The Process of Great Web Design
Just to make sure we are all on the same page, lets begin with the basic definition for “web design”. According to Wikipedia, web design is:
“a process of conceptualization, planning, modeling, and execution of electronic media delivery via Internet in the form of Markup language suitable for interpretation by Web browser and display as Graphical user interface”.
The process of web design can be compared to the process of writing a research paper. In the conceptualization/planning stage, flowcharts (the outline) are created which illustrate the navigational structure of your website. In the modeling stage, static wireframes are created (the rough draft) which illustrate the skeletal layout for each section of your website. After the wire frames are created, graphics, colors and text are used to create the design of your web pages based on the layout of the wire frames. In the execution stage, your design is converted into a format supported by web browsers, text and content are added, and finally, your website is published live to the Internet for the world to see (final draft).
All three stages of the design process are equally important. Many web designers skip a stage in order to save time or because they don’t think that is is necessary. However, all three stages are necessary if your goal is to create a successful design and respectable website. Even if the three stages are used, there are many mistakes that web designers can make that will lead to poor-quality, non user-friendly websites. It’s time to clean out the cabinet of bad web design practices and restock it with the good ones.
Stage 1: Conceptualization and planningThis stage is skipped more often than the other two stages. Most writers don’t enjoy creating outlines for research papers, and most web designers don’t like creating flowcharts either. Don’t be lazy. If you put forth the effort and plan out your website, then you will find the web design process to go smoothly with fewer mistakes made along the way.
There are a few things that you will need in order to effectively conceptualize and plan your website:
a pen and paper
(optional) flowchart software
a general idea of the different sections of your website
To begin, grab your pen and paper or launch your favorite flowchart software. I use OmniGraffle Professional for Mac OS X which costs $150 per license but is well worth it if you create websites on a regular basis. If you’re on a PC, then SmartDraw is a great FREE piece of flowchart software that you can use. A pen and paper work just fine, though.
There are many methods to creating flowcharts. We are going to show you the most basic way to do it for the sake of time and the length of this article. If you want to learn more about flowcharts visit flowcharts on Wikipedia.
Directly below is a sample flowchart that we created when conceptualizing Chromatic Sites. (1) At the top of the flowchart we list the name of our website. (2) Next, we include each primary section of our website: Home, About, and Services. These sections are the main navigation for your website. What the names of each section will be is entirely dependent on the content of your website. Try to use as few sections as possible so that your visitors are not overwhelmed when navigating through your website.
(3) Next, add all of the secondary pages (subsections) that will be listed on each of the primary pages. For Home, we have included Professional Web Design, Web Development, and Search Engine Optimization. The secondary navigation needs to be more descriptive than the primary navigation. The deeper your websites’ navigational hierarchy goes, the more descriptive each label should be.
Less is more; keep the number of primary sections to a minimum. We use 6 sections on our website which is more than enough
Whether you use a pen and paper or flowchart software, keep things as clean and organized as possible. Although you (and anyone working with you) are the only ones that will be using the flowchart, it still needs to make sense
Your primary sections should use broader terms, while secondary and tertiary terms should be more descriptive