Sunday, 4 November 2012

Website design should be the last thing you do

No, I've not had second thoughts about being a freelance web designer!

I'm just sharing something I've learned in many years of developing and designing websites.

The design of the website should be the last thing you do.

So how do you develop a website?

The first thing you should do when starting to create a new website is to think about the content of the website. 

What do you want to say? Who are you saying it for, or to - who is your audience? What are you trying to achieve with the website?

Write a list of all the topics you need to cover to meet your website's aims.

Content creates navigation

Once you know what content you will have on your website - what the pages will be - you can then start to think about grouping them together (if there are more than 7 pages) and that starts to create the website navigation.

Why 7? Well, research has shown that the ideal number of items in a navigation menu is 7 +/- 2, ie between 5 and 9 navigation choices.

Once you know how many pages or sections your website will have, you can then start to think about the design. But only then.

Don't get fixated on design

You want users to find stuff easily on your website - otherwise what's the point? So the navigation structure is really important.

If you start with a fixed idea of what you want your website to look like, you'll immediately constrain the options for setting up the navigation, and might end up with a website that isn't very usable, and therefore won't get used as much as you want. 

So try to keep an open mind on design.

Think of concepts - for example: uncluttered, professional, friendly - but don't get a picture in your head too soon, or you'll give your web designer a really difficult task.

Putting it into practice

I'm in the process of designing my own website - ISPs permitting (this may be the subject of a future blog post!) - and I've followed my own advice, and thought about the content first, before I decided what I wanted it to look like.

Did I practise what I preached? See what you think: