Website design – how to start?
Designing a website starts with defining the role the website is meant to serve, or its purpose.
You’re guessing right – there are different types of websites that are used for different purposes. The three most popular ones are: landing pages, one-pages and classic websites. Obviously, there are also large sites (portals and the like), but that’s a completely different topic.
The simplest types of websites are landing page and one-page.
Although they are usually small in size (they only have a single page), they have quite a lot of content on them. However, they differ in their purpose.
What is a landing page? In simple words, it’s a destination page that is usually intended for collecting leads or gathering traffic related to a certain action. Landing pages usually don’t have much content, but the page’s purpose is clearly visible. In most cases, landing pages don’t have a menu.
One-pages are kind of like “stretched” versions of regular websites. All the information here is on a single, very long web page.
The most important content is always on top. That’s it in a nutshell. One-pages have a menu that redirects to subsequent section headers.
Designing and creating these types of websites requires a specific approach. Although they might seem simple, they are very demanding and it’s better to begin the journey of making websites with something else.
Especially that web design is usually associated with “regular” websites.
Those have a home page, subpages with the offer, news and contact info. One could say they are the standard on the Internet.
Not to mention that users know their structure like the back of their hand.
If you need your own showcase on the web – a simple one-page will do. You want to put a little more content on the website (the offer, a blog etc.), and even expand it over time? A classic website will be just right.
Now that you know the what, it’s time to move on to the how, which is designing websites.
What is the purpose of your website – this is where web design begins.
You need to know what purpose your website is meant to have. That way the website you’re designing will be understandable to the users.
If you run a business of some sort, the user needs to know right from the start what you have to offer.
For example – you own a car repair garage. The user needs to know they have entered a repair garage’s website and that they can use specific services.
The purpose of such website is to inform about those services, and thus – to gain new clients.
A clearly defined purpose is the key when it comes to designing websites. That’s why you need to think about it and clearly define the purpose of your website.
Once you know what the purpose of a website is, you need to think about who is its audience.
Web design – define your audience.
It’s not like your website is going to be viewed by search engine robots only ;). That’s why you need to think about who will be (and already is) the audience of your website.
After all, they’re the ones you want to reach, aren’t they?
Defining the audience of a website is directly related to the purpose of your website. They’re the ones to fulfill that purpose, after all.
Web design defines such profiling as “persona creation”.
Which means you need to think about what exactly the users are going to want from your website and who exactly they are going to be.
You certainly have some profile of your website’s user in your head. You need to think about what exactly they need, what their preferences are, why they ended up on your website and what they should find on it for you to reach your goal.
For example, a perfect user of a car repair garage’s website will be someone who needs to have their car repaired.
They want to know what kind of services the garage offers, where it is located, what its operating hours are and how to contact it. That’s the kind of information they are going to be looking for on the website.
Your job is to put it in a visible place.
In other words: creating personae will let you better tailor your website to the needs of your users.
Remember – (good) web design is closely related to addressing the needs of specific personae. Which means your perfect users. Once you define your audience, it will be easier for you to define what the user wants to find on your website.
Paper and pencil – make web design easier.
It’s always nice to draw something. Especially if you have no idea on how to get to designing a website in terms of visuals, just remember: it’s always worth it to get inspired, which makes it a good idea to go through a few websites that you think are nice and draw some conclusions. That’s why it’s better to start designing a website with a piece of paper.
Once you have the elements that should be featured on it, you can expand it onto subsequent subpages. Make one sheet of paper for each individual subpage.
Place subsequent elements on each “subpage” (make sure to maintain the order of priority). You don’t have to be afraid to cross things out.
The most important elements – web design in a nutshell
The most important thing is always the home page. That’s where you’re going to place the key information and the elements that users should find first.
Remember that the higher on a page those elements are, the faster they’ll be found by users. The home page is at the same time the first page a user sees. That’s why it has to be readable and feature the key elements.
Every page needs to have a menu.
It is what helps users navigate around your website. Remember that this element should be as understandable as possible.
Which means that typical, cliché subpage names in the menu are what your users expect. After all, web design is often based around proven solutions.
Main page, offer, price list, contact, customer feedback etc. – such structure of the menu will help users find what they are looking for faster.
Another crucial element of each website are internal links.
Which means that if you place a segment related to the offer on the home page – it’s a good idea to include a link in this segment that will redirect users to the subpage with the offer.
When posting articles on the website, remember about maintaining the so-called hierarchy of headers. A header may look like big, bold text.
In reality, headers serve three main roles on a website: they inform about the topic of the text below, they organize the information on the page and come in handy in positioning (search engine robots will find information in headers faster than in text).
Remember about the hierarchy of headers, too – it allows users to know which is general information (related to a group of information), and which is detailed information.
The most important thing – a page should only have one H1 header; such header should contain the page’s name (which means that on the contact page it should be “[your company’s name] – contact” or “Contact [your company’s name]”).
A website’s footer is a very important element and it should be kept in mind when getting into web design.
A website’s footer is the last element for many users to see.
You may use it as “the second menu” or to catch users’ attention in the last moment.
An obligatory element of a footer is your contact info. Just put your e-mail address there.
It’s also a good idea to add a hyperlink to the home page and a short note on your website.
A footer gives a whole lot of opportunities – that’s why you need to remember about it when getting into web design.