4 Steps to Design a Successful Website

4 Steps in Designing a Successful Website

Image from Jeff Hester via Flickr

Building any website, whether small or large, takes effort.  What separates the good websites from the great websites are the process and how efficient the team can follow the process.  I just completed a one year redesign project and through the experience, have established a process that we will follow on future projects.  Each step builds on the previous step, making it easier as you go through the process.

1. Establish Audience & Goals

Your target audience(s) will directly impact your website goals and the overall website.  Here are some points to consider when you create the document:

  • Identify primary and secondary audiences and create audience personas.
  • List the goals of the website. Goals are simple goals that should be specific and measurable.
  • Establish a list of questions that your target audience may have when visiting your website.
  • Establish strategic objectives that will help you achieve each of your website goals.

2. Design Information Architecture

Once you understand your audiences, their questions and established goals, design your information architectue (IA). The process to design your IA can be as simple or complex as you need it to be.  A simple bulleted sitemap may be sufficient.  No matter how complex, consider the following points:

  • Ensure your IA supports your goals and addresses the needs of your target audience.
  • Include in the IA the type of content that will be included on the page.
  • Your IA should also indicate page names and menu labels.

3. Build Your Wireframe

Building a wireframe is like building a blueprint for a house.  It indicates the key features and where the features will go.  There is no concern with what color or style.  By starting with a wireframe, before jumping into the visual design, you are able to focus on the functionality and the real needs of our target audience.  You don’t become burdened with which color the links should be or if you should use a gradient background.  Keep these points in mind when building your wireframe:

  • Include features that support your goals and meet the needs of your target audience(s).
  • Don’t be too attached to your wireframe. Building your wireframe is an iterative process.
  • Consider using tools to facilitate the process.  We use iPlotz.

After the wireframe phase is completed, designing the visual concepts will be a much smoother process.

4. Test. Test. Test

You can spend all the time understanding and guessing the needs of your target audience(s), but without really talking with them, you’ll only be making assumptions.  Ideally you should include audience feedback before moving on to each phase.  How often and involved you test will be dependent on your timelines.  Here are some feedback approaches to consider:

  • surveys
  • focus groups
  • lo-fidelity testing
  • remote user testing
  • beta or concept testing

Each project will require a unique approach to these phases.  If you follow these phases, in any way, you are more likely to launch a successful website.

What techniques do you implement to help ensure a successful website project?

  • http://twitter.com/joelddixon Joel Dixon

    Mike,

    Yet another great post that’s spot-on!  I work with alot of higher education clients doing web projects and I recently did a presentation at PSEWEB conference on several of these exact topics.  Including the fact that too often organizations focus on the “web” and “design” portion but forget about the “site” (IA) and “content” (audience & tasks).

    Also, I think that organizations forget that everything (whether web or social media efforts) goes back to a solid strategy governed by “Goals, Objectives and desired Outcomes”.  

    BTW, your “Test, test, test” is very much in line with what we advocate which is an agile marketing approach that looks at web strategy and redesign as being a continuous process not one final project.

    Good luck on your on-going website initiatives but sounds like your ladder’s against the right wall :).

    Best,
    Joel

    “Are We There Yet? Create, Manage & Measure Web Campaign Success”
    http://www.slideshare.net/joelddixon/are-we-there-yet-create-manage-measure-your-web-campaign-success