Amateurs and professionals alike throw around the “web design” word all of the time. But if you’re going to set out to build your own company website, it’s a good idea to decide what web design means, and what sort of best practices you can use to ensure you’re not just spinning your wheels. You don’t want to become a student of a bunch of software without becoming a master of any of it.
So, what the bleep is web design?
Well, it isn’t something you can buy on a store shelf, and it’s not something you can click a single button to obtain. It’s a process, and like any process, you’ve got to start somewhere. And here you are, so get reading!
The why before the how
The first step in any good web design project comes before you even open up any software. You have to decide what it is you’re doing. The nature of your business and the kind of customers you work with will have a big influence on what kind of website you build. You’ll want to create a website that builds trust. But how do you do this?
To be clear, the biggest mistake you can make, unless you’re in a design class or a contest, is to design a website a certain way just because you like it. After all, websites are for the world wide web. If your opinion was the only one that mattered, you wouldn’t even need a website!
Once you have your business need for the website and its audience in mind, you can sit down and begin the task of designing. Don’t open any software yet, it’s still too early. New programs can be daunting, and you don’t want to deflate the pizzazz you’ll need to make your finished product truly shine. It all starts with some inspiration and vision, and if you move too quickly that vision could get lost.
Finally…time to design something!
Grab a piece of paper, you know, the white sheets made from dead trees and marked with ink? It may be oh-so-20th-century, but the hands-on feeling of sketching something out on paper focuses you on the big picture, which is where you need to start anyway.
If you’re a big fan of your iPad, Ink is a great app for making simple drawings. The basic version is free.
Go ahead and draw out a few simple ideas about how you want your home page to look. Is there something important you want to say about what your business does for your customers? Do you want to show off an image of your flagship product? Simplicity is important for web design. Use simple lines and shapes to illustrate what you want on your home page. It’s the first thing your visitors will see, and it helps set the priorities that will determine the rest of your site’s structure, so don’t be shy.
We’ll save you some reading by telling you the next few steps involve doing that last one over again. Come up with a few alternatives and don’t be afraid to show them to colleagues, family or friends. It’s worth reminding you once again, this website isn’t for you, it’s for your visitors. Asking for opinions is a great way to keep your audience in mind and think outside the box. You can make the final decision yourself, but an informed decision is an effective decision, so get some feedback!
Stay tuned, because in our next article we’ll discuss how to use your prototype to design your own blog!