Website Design Preparation, Planning and Considerations
A website is an international advertisement, therefore business website design preparation and planning requires a combination of many skills: business acumen, visualization, advertising knowledge, creativity, technical know how, etc. Hoping to be excused by critics, I would dare to compare the entire website design process with wine making which involves planning, collecting the choicest grapes, fermenting, maturing, bottling, advertising and selling the product. The inner satisfaction felt by a wine maker when he watches the wine mature before his eyes is similar to the pleasure felt by a web designer when he observes his project evolve.
"Preparation is half the game" in almost every area of life and thoroughly planning a website design is absolutely critical for its success. Having been in the industry for several years, often I have found that web designers spend some time seeing competitor websites and template concepts and then immediately starting making the home page. This is a frivolous, purely presentational approach that does not show the web architect in a good light. In this article we will study some important steps of website design preparation and planning that can result in an international standard, user-oriented business website.
1. (Warren Buffett time) The CEO perspective: Read the information / material of the company and interact with their CEO / marketing head to acquire an understanding of their business and website design requirements. Create what I call a CEO sheet and note down the information they give you. What does the company want to achieve through the website? Which products, services or ideas do they want to highlight? What about the company brand image and customer focus? Naturally a CEO would think about business, more business, yet more business. While understanding the company business perspective do not forget the customers who allow the business to exist. Your website design planning should focus on building an enduring enterprise through the website, not just rapid fortune.
2. (David Ogilvy time) The Advertising perspective: Mental gymnastics is not effortless but if you have a strong imagination you will be able to comprehend many focus areas of the company advertising department. If possible, meet the Advertising Head. If the company does not have a dedicated PR / advertising department trying changing the questions in the CEO sheet from what / which category to how? Think HOW you can use the website design to increase awareness of most important products, how to create a good reputation, how to improve customer perception etc.? Get information or think up punch lines that hit the customer, banners that catch the eye, special offers etc. Write down all of this on the second website design preparation sheet – Advertising Objectives Sheet.
3. (Chanakya Strategy Time) R & D: Before any website design concepts begin to take shape in your mind, it is time to do thorough research. Analyze (not view) design and functionality of competitor websites to assess their weaknesses and strengths. Look at the navigation, organization, performance, customer impact etc. and record what they are doing well and how you can do it better. For notifying these points, I suggest that you create your third website design planning sheet titled Competition Analysis. Create a table with features as rows and competitor names as headings. Then write down your views about each feature in the relevant boxes.
4. (Srinivasa Ramanujan style) Dream time: By now your should have some idea about the business objectives and advertising strategies that your website design will incorporate. You also know what your website is going to be competitiveness against. To avoid analysis paralysis, take a short mental break and indulge in daydreaming. This is the special prerogative of website designers – being paid to day dream on the job 🙂 Allow what you have done so far to draw a rough image of the website in your mind. Imagination is the true measure of intellect. Dream languidly or even fantasize about your website design till you begin to feel the excitement that indicates you are getting close to completing your website design preparation. Compare your dream image with hard business facts and mold the website design mentally.
5. (Common Man Time) Be thy customer: This is perhaps the single most important factor in website design preparation and planning. Customers website experiences not only affect brand satisfaction but also translates into sales. Imagine that you visit the website that you have mentally visualized. Would you feel at home with its colors, usability, functionality, personalization, level of detail, aesthetics, speed and security?
6. Leonardo Da Vinci Time: Mental refinements can only go so far. It is time now to amalgamate the mental imagery more concretely with our website design planning sheets. I have frequently stressed upon website designers to first draw their concepts on paper with colored pencils before starting their favorite editing software. It allows free expression without constraining your ideas to tool limitations. Draw, redraw and refine your concept. Refer to the CEO, Advertising and Competitive Analysis sheets frequently. Stop only when you are satisfied that all the mental exercise you have done in the above steps is well reflected in your drawing. Now consider the web designing tools that you will need yourself and consult with your web programming team regarding scripts, databases and other technical requirements of the website. I typically suggest expanding knowledge of tools or finding alternate methods rather than completely distorting your drawn concept due to software limitations. If you try hard enough the solution will present itself.
7. (Sherlock Holmes Time) Resign: Sherlock himself did play the violin at strange hours and was acutely aware of the power of detachment. A well-rested free mind is a potent weapon. Let go of all thoughts related to website designing for a while and do something else. After a short total break begin designing your website.
Names of some famous people have been mentioned above for a reason. The more astute website designer can read about them in free time or on a holiday to acquire insights into requisite perspectives.
Talent fuels passion. Many would be inclined to think that after spending so much time and energy on website design preparation and planning, would one have enough left for implementing the same. Strange are the neuron pathways. The conscious and sub conscious are both far more powerful than we comprehend. You will pleasantly surprise yourself when occasionally the entire website design planning takes a few hours. One last word: Remember to savor and cherish your creation when it is complete.