Several years ago I built my own site, and I’m thinking it is time for an upgrade. Can you tell me about what I can expect during my website redesign?
Taking the step to hire someone to design your website—whether for the very first time or as part of a redesign—can be a pretty scary thing. It is typically a big step both trust-wise and finance-wise. For most businesses, their website is a very important part of marketing their business, so it is natural to be wary of turning to someone else to help with that task. Likewise, your website could very well be one of the larger investments in your marketing arsenal, it makes sense that you will want to truly understand the process of building your site.
The good news is that we follow a simple 5-step process, and understanding these steps will can help you feel more confident throughout this duration of the project.
Here’s how a typical website design or redesign breaks down:
Step 1: Discovery
During this first step, we’ll take some time to talk with you (either in person or via phone) about your website design so we can get on the same page with your goals for the site. We’ll walk through what you’re looking for in your site, what it needs to do for your clientele, what you like and what you dislike. By the end of this discussion, we’ll have brainstormed all of the content needed on the site which will come together to form a map of the site and the pages that it will be made up of (often called a sitemap). The typical timeframe for Step 1 is a couple of days.
Step 2: Sketches
Once we know the pages and content that are necessary on your site, we’ll take some time to sketch out each key page. These sketches are designed to act as a blueprint for the design of the site. These purpose of the sketches is not to provide details about the aesthetic design, but to determine the hierarchy of each page, and to facilitate conversation about which items should be given more or less attention. The typical timeframe for Step 2 is about 1-2 weeks, depending on the number of pages on your site.
Step 3: High-fidelity mockups
After we’ve worked through the sketches, it is time to start working on the actual design! If you don’t have a strong visual brand in place, this step would start with the creation of a visual strategy. The visual strategy is a document where we collect a set of brand colors, typefaces and graphic treatments that the site will be built upon. Doing this step before starting the page layouts helps to separate the discussion about the overall feel of your brand from the discussion about the actual function of the site page layouts.
Once we have a strategy for your visual look and feel in place, we’ll start designing the individual pages of your site. We typically start with the most critical page of your site. For many businesses this might be the home page, however, for others it my be a different page, such as a product page. When designing a site, the first page design sets the tone—and a lot of the page structure—for the rest of the site, so it makes the most sense to make those base decisions on the most critical page layout. We’ll work through each of the key pages of the site, designing a detailed mockup of each page for your approval.
It is easy to forget about the copy for the site, but whether you’re hiring a copywriter or writing the copy yourself, it is during this phase that the copy should be written and, if possible, flowed into the page layouts. Likewise, some websites require professional photography to be taken, so it is during this phase that photoshoots should be arranged so that the delivery of the final photos don’t delay the coding and subsequent launch of your site. The typical timeframe for Step 3 is about 4-8 weeks, depending on the size of the site.
Step 4: Code and Testing
Once all of the high fidelity mockups are completed, we’ll prepare the files for coding and will provide them to our developer. Our developer will code the designs to be as accurate as possible, and will build a test version of your site on their server. Since everything has been approved at this point, you won’t see any proofs until all of the pages are coded. Once the pages are coded, we’ll give you access to the test website where you can review the site and confirm that everything looks correct and is functioning properly. At the same time, we’ll be testing the site as well to make sure everything is correct before we launch the site. The typical timeframe for Step 4 is about 3-5 weeks, depending on the size of the site.
Step 5: Launch
While physically launching the site only takes a short amount of time, there may be several days after the launch where we’re still fixing glitches or bugs that might not have been apparent during the site testing. You can also expect it to take several days for Google to re-crawl your site, so you may notice some results on Google that don’t fully match up with the new site. After a few days, Google should re-crawl your site and things will naturally sort themselves out.
From start to finish, the total timeframe for a website design or redesign project typically takes about 2-3 months, depending on the size of the site and the speed of the revision process.
In addition to these steps, there are a handful of other things to keep in mind throughout this process. Understanding these items will keep the process moving smoothly and help you set healthy expectations for the finished product.
Function is more important than perfection
It is important to remember that websites are editable and don’t necessarily have to be perfect to launch. I know this sounds strange, but a website is a living, breathing thing. Even if you think it is perfect upon launch, it will probably only be a few weeks or months before you want to update or improve something about the site. The great news is that unlike paper, websites are super easy to edit if you change your mind on something later. So don’t get too stuck in ‘perfect’ mode. Spending too much time obsessing and delaying your site launch might mean a lot of missed exposure for your site and your business.
The site won’t look exactly the same in each browser
Although your site should function and look presentable in each browser, it is natural that the site might look a little different in different browser. Each browser has support for different capabilities, so we keep this in mind while designing your site, and will make use of what we can in each browser. It is important to remember that these slight variations probably won’t phase your visitors in the least since most users choose one browser and stick with it. They’ll never know anything different from the version they see!