My Approach to Web Design for Small Business
The NC Web Diva Design Process
Do you have a website design project in mind? Do you want to know what you can expect? Below is an outline of my standard website website design and development process.
Initial, No-cost Consultation
In the beginning I will talk with all the business owners/managers in order to find out:
- what market you serve,
- what you do for that market,
- what are your goals for your website,
- how you’re different than other competitors,
- how you help potential customers in that market
Discovery & Audience Research
Discovery is a 1-2 day process where I review your existing website (or your overall online presence) for information concerning your business. If needed, I will then audit your website for technical problems: glitches, errors or hidden software issues.
This stage is also where I will do a deep dive in audience research to uncover what your prospective customers really want & need.
This way I can uncover what your potential customers are looking to learn about you or your business online.
This also the phrase where I will be be asking you for “Homework” about your personal experiences as a business owner. You can check it out here: Client Homework Worksheet
These insights play an essential part in helping me with the design and development of your website.
Customer-Focused Design/Information Architecture
Next I will analyse the insights you have given me and what I found during the discovery phase.
I will then to create a website design plan that includes a list of software requirements, a wire frame (a rough outline/layout) and a listing of the website’s core content pages.
I will also determine what digital marketing strategies your business needs to attract more traffic and build consumer trust.
This is where I take all the design elements, insights, data and marketing strategies that I have gathered during the above 3 stages and use them create a written proposal.
This written proposal will detail my design plan, any recommendations, and the proposed pricing (or website package) for your project. If you agree to the project terms, then we can move forward to the next phases.
Front End Design (The Test-Site)
This phase uses a “live” test website as a mock-up with draft content and showcases what your website page layouts should look like. On the test-site I will use the actual fonts, color scheme, graphics, images, and photos as will appear on your final site.
The test-site navigation will be laid out, and should function like it will in real-time. This is where the client has an opportunity to check the overall “look and feel” and then work with me to improve/tweak the website design elements.
This is also the part where clients have problems.
————– slight rant starts here —————
First, too many potential clients become bogged down in worries about their lack of “high quality photos”, wanting stylish but hard-read website font types, personal style concerns (“But that’s just not me!”) and personal color preferences (“I really like black…so why can’t it be the main color on my plumber’s website?”), etc.
This happens because we have been told by big city ad agencies that DESIGN = PRETTY.
This is not always true. Good design is not just about being “pretty” – it’s about being “purposeful”.
How “pretty” a website looks is usually NOT critical to it’s business functionality or profitability.
When considering getting a website, ask yourself these questions:
- Will your site’s design provide better ACCESS to you company’s information?
- Will your website help you build trust and rapport with your potential customers?
- Can your visitors find what they are looking on your site than they can on the other guys’ sites?
Now don’t get me wrong an ugly website can hurt any business! But while visual appearances are important…
… a good website has two main purposes: attracting more online visitors and then building enough trust with those visitors for them to contact you.
And while I can and will fix software glitches, blurry photos, bad graphics and other things that will distract your visitors, you should always remember a business website is a marketing tool … not a vanity project.
“The way you position yourself at the beginning of any relationship has a profound impact on where you end up.” – Ron Karr
Secondly, this stage is also where clients realize what they may not write well as they would like, so they start to freeze up.
No one likes to feel like they are in 5th grade English class with Mrs. Wombat, again!
Because of this, website owners frequently stress over where the commas should go, and worry abut dangling ‘whatever’s” and other grammar or style issues.
You don’t have to be a Hemingway or a member of a major advertising agency to create clear web copy. Just write out what you want your readers/potential customers to know AND to do for each page.
A simple explanation of your product/service/process will be fine.
Or better yet, just send me the list of content you want created and I can write up the copy for you!
“Finished is always better than perfect”
————– end of rant ——————
This is the next to last stage where the designer/developer (me) makes changes the owner wants and codes any custom tweaks or layouts. Then I will test everything to make sure that the themes, plugins and custom codes all work.
NOTE: most of this work is done in the test-site stage, but certain custom applications such as the creation or integration of social media accounts, or online business directories happens elsewhere on the internet.
Final Website Testing
Before publicly launching any website, it’s important to test all of its functions and ensure that your visitors will have a great experience.
It’s also equally important to setup your maintain your website, to ensure continued user satisfaction. So this where before I move the website from the test-site platform to it’s final home, I will:
- Proofread each page,
- Check each page’s content formatting,
- Check that each page has been optimized for search engines,
- Check all the links on each page,
- Confirm all the images are photos/images are loading correctly,
- Check the website speed (see how fast it loads when a new visitor arrives),
- Check how it looks and functions on a mobile device/cell phone,
- Test it on different web browsers (like Google Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer/Edge, etc.)
- Verify that all online forms on the site are working properly
Then I will move the site (migrate) it to the web hosting service that you have arranged for. Or you can just let me handle the web hosting and tech support for you for a very affordable price.
Finally I will submit your website to Google’s search engine for review and indexing.