Best practice in web design – Part 1

Planning your site

It is essential from the outset that you clearly identify what the purpose of your site is. Typical reasons why businesses develop websites include:

Building brand awareness
Saving money
Selling products
Providing improved customer support

Remember that what you want the website to accomplish and what your visitors require from the site may differ. You may be concerned about the visual aspects of the site, while your visitors probably care more about how quickly they can find information.

Content and audience

Establish the type of content you will need to support the objectives of the site and how this should be presented. Look at what your competitors are doing and try to understand what the business opportunities are for your website.

Learn as much as you can about the audience you are trying to reach. Try and understand what will make them visit your website, what they will want when they get there and what will encourage them to return. This should be part of a user-centred approach to the design of your website – ensuring that the customer journey is effective and efficient.

Highlight the customer benefits of using your website, eg include supporting information such as testimonials and case studies. If creating an e-commerce website, provide unique descriptions for your products or services. This will help your search engine ranking and ensure that you stand apart from your competitors. See our guide on search engine optimisation.

There is some information you must display on your website as a minimum. All companies in the UK must clearly state the company registration number, place of registration, registered office address and if the company is being wound up on all of their websites. A common place to put this information is in the ‘About us’ or ‘Legal info’ page of the site – it does not have to appear on every page.

Planning techniques

It is a good idea to create a diagram that shows the structure of your website – including the proposed content, navigation and layout of your webpages.

A popular technique for mapping out a website is to use wireframes. This allows you to create a skeleton of the site that shows the basic elements you intend to include. The wireframe is made up of labelled boxes that illustrate the overall navigation and the blocks of content that each webpage will contain.

The wireframe can be drawn using packages such as Word, PowerPoint or Illustrator. Wireframes are very easy to change, so the initial design can be shown to customers or friends who are representative of your intended audience. Their comments can then be quickly incorporated to arrive at an agreed design. Wireframes often provide the basis for more functional prototypes – once the basic design has been agreed.

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