How Does the Web Design Process REALLY Work?

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On December - 18 - 2013

Turning a Four Week Project into a Twelve Week Project

So you decided to redesign the company website. After all, that design your nephew Jimmy did back in 2009 is starting to look a little dated. This time around you decided to upgrade the company image and work with a professional website design company. You haven’t done that before, but if your nephew could do it in four months, a professional should be able to do it in one month easy. In fact, you are going to synchronize some off-line marketing to coincide with the new website. You want to build in some padding, so you schedule the off-line marketing 2-months out.

 

The Feedback Follies
Telepathy is a rare talent and highly unreliable. Therefore your website design company may actually have to communicate with you periodically. And as inconvenient as it may be, you might actually have to communicate with them every now and again.

 Expert Guide to Flushing Your Web Design Budget

Probably the number one thing you can do to move your website project along and get what you envisioned is just good quality, timely feedback. Remember, 15-minutes of your time may cut the project delivery time down by 2-3 days. Believe it or not, here is a realistic scenario:

 

Monday the 1st: The agreement has already been signed, and today is the kickoff meeting with your web development project manager. You figure you can get this website up and running in about 4 weeks tops.

The project manager asks you for your design preferences and reminds you that the website should be designed around your target market, not necessarily you. However he also reminds you that you have to live with the site, so it’s important that it reflects your company’s image and values as well. You agree to send a few examples of websites that you like and what you like about them so that he can put together a creative brief for the design team to use as a guide and start the design process.

 

Wednesday the 3rd: You get a quick reminder from the project manager that they have scheduled time to work on your project, but really need to get those examples you promised them. You know it’s in your own best interest to get this thing going, but you have a few important things to attend to and you can probably get to it before you leave today. Something else comes up but you know you can get to it tomorrow sometime. 

 

Thursday the 4th: You start thinking about some of the websites you like. You remember that some of your competitors have some pretty nice sites, and you like their various styles. You hastily copy a few URLs and send them off to your web developer before you leave for the day. The project manager glances at it before he leaves, and schedules himself to look over your examples and write up the creative brief first thing in the morning. 

 

Friday the 5th: The project manager checks out each of the examples and quickly discovers that the designs are all over the place…some colorful and elaborate with animation, some more clean with a lot of whitespace. All good designs, but so varied that the project manager has to call you up for clarification as to what your preferences really are. You tell him that you really like a particular one you’ve envied since you first saw it last month. The other ones were just competitors that you thought he might like to see. He thanks you for the clarification and figures he can finally write up the creative brief for the design team after he gets back from lunch. 

Now that he has what he needs for the design team, he can schedule his best designer to get started with the first round of comps on Wednesday (after the weekend). He would have had the web designer start on the project the previous Wednesday when he had an open slot, but waiting on your feedback allowed 2 other projects to sneak in ahead of you.

 

Wednesday the 10th: The designer is ready to go on your project and diligently works on it the moment he gets in to the office. He has a couple of good ideas and wants to show you a few versions and get your feedback. These are essentially “sketches” not finished designs. Once he gets a sense of the direction you want to go after getting your feedback, he will fine-tune and really concentrate on the one you like the best. He’s real excited about the designs and wants to look them over in the morning before he sends them to the creative director for review.

 

Thursday the 11th: The creative director loves the designs but has some feedback for the designer and wants a few revisions before showing them to you. Just before lunch the designer gets them back with the revisions and sends them over to you. You’re off site at a meeting but you got it on your smartphone. Obviously you can’t review it until you get back to the office tomorrow where you can properly review them on a desktop computer.

 

Friday the 12th: You have a couple of commitments that you have to get to because you were off-site yesterday. You’ll get to the website review on Monday sometime.

 

Monday the 15th: You looked over the designs when you first got in and you had some specific recommendations and feedback, but you need some “alone time” to put it into words. After wrestling with this for a while you decide to get your team together and review it as a committee. Easier said than done…. Can’t get everyone in one place at the same time until the Thursday meeting, but none of us are as good as all of us, so it should be worth the delay.

 

Thursday the 18th: Well, you got everyone together, but rather than simply getting buy-in on the design changes and your ideas, everyone has an opinion. Well…at least they feel obligated to have an opinion. After all, you did ask, and just simply agreeing with you doesn’t do their career any good, so they feel obligated to add something of “value”. This naturally involves changing something. Otherwise what good are they?

By the afternoon, the committee has put together a list of disjointed recommendations (each member making sure they contribute something, whether it’s necessary or not).  Now you just have to sort through and organize it into cohesive feedback. Oh heck, “I can’t think right now and that design company keeps asking me for the feedback”.   So you just send that blueprint for Frankenstein’s monster over to the web designers and let them figure it out. After all, they’re the professionals.

 

Friday the 19th: The designer gets the “group” feedback, which now resembles nothing like the original creative brief. It’s his job to keep the client satisfied…and produce a quality design. He legitimately wants to do that, but now he really has to think about this. Maybe he’ll figure it out over the weekend and get back on it Monday the 22nd. He may need the project manager to get back with you for some clarification.

 

OK, I think you get the point…

This feedback cycle is normal, inevitable and to be expected.

In this scenario we’ve already used 3 weeks and still don’t have the final design on the horizon. We still haven’t even addressed the content for the website, which should be developed in parallel with the web design so the site can immediately be populated once the design has been finalized.

Whose fault is this? Well no one’s really. This is just the natural flow of business. However there are a few simple things that you as the client can do to move the project along and get the most out of your web project:

 

Top 5 Things You can do to Help Your Design Team Help You

Tip #1: Batch all your changes and feedback.
Professional Web designers don’t typically piecemeal their day together, they schedule projects in advance. Why? Because switching projects requires them to locate access information like passwords and files. In order to make changes to a website that is already online, they have to download the website, make the changes, upload the website and test it. They may also need to have it reviewed by a manager. The fact is, it often takes about the same amount of time to make one change as it does to make 5 changes.

 

Tip #2: Address ALL of the feedback requested
If the project manager asks you to weigh in on 4 things, and you only address 3 of them, that might be all it takes to put the project on hold until they can get clarification from you. An experienced project manager will often number the feedback points because it’s easier for the client (you) to make sure you address everything.

 

Tip #3: Be specific with your feedback
Spend the extra few minutes it takes to be very concise with your feedback. Make sure you re-read it before you send it. If the designer misinterprets your direction, he may spend hours going down the wrong path. This is not only going to cause delays in order to re-do the work, it will often cause additional delays because they have to attend to other projects that were idle while working on the wrong thing for you. You might find yourself in the back of queue when you should be heading into the next phase of the project.

 

Tip #4: Be Timely with your feedback
As much as you might envision your design team being on call, a busy web design firm has a constant stream of projects they may be working on during any given time. What happens during that extra day while waiting for the client to get back with the missing info? Well another client (or two) may sneak in ahead of you. Keep in mind that designers like to design, and project managers like to manage. You may be special to the project manager, but then again….so is everyone else on his list.

 

Tip #5: Hold up your end of the bargain
For example, perhaps you have decided to provide the content for your website…writing the text for each page yourself. Or assigning it to an overworked subordinate. If you’ve opted to take that portion of the website on yourself, remember as pretty as the design is, it still can’t go live without the content.

 

How to flush your website budget down the toilet

For those of you who are bent on self-destruction, we’ve put together The Experts Guide to Flushing Your Web Design Budget down the Toilet. Quite frankly, we’re not above sarcasm to make our point.

 

Kreative Webworks: Orange County Web Design since 1999!

 

Already have a website? Get your FREE Website AnalysisNo Strings…No Kidding

 

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Six Website Page Layout Tips you Absolutely need to Consider!

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On July - 11 - 2011

In the last few years Search Engine Marketing and Social Media have stolen the spotlight away from some basic Internet marketing principles. That is; the user experience and the fundamental way that website pages are laid out and organized for your visitors (human beings…not search engines). After all, what visitors do once they get to your website is purely the result of what they see on the site.

Here is where I would normally turn the conversation towards content. However there is something even more fundamental I want to address; Usability and Visual Appeal…

Your top banner and navigation layout are major considerations because they will generally be used consistently throughout the site. However the individual page layouts (what is unique on each page) is what adds personality to the site.

  • Think magazine…not flyer: Actually think somewhere in between. Print layout is not the same as web layout, but the basic rules of design apply. Flyers typically feature oversized fonts centered down the middle of the page. Magazines are typically more “artsy”. An effective layout combines the simplicity and directness of a flyer with the flair and interest of a magazine. Professional touches might include wrap-around text, multiple columns and strategic (but limited) attention getting devices. Add flair to your layout…not distractions.
  • Spacing considerations: Unless you are publishing a term paper online you will probably not want to indent each paragraph. Instead you might consider separating each paragraph with a double space. This technique is cleaner, easier to read, separates individual points into manageable blocks and is certainly more contemporary. Here is an example of a Huntington Beach Personal Injury Lawyers site where we spaced each paragraph in blocks, and actually have each line at about 1.5 spaces for easer reading.
  • Text wrapping: Wrapping text around images can have a very professional “magazine-like” effect on your page layout. A common mistake is allowing the text to butt directly against an image, creating an unintentionally crowded feel. Make sure that you use “cell padding” or another technique to create a small buffer around your images so that the text does not physically touch the images.
  • Scrolling v. White Space: Decide what is more important, an uncluttered design, or letting the visitor see everything without scrolling. Minimal scrolling is acceptable and preferable to jamming all your content into the top portion of your page. An even better solution is to aggressively edit your content. Visitors inherently breeze through websites with an unprecedented level of impatience. On the web…less is more. Here is an example of site we designed with minimal scrolling. Note there really isn’t a lot of text on this popular healthy lifestyle Edamame website. We allowed the graphics to do the talking.
  • Background images and textures: Unless you have an absolute compelling reason to do so, it is best not to use any sort of image background or textures behind the body text. This has a tendency to appear gimmicky and it obscures the readability of your text. It might also compromise the load time (the amount of time it takes for your web page to materialize).
  • Appropriate use of Flash: Animation has several advantages, but it also has a tendency to be over used. A little animation can go a long way towards distinguishing your brand or demonstrating a technique. However it can also be a distraction to your real message and cause unnecessary load time.

Try to avoid testing the patience of your visitors with gratuitous eye candy. Moderately animated logos and slogans in the banner of your Home page (or landing page) are great for branding, but once someone has seen it and has decided to venture deeper into your site, there is no point in repeating it endlessly. The repetitive movement would be akin to someone walking back and forth in front of you while you are trying to read. Here is an example of a glass and mirror company in Dallas where we rotated the flash through once, and let it settle on the frame with the written message. It doesn’t rotate any longer and never animates on internal pages.

An example where flash serves a purpose above and beyond branding might be a website that promotes women’s lipstick products where a flash sequence demonstrates the proper technique for applying the product. As a general rule, anything that says “Skip Intro” or “Enter Site” should probably not be there to begin with.

We can influence the search engines and make our cases through Social Media channels, but at the end of the day your own website is one of the few things that you actually have total control over…

Chuck Bankoff is Director of Web Services for WSIeWorks, a full service Digital marketing firm in Orange County California.

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Nigel has Design Suggestions for his Website

Posted by Chuck Bankoff On June - 20 - 2011

Well actually his name was Mark, and he didn’t have a British accent, but the ensuing discussion was pretty accurate (sort of).

The cardinal rule of effective web design is to design for your target audience…not yourself. There are of course industry best practices…tempered with common sense.

Websites that are able to stand the test of time have three things in common:

  • Appropriate theme for the target market
  • Uncluttered design
  • Unambiguous navigation

Not necessarily rocket science, however these elements take a bit of upfront planning, and should not be trivialized. Good website design by its very nature is subjective, but bad design is just…well bad. Here is my checklist of what NOT to do:

  • Too much Flash: Improper use of flash is gratuitous and may detract from the purpose of the website. Make sure that flash is used judiciously and not just as “eye candy”.
  • Pages that are too long: Long pages are subconsciously interpreted as too much work to read. It is much better to break content into multiple, well organized pages.
  • Pages that are too cramped: Not everything has to be seen all at once to be appreciated. Too much collocated information is in itself a distraction.
  • Unnecessary repetition: Give your visitor a little credit. Convenient navigation is one thing, but force-feeding it to your visitors is something else.
  • Too many attention getting devises: If everything is highlighted, then nothing stands out.
  • www.WebsitesThatSuck.com: (just in case you need additional clarification).
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