Jumping straight into the design phase and working on page layouts feels like quick progress but using the design phase itself to feel out the brief is far less efficient than beginning with a clear and organised planning phase.
This is probably the number one mistake that inexperienced designers make, keen to impress clients with sexy visuals and flex their creative muscles. In reality, clients that skip or fast track the planning phase often find themselves building on sand, with late changes in the core strategy destabilising weeks or even months of focussed design and development work and causing immense frustration for everyone.
By locking down success criteria right from the start and writing up a clear, intelligent brief that is sharply focussed on tangible business objectives and real insights, the subsequent weeks of content creation, design & development can be built on solid bed-rock and resilient to subjective feedback and passing trends.
Waiting until the development phase is underway before undertaking a careful analysis of the SEO landscape, competitors, keywords & search criteria is another common mistake often made by freelance designers and inexperienced marketing mangers. In reality, SEO considerations should inform the design phase at the most fundamental root level: from the core structure of the website itself to the overall content strategy.
Writing up a clear brief before the design phase begins in earnest and mapping out any requirement for paid search and landing pages is the best possible way to ensure that search engine visibility is hard wired into the brief right from the get go. The alternative often means finding out that fundamental changes are required or accepting compromises late in the process, resulting in missed opportunities, wasted time and additional cost.
Getting the site architecture and user journey right requires a deep understanding of best practice, trend analysis and a huge archive of references. Carefully mapping out the content, architecture and flow of a website onto the user’s requirements requires a lot more than a site map and a Pinterest board.
Doing this well requires seamless collaboration between the client and an agency with the experience and insights to lead this critical and nuanced process. A process that begins with meticulous research and dialogue: writing up messaging, locking down functionality and mapping the flow of content onto different types of users, with an emphasis on calls to action and pre-defined end-goals.
The real magic happens when the creative team take all the insights and analysis from the previous phases translate these into a coherent set of interface designs. Although there are many factors in play at this crucial stage and these will always differ from one client to another, getting the highest possible output the design process is always about finding the balance between functionality and creativity.
If the balance is skewed towards creativity & innovation the final website can visually strong but functionally awkward, which impacts directly on sales and revenue as customers fail to quickly find what they are looking for and miss key messaging that would otherwise have influenced them. Inversely, focussing too intensively on functional requirements, as many development teams are prone to do, is a recipe for websites that feel generic and templated and this reflects negatively when compared with more innovative competitors.
Getting this balance right requires a creative team with experience and the time to research, innovate, explore and compare a broad range of approaches, effectively throwing the net wide before filtering down possible routes to amplify core messaging and guide the user effortlessly to the products and services that interest them.
The cavernous gap between any client and the development team is usually bridged by the project management & design team who, if they know what they are doing, will have addressed many of the most important factors in the design and planning phase. These include intelligently designed page templates for mobile and tablet, a clear brief for search engine visibility and a coherent strategy for all of the small but critical details that make a huge difference; from beautiful animations, page transitions & loading effects to video streaming and the smooth rendering of typography.
As almost all robust sites are now built around one of a handful of powerful content management systems, having vertical experience across all of these is a critical factor for selecting the right platform; based on the scope of the build and the requirement for e-commerce as opposed to selecting the platform the development team have experience with.
A good development team understand this and know how to build sites around a robust content management system but only an exceptional team know how to build a robust and modular framework into the page templates themselves; so that the site can continue to grow and adapt with the business long after the launch without requiring you to invest budget in additional design and development time.
Unlike traditional marketing spend, the return on your investment can be measured with hard data, increased revenue and a dramatic increase in your brands visibility.
When a site goes live the hard work really begins; analysing data to constantly improve the content and streamline the user journey. Many companies choose to invest in paid search and paid social campaigns to further amplify sales which often requires the creation of new, engaging landing pages and fresh editorial content to drive engagement and convert new business.
If the digital agency have done their job well, this versatility will be hard wired into your website and new pages can be created, duplicated and improved through the content management so that your site can grow and adapt with your business and drive tangible, measurable results long after launch.
For more information or to discuss a new project with
our design team please don't hesitate to get in touch.
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Tel: +44 (0)207 193 6491
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