Balancing visual design & functionality
I find that many web designers focus too heavily on the visual aspects, often neglecting the importance of producing a functional website. On the other hand, there are many technical developers who focus too heavily on functionality, while the resultant site may not appear distinctive, or fails to enhance the business’ visual identity.
My approach is to provide a balance of these two equally important areas of web design — visual design and functionality.
Starting the Process
The design and production of your website will benefit by following a clearly defined process, with each stage creating a foundation for the next.
The first stage involves a briefing from you, but don’t feel as though you need to know everything at that stage. This is a creative process, and your ideas will need room to move and grow. I can help you define the requirements as you progress.
The purpose of the brief is to help me familiarise with you and your business needs, your background, your story or vision. This is also an important stage to examine your existing resources, and to consider any third parties you may need to involve—such as writers, photographers, search engine optimisation experts (SEO), specialty programmers, web hosting and such.
After your briefing I develop a written proposal for you, outlining my understanding to date, and any suggestions about the approach to take. This proposal also documents pricing, schedules, responsibilities, licensing, copyright and other technical aspects.
Should the proposal be accepted, I will invoice you a startup fee and set the design and production process into motion, according to the following seven stages.
Seven Stages of Design and Production
Stage One: Planning
The planning stage identifies website goals, content requirements, available resources and those yet to acquire, and considers any third-party suppliers—such as writers, photographers, SEO expertise, or specialised programmers.
Stage Two: Information Architecture
Working out the content relationships, forming groups of content types into categories, pages, and integration of any specific features. At this stage, I create tree-diagrams and linework diagrams (wireframes) to help visualise the structure, or information architecture. I also begin the coordination of any third-party content providers.
Stage Three: Visual Concepts
This stage develops the graphic design of the known content and architecture, while applying the look-and-feel of your business visual identity. Using PhotoShop, these visual concepts take the form of digital graphics and are not yet actual web code. There are usually two designs to view — one for the home page, and one for the secondary (non-home) pages. These visual concepts will be modified with your feedback until we reach an approved graphic design.
Stage Four: Production
Integration of the approved graphic design via web coding practices into an appropriate content management system (CMS) such as WordPress. This takes place on my development server, and this is the stage where it becomes an actual website, although it is not live to the public. I will input all of your available content. This involves making each web page, typesetting of content, customised programming or integration of functional modules, optimisation and placement of images, linking to PDFs and such. This stage is also significant for the coordination of any third-party providers.
Stage Five: Evaluation
No really a distinct stage, but an important process: as the website is produced, an iterative evaluation > design/production > evaluation cycle begins, to ensure all content is accurate and complete.
Stage Six: Installation and additional setups
If necessary, I help you purchase a domain name and/or suitable web hosting. Then I will install and configure the website at the hosted server, setup any email addresses and add email accounts to your email client (eg. Outlook). Immediately thereafter I submit your domain to Google for potential indexing, and suggest starting a Google Analytics account for tracking website statistics.
Stage Seven: Training and Maintenance
Where applicable, I provide training in the chosen CMS. Thereafter, an ongoing relationship begins where different content and technical maintenance duties are carried out by each of us. These duties can be explicitly documented when together we determine the tasks.