Guide to building your responsive website design
In chapter one of our Digital Marketing Hub, Digital Marketing Strategy and Tactical Plan, we outlined how to create a digital marketing strategy. In this chapter we walk you through the steps involved in the planning and launch phase of a website design project.
Develop a clear and concise website design brief
Establish the project Cost
Document the project Management
Implement the web development phase
Developing a Web Design Project Brief
The website design brief needs to be as comprehensive and detailed as possible. The more information you can include, the more realistic the quote from the web development company.
Get quotes from different website design companies but don’t choose on price alone. Make sure you are comparing like with like.
Look at samples of projects they have done previously. Consider how they have handled sites in similar sectors to yours and look at their team skills and experience.
Why web development is planning important?
The planning phase of web design is a vital component in ensuring the successful delivery of a project on time and on budget. Without planning deadlines won’t be met and essential tasks may be overlooked.
Break down the pricing of the build into the different stages; project management, website design, technical build, onsite optimisation, content, hosting, ongoing technical support.
Determine costs that there will be post go-live. These might include hosting, site updates and ongoing maintenance, software licensing. You should have a budget for ongoing marketing of the website as the initial design & build is only the start of the digital marketing process.
Determine if travel costs for meetings are included and if so how many meeting are likely to be required.
Make sure you know who will be managing the website design project. This is likely to be a different person than the sales person you first met. We would also recommend that you choose one web development company who can deliver all aspects of the project from initial design through to final build and ongoing marketing. Look at each aspect of the project and see who is working on each one. Are they in-house staff or contractors? Bear in mind that the person who designs the site (UI / UX Designer) will probably be different to the person who codes it (web developer). One is creative and one is technical. Separate team members within your supplier should be handling the SEO and the content development aspects of the project. These areas all require specialist skills and experience.
A Detailed project plan for the web development process should be documented. The full web development process is typically around 2 – 3 months depending on the complexity of the site. The plan will help you to keep track of the progress of the development and see if it is in danger of falling behind schedule.
Below you can see a sample project plan.
The Website Design & Website Development Process
Here are some key considerations for each of the activities involved in the web development process.
Establishing exactly what you need a website to do is fundamental to creating the website in a cost effective and timely manner. It also helps to ensure the website has all of the appropriate functionality without any redundant features.
All good webiste development companies should be able to supply you with a comprehensive scoping document that will help you outline the requirements of your site. If your budget allows it we recommend working with a third party developer to help you draw up the scoping document.
Extract from a scoping document
The website design is one of the most abstract elements and therefore one of the most challenging.
There are a number of critical elements that should inform your website design so make sure your developer knows what they are.
- Determine what trends are working in your sector by examining your competitors websites
- What content elements your website design needs to incorporate
- What branding and website design approaches your company already works with e.g. logos
Establish how many rounds of changes you can have and use them effectively. Don’t obsess over small details that can be easily changed after the site is live. Focus on the core elements that need to work perfectly.
It is important to understand from the beginning that not everyone in the company will agree on design elements. Commit to a design and move on. Avoid design by internal committee! Make sure that you have a single ‘project champion’ with authority who will do all co-ordination with the website design or web development company.
The top right corner of the site is the most interactive area of the site. Ensure your key call to action is implemented there clearly and concisely. If you want visitors to call or email you put your number and email there with a strong visual that stands out.
We recommend that your website design agency first mock-up the “Wireframes” for all the main website pages or “page templates”. The wireframes are basic black / grey layouts of how the page will be laid out and the different content elements included. This fixes the structure on all the main pages. Once the wireframes are agreed the designer should mock-up a full branded visual of the home page and also how the other content elements (UI elements) should look when fully developed.
Responsive Website Design
Any new websites should be built using a responsive website design. Mobile platforms such as smartphones, tablets and phablets are forming an ever larger part of sites’ visitor traffic. A responsive site is one that adapts dynamically to the screen or device it is being used on.
Responsive website design provides the optimal user experience for visitors and makes your site operate as effectively as possible. Google also takes the ‘responsiveness’ into account as a ranking factor. All websites must therefore be responsive.
Picking a domain name is an important part of every website design project. At the time of writing we recommend that you choose a domain name that focuses on your brand rather that what your product or services does. For example – inspiration.ie rather than digitalmarketingconsultantsireland.ie. Google wants to see a focus on promoting brands and related content rather than trying to gain an SEO advantage by using long tail ‘ keywords’ relating to your industry.
If targeting a single country / region then it’s probably best to go with Top Level Domain (TLD) – ie. for Ireland, .co.uk for United Kingdom and so on.
Build / Content Management System
The build should only go ahead when the sitemap has been finalised and agreed upon. The site map outlines all the key pages and subpages required on the website. It is critical that this is done in advance as your website design agency will build the entire structure of the site around the agreed sitemap.
While some pages can be added or edited as the build is carried out the core structure should be finalised in advance. If it is not, the build will become more complicated and additional costs can be incurred.
Central to the build is the choice of Content Management System (CMS) employed by the website design company. This is the software platform which will house all your content, forms, images, online shop and other functionality. You will use the CMS to manage all aspects of your website.
At Inspiration we work with open source CMS’s (e.g. WordPress, Joomla) as they are well supported, widely used and very easy to use. You can go with a ‘proprietary’ CMS but we advise against it as you will be hand tied to that one supplier.
Content has the potential to become one of the most time consuming elements of a website design or web development project. Taking this into consideration at the outset of a project will limit the cost in time and money.
If you have an existing site it is often more cost effective and time efficient to have that content edited and expanded upon by an external copy writer. This can then be loaded directly into the new site.
Gathering testimonials, case studies and other content can be done from the beginning. A third party content writer can often put this content together for you more easily than trying to do it yourself.
If you cannot develop the content yourself be sure to factor in the cost of having it developed from scratch or editing existing content. For example, Inspiration would typically quote 2 days for basic content development.
Ensure that relevant social media buttons are included in the site to allow visitors to easily share your content on the web.
The content should be based on the final site map structure and the agreed wireframes. The site map tells you what content you need. The wireframes outline the layout or formats for providing this content to the web developer.
Don’t forget to add in multimedia to your content strategy. Images, videos, PDFs and presentations can all be used to make your website design more interactive and engaging.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Make sure the key terms you have selected are optimal for your particular product or service. You can research keywords by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
SEO can seem over whelming at first because of the sheer amount of data available. But having the right keywords in your website text and Meta Data is invaluable to the success of your website design and indeed your overall digital marketing strategy.
If you have a different website design for different localities make sure to account for differences in keyword terminology and business strategy.
Just as you wouldn’t expect your builder to do your plumbing, don’t expect your Web Developer to necessarily be able to optimise your website. There are many SEO aspects to address in developing the website initially. These include
- Keyword Research to identify ‘optimal’ key words for your product / service
- Onsite Meta Data Tagging
- Content editing for keyword inclusion
- Webmaster Tools Set Up
- Conversion tracking set Up in Google Analytics
- GEO Targeting website to correct region / country
- Site Map creation and submission to search engines
Site Tagging for your Website
Meta Data provides information for search engines and appears within the search results pages. Therefore it is important to use the right Keywords but also make your SEO Tittle and Description as appealing as possible. The goal is for your search result to appear for the right keyword and to entice a prospect to click on the result.
You can find out more about site tagging in the Ongoing Optimisation section (03) of the guide.
Be sure to assign someone the task of testing the website design across all main browsers and devices before you go live. A site that works perfectly in one browser or device might not work at all in another.
With a growing number of browsers and devices coming to the market this can be a tedious job but it is very necessary. Mobile traffic is growing year on year so testing on mobile devices is particularly important.
Hosting Your Website
Hosting is the service (usually annual fee applies) you require to store and display your website 24/7. If you have hosting already in place make sure it will support all technical and SEO aspects of the new website build.
We recommend that if you are targeting a particular region / country with your website that you host the website in that physical location. Website load speed will be faster with this approach.
Hosting and website design requirements can get a little more complicated if you are targeting multiple regions but again seek advice from the experts. There are different options with pros and cons attached to each option.
Make sure your website design or web development agency provide you with full training and complete documentation for all aspects of the website. This training will ensure that your own internal team can manage and update the content, imagery and features on the website going forward. A user guide document should also be provided outlining how to manage the main aspects of the website.
Key Points to Remember in Website Design & Website Development projects
- Appoint just one person, a ‘project champion’, to internally to oversee the development of the site. This person will be responsible for coordinating an agreed view with the web development agency.
- Taking a flexible adaptive approach will ensure things go as smoothly as possible.
- Build the site on an open source platform such as WordPress or Joomla unless there is a very clear reason not to. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion on a proprietary build.
- Most web platforms implement easy to use Content Management Systems (CMS). The staff in charge of updating the website should be able to update elements such as videos, banners and blogs. Check if the supplier includes CMS training with the development.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of your current website design , webiste development or future digital marketing plans please get in touch on 01 230 3184 or email email@example.com . We’d love to hear from you.
Other Reference Reading Material
Custom Web Design Vs Pre-Designed Templates
The Importance of Generating Quality Content for Websites
The Need for Website Speed
Web Design 101 Creating Customer Journeys
Responsive Web Design Explained
AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages