Sometimes it’s easy to jump into a new piece of work without stopping to think. Budgets, scheduling and resources may be such that your initial response is to simply work - fast!
However taking some time to think and create a strategy for your approach can only help, as it gives you confidence that what you are doing is considered and appropriate. Following the 5 steps shown below (or most of them!) will help you.
Get your hands on all you can. Hopefully a brand will have a set of guidelines and at the very least brand colours, fonts and a logo. But there may also be other marketing materials which have been produced that can guide your interpretation of the brief.
Try to find answers to questions such as how the organisation views what has been done in the past, whether there is any design direction they went down previously that they’d rather not emulate, if there are any examples of previous communications that were felt to have nailed the right tone of voice (visually or otherwise) and ask yourself what you think worked best.
Preferably meet with the person who is going to review your designs and essentially interview them. Ask them their opinions on competitor websites or other sites which could be valuable as sources of inspiration.
Look at the websites of direct competitors and similar brands or businesses all over the world. It’s easy to forget about what’s happening in other countries when search engines tend to return results from your own locality.
If this part of the process gives you nothing specific to apply to your new project it will certainly reignite your passion and creative ambition and get you excited about setting off on a new design adventure. Document, sketch and screenshot. Put together mood boards and collect visual references you can look back on. They will help you in moments of doubt when you feel like you’ve lost your way a bit.
Depending on the size and the nature of the project it may be that your chums in UX have been planning and putting together a strategy for a while but before things go any further make sure you catch up with them and review what is in the pipeline. You may have ideas that will need to be fed into them at this stage or there may be user insight they have acquired that you need to be familiar with before you start to work on the front end design.
Whatever their level of input or the stage of the project design and UX should influence and inform each other - so stick your beak in now! You may be working with signed off wireframes but they are not design blueprints.
Before getting into the detail, think about what basic structure and navigational presentation will suit your project. A series of questions like this should run through your mind:
What is the nature of the content?
Will there be reams of text that needs to be easily read?
How experiential should it be in approach? Should it be ‘conventional’ in tone or push boundaries?
Should the grid used be fully fluid?
How important are big images?
Once you have thought about issues like these, you will probably have a better idea of how you are going to deliver the initial concepts.
It will also become clearer if there is a case for putting two or more approaches in front of the stakeholders. This will show them they have options and make them feel they can be actively involved in the creative process by choosing between them. But be careful, sometimes this can create confusion as elements of both designs might be equally appealing, resulting in a muddled combination of concepts.
Finally, think what pages and breakpoints you need to visualise in order to get your concepts across. Don’t forget mobile - or even better start with mobile.
You may well have a favourite idea or be keen on what the project should entail and ultimately look like but keeping an open mind and constantly thinking of what the alternative could be can help. Refine, question and develop. You’ll think you’ve cracked it. The next morning you’ll open the file again and notice something that can be improved.
Don’t get distracted and confused by changing things all the time but try to assess your work as objectively as possible and be honest with yourself when you know it’s not quite right. If you’re feeling brave, ask the next person that walks past what they think. With any luck they’ll love it and then you can move on!
Of course, the next step is receiving and responding to feedback but hopefully, if your concepts were well thought through, sign-off is just a short step away.
In order to try and save a little bit of money there is often a temptation to get your website designed and developed by a small company, a freelancer or a friend of a friends nephew that’s just graduated from university. Often freelancers and small developers just don’t have the experience they thought they did and what seemed like a money saver can become an expensive repair job as you will often need to start from scratch again.We have heard these unfortunate stories time and time again and we have found that going with smaller companies and freelancers is often a short-term approach for ultimately what is a long-term project. Realistically a website is an ongoing project and it is important to partner with an experienced and established company that will be there for the long term and has the experience to offer you ongoing support and advise.
- How long has the company been designing and developing websites?
- How many clients do they have?
- How many employees do they have?
Without good quality support, you can find yourself in a predicament where you need to then outsource to an additional developer to fix the problem that you have encountered. This can lead to an extraordinary amount of frustration, wasted time and additional expense on your part..
- your emails
- your domain name
- your hosting
- how to use the content management system of your website
- ecommerce setup
… and now for the more in-depth review
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It started out as a platform exclusively for blogging, but has grown and advanced significantly over the years. Today, over 40% of sites using CMS’s are using WordPress. In addition, over 60 millions websites are using WordPress which shows just how popular it is. WordPress offers many advantages to those looking to create a website or a blog, including the following:
Of course, WordPress isn’t perfect in every way. Some common complaints about WordPress are that if the site grows to large, it can require significant server resources to keep up. The framework of WordPress is also difficult to change, so those looking to make back-end changes to their websites may have some trouble using WordPress.
These concerns are much more significant for sites that start getting hundreds of thousands of visitors per day, at which point a more robust server may be required to run the page. However, for a beginner, this is probably the most suitable platform to build a site.
Drupal is the second most popular content management system available today. It is a fully open source program, which many people prefer, especially those who are more technically minded.
The Drupal platform is extremely powerful, and is less resource intensive than that of WordPress. Drupal can be set up for anything from a simple blog to a content portal used by large corporations. Some of the most significant benefits to Drupal include the following:
Drupal is the most powerful content management system out of the box, but with that power comes some additional difficulties for the website owner.
Having at least basic knowledge of HTML, PHP and other common web programming languages is highly recommended for anyone considering using Drupal. You don’t need to be an expert, but being able to troubleshoot error messages, and identify problems with coding will be a significant benefit.
If your website grows beyond a basic blog or small business page, you’ll likely require some technical support to run it properly. If you don’t have those skills yourself, that may mean you need to hire someone, or outsource the support of your page. Another potential concern is that since Drupal requires some in depth knowledge of the programming and technology behind it, finding support can be more difficult. If you run into a problem, you may have to pay someone to log on and help you fix it.
Joomla is often thought of as the compromise between WordPress and Drupal. It is a powerful content management system, which can run smoothly on most web servers without any problems. It doesn’t require the same level of technical experience to run as Drupal, but it still offers many of the extra features. Like Drupal and WordPress, Joomla does have a lot of plug-ins and themes available to choose from, so you can customize your site to look and function in any way you desire. Other reasons people choose Joomla include:
Many Joomla users love Joomla because it is powerful, yet easy to use. Joomla has done an excellent job at combining the benefits of WordPress and Drupal, and adding in some great features of its own. It has been growing in popularity over the past several years, and it is likely to continue to do so. Joomla seems to have found a big market of people who are ready for something a little more powerful than WordPress, but easier to manage than Drupal.
Fans of each of these three content management systems will argue fiercely that the one they prefer is the best option out there.
The fact is, each situation will require something different, and taking the time to look at all your options is the best way to go. For those looking to set up a small, personal blog, or a website for their small business, WordPress is likely the way to go.
If you’re setting up a site which you believe will grow rapidly from day one, and require extensive features for the users, Drupal may be more in line with what you need. Joomlais great for those somewhere in the middle, or anyone looking to add social networking to their pages.
It isn’t an easy choice to make, but if you take the time to look at your specific needs, and have an honest look at your own technical abilities (or your willingness to pay for technical support), you can make the right choice.