ve experts in a wide range of areas such as team management, web design, networking, and much more. We believe that by tapping into the expertise within our organisation we can bring you informative and helpful advice, tips, news and views.

For any business owner looking to create a website for the first time or get an old site redesigned the process can seem a daunting task. Stepping into the unknown is always challenging especially when you’ve no knowledge of the steps involved in creating a new site. Choosing the right designer for your project is the first and potentially the most important step.

In this article I will take you through the different steps and milestones during the process of designing a website, the questions you should be asking your designer, and what to expect during the project.

Step One – Research the designer

It’s always a good idea to ask friends, family and colleagues if they know of any good web designers. Check out other local business websites and if you see one you particularly like then get in touch and ask who designed their site. And of course there is always a good old Google search to find web designers in your area.

When investigating whether they are the right designer or agency for you it is a good idea to find out the following.

Are they local? It may be tempting to hire a designer based in the big city but if they are not local it can create problems further down the line with communication and prioritisation.

Do they have a portfolio of previous work? Find out what their standard of work is by asking for examples.

Step Two – Consultancy meeting

The first step once you have made contact with the designer is a consultancy meeting. During this time you should aim to understand their skill level. Are they interested in future proofing your website with a responsive design, page load speed time, SEO, HTML5 and CSS3?

The aim of this meeting is for the designer to scope out the project. They will want to know your aims, objectives, target audience and budget, so they’re able to set expectations.

You should also discuss the process for making future updates to the website.

Step Three – Secure your domain

If you have not yet purchased your domain name then now is the time to do it. With Fasthosts you can get a .CO.UK domain from just £2.95pa*. It is important that you register the domain just in case there is ever a problem further down the line, such as the designer going out of business.

Step Four – Contract

For your protection, and the designers, you need to have a secure contract in place that is fair to both parties. One key point that is often missed during the contract stage is the arrangement over alterations. For example if the designer has spent a few days working on a mock-up of the site and you don’t like it and want changes made then how many times can you request they make an alteration before the cost of the project is increased.

At this stage you can expect to pay a deposit of anywhere between 25% – 50%.

Step Five – Brand creation

The importance of brand cannot be understated. If you are a new small business then it is likely that you don’t have the resources for a creative designer to come up with the brand. The brand is far more than the logo. It is the imagery, copy, colour scheme, tone of voice, values and so on. This needs to be consistent throughout the website and in everything else you do such as print advertising and social media profiles.

The web designer may do this for you or recommend a third party company who can help. To get an idea of branding check out this Behance showcase.

Step Six – Sitemap

The sitemap is a list of all the pages that your website will consist of (everything from the homepage to the contact page). The designer will work with you to understand what pages you need and will often suggest some additional ones you may not have thought about.

At this stage it is a good idea to write one key aim next to each page to define its purpose and call-to-action. For a more in-depth breakdown of what a sitemap is a looks like then check out this Wikipedia entry.

Step Seven – Wire frame and mockups

Next up is the wire frame. This is essentially a sketch of the web page, where the key features are positioned and begins to paint you a picture of what the site will look like. The designer may use a tool like Balsamiq to create the wireframe.

If you have chosen to have a responsive design then they will also create a wireframe for how it will look on tablet and mobile devices. From this wire frame the designer will mock-up some of the web pages such as the home page, example page and continuation page. These are a more polished version of the wireframe. Colour will have been added, some example buttons, “dummy content” of images and text.

At this point if there is anything you are not happy with then this is the time to give your feedback.

Step Eight – Content

The most important element of any website is the content. This includes the website copy, images, videos and so on. If you are not writing the website copy and providing the images then the designer may do this for you or recommend a third party copywriter and photographic/graphic designer.

Step Nine – Final agreed mock-ups, site build, and testing

We’re now getting close to the end stages of the project. The content will be added to a much more polished version of the mock-ups that will essentially show you what the website will look like.

Once all is agreed the designer will build the site and carry out testing to ensure it is performing effectively.

Step Ten – Review

This is the exciting bit. Your site is ready and you will have the opportunity to try it out. It is important that you carefully test every link, read every bit of text and generally give it a thorough going over.

Step Eleven – Going live

The time to go live has come and the site will need to be hosted somewhere. The designer will often sort out the hosting solution for you and set up your email addresses. It is a good idea to find out who the designer is hosting with so that you can check they are a respectable provider.

Step Twelve – Sign Off

It is time to sign off the website and pay the remaining fee. Hopefully it has been a smooth process and everyone is pleased with the results.

The above gives you an idea of the process of the website creation but remember that each designer has their own way of working. The most important things to establish early on are a clear line of communication and setting expectations.

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