The foundation of Good Website Design & Effective Web Design Guidelines
A Website brief isn’t always needed to get things started. A good designer should be able to help you work out what you want and is sometimes part of the design process. If you do want to write a design brief beforehand here is a guide to the right sort of questions you should be asking.
Businesses shouldn’t underestimate the importance of asking yourself questions to help write a project brief. Considering what you like and don’t like, what you need from your website and what your deal breakers are will make the process much more enjoyable for you and your designer.
Try to go into the process with your eyes open. You’ll be more confident if you understand how the process works.
A web designer is an investment in time and energy, not just money. It’s important you get on and can work well together. With this in mind, make sure you get to know your website designer first, whether it’s via a video call, in person or on the phone.
I’ve rounded up a few questions you should be thinking about before our all-important first meeting. These are the most commonly asked questions before I meet with clients. Thinking about these questions and going through this process will hopefully help you understand what you need and want before we first meet.
1. How will you get to know our business?
Personally, in order for me to design a website that works for a brand, I need to immerse myself in the business. Research is absolutely key. I’ll spend time thinking about your target audience and potential customers and what will make them click through your website until they make the desired action.
Your marketing strategy is built around your customer and your website will be too. A website designer should feel like an extension of your team, so this beginning stage of the process is very important. I’ll do a full site audit (more on that below), spend time reading about your brand and chatting to you and your team about your business values and objectives.
We’ll discuss what you want your website to do, the objectives, your goals and all the different ‘call to actions’. We’ll talk about every element of your business and how we can use your website to build it.
I’ll also look at competitors and how other companies are operating within your industry.
2. Will you need to review my existing website?
Reviewing your current website is an essential part of any redesign. They will look at its functionality, its page speed and how it’s performing in search rankings.
It’s also helpful for website designers to understand how you’ve been using the site and what your experience of using it is.
Depending on the size of your existing website, they can review the site and give feedback within one meeting. Slightly larger websites with more pages can sometimes require a full site audit. It’s always helpful to understand why your previous website designer made those decisions and these should be taken into account with your new site. We can discuss these options in our first meeting.
Reviewing your existing site will determine how much work needs doing to rebuild it or whether we should simply build a new one. You might think you need a brand new website, but hopefully a few crucial fixes could transform your website. This is why a full review is essential to the process.
It’s important we discuss this right at the beginning of the process, particularly if we need to transfer content from an old site to a new one.
3. Will a new website fit within my budget?
Budget is an incredibly important factor when it comes to your website redesign. It’s essential to be upfront about pricing as soon as you start liaising with a potential supplier. If you have a budget in mind, communicate that as soon as you can.
Some website designers offer different options and packages and some create bespoke quotes depending on the size of the project. For example, I provide a detailed costed proposal, which will break down all the included services and will outline all the costs involved, including anything additional.
It’s important to ask whether content writing or photography are included in the proposal. These are vital components of a website and your site rebrand or rebuild will most likely require new imagery and copy. Hopefully my proposal will be clear, but remember to ask if it’s not.
4. Will a new website improve my sales?
I understand that a new website can be a big investment for a smaller business. If you’re worried about how your current website is performing and wasting the good backlinks you’re receiving from press coverage, it’s important to consider the impact a new website could make.
Have a read of my blog on how web design can increase your online sales:
5. Who will manage my website build? Do we need a project manager?
Everything managed by me, Andrew – you will have one central contact.
Knowing exactly who is going to be designing your site is crucial. It’s likely we’ll be working together quite closely and providing detailed feedback. Whether it’s one person solely working on your site or a team of a few different people will make a difference to your working relationship.
At Fly Digital, I work on every element of your website build and will always be your main point of contact. I manage every step – from the research to the hosting and domain work, through to the design, build and site launch.
Before you start, be clear about who the key decision makers are within the website build process. If your business has a large team, there should only be a handful of people to make the final decision.
In addition to who, ‘how’ is also an important question. How we communicate can be a game changer. Think about how you’d prefer to be contacted. Agree on our communications methods and set the expectations of how often you’ll be in contact, whether it’s over the phone, on email, through Trello comments or in person.
6. How does the design process work?
Website designers work in lots of different ways and use a variety of project management systems and software, so asking about the process is a fair question. Workflow tools are an efficient way of navigating through what can sometimes be a complex procedure.
I use Trello to manage every element of a website build. It streamlines the workflow and categories all the different processes. It improves productivity at both ends and enables me to be completely transparent about where we are in the process. We can communicate through different cards and feedback can easily be given within Trello. Don’t worry if you’ve never used Trello before, I can show you how it works.
It will also be incredibly clear as to how far along in the project we are and, realistically, how much longer it is going to take.
We can discuss projects that I’ve worked on within your industry to give you an idea of how your website could look.
7. How long will it take to launch my new website?
Time is of the essence when it comes to business. It’s easy to start feeling impatient when you have to leave your old website running whilst you’re building a new one, particularly if it’s functioning below the standards it needs to meet.
If you have a dedicated timeline, let me know as soon as you start discussing your project. If you don’t, I will give you an estimated handover date based on your website’s needs and the amount of content you have.
To give you a rough idea, most of my projects take between 1 and 3 months, depending on the size of the project.
8. What do I need to provide you with before we start?
It’s essential that we clarify exactly what is going to be needed from you before we start the process. It’s likely that you’ll need to gather photography, content, branding assets, marketing material and copy in order to transfer it to a new site. If we ascertain what we need straightaway, you can be preparing content whilst I’m working on the designs. This will ensure the process is as efficient as possible so that no one is waiting on the other party in order to continue the project.
I also offer branding schemes and logo design, so you might not need to provide as much to start with. But creative work requires a strong brief and you need to have a vision for how you want your website to look and feel, so it’s helpful to gather these thoughts before you start the process.
I’ll also clearly communicate how much feedback will be required, whether that’s visual, written or verbal. Knowing this to start with will help manage your expectations of how much time you’ll have to dedicate to this project.
9. Who will write the copy for my new website?
Website copy is one of the most critical elements of your website. It’s an easy way to tell Google about your business so that it pushes towards the people that need to see it.
There are a few different options for your website copywriting. I outsource the copywriting to a content marketing expert. They have experience of writing copy for websites that are easy to find through Google, so hiring a professional copywriter saves time in the long run. They’re able to write content in different styles and tone of voice and will ensure your content matches the messaging of your brand. They have an eye for detail, so every single page will be proofread. They also work with me to ensure a website’s content is in line with the branding and marketing strategy.
If you have time, it’s possible for you to write the content yourself. I’d always suggest asking a colleague to review before you send it over to check whether it makes sense to another person and to see if it will entice your customers.
10. Who organises my website’s visual content?
Before you set out on your website design journey, it’s a good idea to gather all of your visual content. Audit your own content – how strong is your photography? Do your videos create a good impression of your brand? Is your logo representative of your brand values or has the company developed since you first had it designed? When you’ve collated and sent them, I’ll be able to tell if they’re strong enough for your new website.
I can outsource photography if you need new shots of your premises, products, staff or service. It’s also possible to buy high quality stock images to use when you don’t have exactly the right image, but this isn’t ideal. You should aim to have the most representative and authentic photography possible.
Images are another important tool for SEO, so they need to be as strong as possible. Not only do they paint a picture of your business, if they’re titled correctly, they tell Google what your business is all about. This will encourage Google to push your website higher up the search engine results page.
If you decide to use a professional photographer, when you get them back, approved and edited, you’ll need to optimise those images for the web. They need to be titled correctly and edited to be the right size and quality. I can show you exactly how to do this and provide good examples so that going forward, you can manage this process yourself.
11. Do you have a portfolio? Have you designed websites within my industry?
Any decent website designer will be more than happy to showcase their designs. A lot of designers will use their website to share some of their portfolio. It’s worth having a good look through my site for example. This can give you a comparable look at the kind of design you might ask me to make.
I work to a specific brief across a variety of sectors, so it’s important to note that the style and branding might differ to what you personally want for your website. This shouldn’t put you off. You need to be looking at the following, rather than considering your personal taste:
- Are they mobile friendly?
- Clear copy
- Strong visuals
- Are there a variety of styles?
Remember fonts, colours and photography are all specific to the brand, so these will be tailored to suit your business.
If you want to see more examples of work in a similar sector to yours, please ask.
12. Which content management system do you use?
If you’re planning to upload a lot of content yourself, it’s important that you can easily use the content management system (CMS). This is the software that’s used to create, organise and modify your website’s content, rather than it all being written in code.
You can use a CMS’s premade templates or ask a web designer to custom build one for you. The most common examples of CMS are WordPress, Squarespace, Hubspot, WooCommerce or Wix.
Think about the functionality of your website. Does it need to be an ecommerce site? Is it possible to have a private area for your clients? Is it easy to upscale the website for when your business grows? Think about what you need now and what you might need in the future.
I use WordPress for all my websites. It’s the world’s most popular CMS and is incredibly easy to use and it enables you to build any kind of website.
13. Do you build custom sites or use templates?
Websites can either be custom built with written code or you can use a CMS template. If you have an existing website, have a look at the backend of your site to see if you can tell the difference. More often than not, web design agencies will customise CMS platforms rather than write their own code. CMS platforms offer templates which can be used and customised to make your website feel more unique.
If you have a specific technical requirement for your website, make sure to ask me if this can be done using WordPress.
You can read my comparison between custom websites and WordPress templates here:
Do I need a custom website?
14. Do your web designs display responsively to mobile devices?
It’s absolutely essential that your website works perfectly on a mobile device. Your website layout must adjust according to the screen. Thankfully, this is really easy to test. Simply use your mobile to open a website that your designer has built and check whether the page is adjusting. It won’t adjust if you can only see a portion of the original page.
You can see my tips on how to ensure your web design can help with the responsiveness of your site:
Improve SEO through web design
15. Do you consider SEO when building websites?
SEO must be included within your website strategy from the very beginning. It needs to be considered when the pages are being built. Have a read of my article on how website design can impact a site’s SEO. If URLs, image optimisation, navigation and meta descriptions are all considered from the start, your website is much more likely to rank highly on Google as soon as it’s launched.
If your current website is struggling with its SEO, talk to your website designer and see how best to make these fixes.
16. How big will my website be?
The size of your website will depend on the size and type of your business. Your website will automatically be bigger if your business has an ecommerce element, if you consider that each product has its own page. It totally depends on how much content you’re planning on having on your site.
If your business is service-based, it is likely to need five core pages: a homepage, an ‘about’ page, a description of your services, a contact page and potentially a journal or a blog. Remember some sites need Ts and Cs and privacy policies.
A site map will help organise your business’s navigation and we will organise the ‘page hierarchy’ so that it performs efficiently.
17. Do you build e-commerce websites?
If you want an ecommerce site, it’s important to mention this immediately. Then have a think about what you need your online store to do. Consider the online payment systems and how your business can sell its products online. How big is your inventory and how many different types of products do you have? Can your products be customised?
You must be able to easily manage and update the ecommerce section of your website, so check to see if you think you can easily navigate WordPress.
18. How many drafts will I be able to feedback on? When does this happen?
All the designing is done before any code is written, giving you time to feed back on the look and feel and ensure your website fits perfectly with your business. It’s during this process that the revisions are made, rather than the next stage of coding.
There will be certain points at which I will ask for you to review the work and feedback. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately like the first draft that you receive. It’s a work in progress.
I personally don’t limit the amount of design revisions. A designer should have confidence in their work to produce a website that meets your expectations. This process should last as long as it needs to until you’re completely satisfied.
19. Will my website be secure?
Websites need to be maintained and updated in order to avoid spam, malware and bugs. It’s easy to keep this up to date with software updates and plugins.
If you’re worried about your site’s security, I’m happy to explain how it all works. Most website designers will use a security solution to maintain their websites. There are specifically designed pieces of software designed for all the different CMS platforms. For example, WordFence specifically protects WordPress websites.
20. Will you support me with the site when it is launched?
For a lot of businesses, there’s no point in having a new website built if you don’t know how to use it. An easily maintained website should definitely be on your website brief.
For others, they might want to send over updates to their web designer rather than doing it themselves. I’m happy to offer an ‘aftercare’ service for maintaining your website after it’s been built.
Let me know if you’d like me to run training sessions on how to use WordPress efficiently.
21. Who owns the website & its contents?
It’s critical to ensure you maintain ownership of every aspect of the project. Not all companies all this so make sure it’s discussed.At the end of the process, all assets should be transferred over to you. This includes any logos or fonts that have been created or downloaded on your behalf.
My clients are always told the importance of project ownership. You have full control of the site during and after development.
If you’d like to discuss your website requirement specifically with me please use the link below to get in contact.