Evolution is a natural part of business. “Companies must continually evolve to stay relevant, innovative, and competitive.” The same is true of company websites. When creating a website for your business, one of the most formidable tasks ahead of you is to build a website that evolves as your business evolves.
Not all business websites are built to expand elegantly, and when change happens, as it always does, the consequences are often costly in both time and money. The way to avoid these expenses is to have an effective approach to website design, one that considers the need for evolution and change. (Read How Should Companies Evolve?)
Once your website is live online, who will maintain it? A plan for ongoing maintenance will allow you to create a website that evolves with your business.
Effective Web Design
The following process is a strategic approach that accounts for inevitable business change, growth, and evolution. It includes:
Your Website Strategy
The strategy behind your website is its foundation, and the first step in creating a scalable website for your business. Your website strategy is where you start. Everything else – functions, features, graphic design – follows your website strategy. Strategy is determining the why behind your website. Why are we building a website? What do we want to accomplish with this website? Think purpose, goals, expectations.
Your strategy must also consider the people who will use your website, frequently referred to as website users or users. Your users will want and expect certain things from your website – you must define those things now, up front, before you build your website.
Base your website strategy on two items:
- Website Objectives
- User Needs
Your Website Scope
Clarifying the scope of your website is step two. Your scope is defined as the requirements for your website. The scope of your project includes features, functions, and content that assists in meeting your website objectives and the needs of your users. Figure out the scope of your project by reviewing to your website strategy.
For example, if your strategy involves lead generation, your scope must include the content, functionality, and features needed to generate leads.
Scope is based on strategy and is the second step in creating a website for your business. This step helps clarify your website project and starts to build a concrete plan based on the abstract strategy you defined in step one. Instead of a vague hope that website visitors will find your website and become leads, step two gives shape to your website strategy and brings it into the realm of reality.
- Functions & Features
- Content Requirements
Your Website Structure
A website’s structure is the organization of those items identified in your website’s scope. Where will this feature go? How will content be arranged to help users find it easily? Structure is based on scope and creates the framework of your website. The structure you establish for your website will inform the creation of your website prototype in step four.
Website structure diagrams the pages on your website and how they relate to one another. Large or e-commerce websites with complex requirements may need to invest in information architecture to determine website structure.
The navigation of your website – how visitors navigate your website – is planned in this stage. Navigation must consider expansion: construct broad categories and drill down to subcategories to create a navigation structure that easily evolves with your website.
Your Website Prototype
The next step in the right approach to web design is the creation of your website prototype or the skeleton of your website. A website prototype follows structure; it is more concrete and continues to sharpen and clarify the final product, which is your business website.
Your website prototype is a blueprint for your website, much like the blueprint for a house. Like other prototypes, a website prototype is made before the final product is created. This saves time and reduces mistakes, making your website creation more efficient.
The fourth stage in our user-centered approach to web design includes:
- Information Design
- Navigation Design
Your Website Design
The final step in the right approach to web design is the visual design of your website. It includes colors, graphic elements, and images. It is the surface of your website; the way your website looks.
The design of your business website is guided by the prototype created in step four. It is a culmination of the previous steps in this approach – it supports the strategy, it reinforces organization, and boosts appeal.
Maintaining Your Website
Include a plan for ongoing website maintenance and support if you truly want your website to evolve alongside your business. Determine who will maintain and support your business website for the foreseeable future.
A few items that fall under maintenance and support:
- Add new content
- Fix errors
- Update code
- Monitor performance
- Hosting / domain renewal
The person or team responsible for your website maintenance must be competent enough to identify, diagnose, and fix errors as well as make content edits to your website.
Give Artonic a call or e-mail us if you’re interested in website design, development, marketing, and maintenance/support.