Analysis & Communication – A Key Ingredient in Designing A Great Website
Of all the areas of web design and development that I enjoy the most – our Web Design meetings really rank highly for the part they play in ensuring a great website result for the client.
The key to those meetings is analysis before hand (usually the sales process and preparation for the design meeting) and then great open communication with your client during the design meeting.
Surely Your Web Designer’s Skills Would be More Important?
Without a doubt you have to have a great web designer to produce great websites. No questions about that at all. But a great Web Designer is not only great by their graphic abilities – they are great in their ability to understand their client’s needs and requirements and to create a design that is results oriented.
There are many great web designers out there who can create the most eye catching web designs. But not all of those designs actually work for their clients. It the site looks good that will at least pass the first test of new visitor – the test of whether they like the website or not. But as soon as they start to look for the specific action items and areas of interest this may soon change from “Liking The Site” to “Leaving The Site”. As my dear mother in Australia used to say “Peter – Looks Aren’t Everything” – in my case and the case of a successful website she again would be right. (p.s. I do have a great personality!!!!)
Good Web Design Planning Starts with Analysis
We had two web design meetings planned for Monday (yesterday). In order to ensure myself and our Design Director Vicki Payne were ready for those meetings we spent around 1-2 hours preparing for each meeting. During the sales cycle we really focus on the business and marketing models of the clients, the desired results they want from the website, and their time line (and budget) in which they want their new website up and running. In the design meeting we really start to home in on the look!
Preparing for our Design Meeting
To prepare for design meeting my primary responsibility is to prepare an agenda for the meeting that ensures when we leave that meeting our Design Director has direction and clarity as to the design the client is seeking (the “look and feel” of the website). Note here that I do not state that our Design Director has the direction “SHE thinks will work for the client”. Our job is produce the look and feel that the client desires and to ensure that design is also the functional design the client needs to be successful. We are leads in this process but the process is on behalf of a client and the results are fully focused on our clients.
Wouldn’t The Designer Know Best when it comes to Web Designs?
At BeareWare we have one of the best web designers in the area. She has been produced over 100 great web designs over the last 3 years. I cannot speak highly enough of her. But I also know some other great graphic designers in this area that simply don’t produce good looking websites at all. They are generally the wrong look (or quite often have to much graphics) which leads to major functional issues. It is clearly not only the skill of the graphic designer that producers a great website. It is the analysis, direction, business and marketing models of the client that really help establish a great design.
I am sure many a client have ended up with what they thought was a great looking website that 6 months down the track was deemed as non functional. (or basically not working for them). If you have ever been involved in a web design project and you have been told “Don’t worry – our designer knows exactly what you need” – you probably need to REALLY WORRY! Without a strong analysis of your business how on earth can that designer really know what your business is about and what specific outcomes you are looking for with your website.
Analysis – Starts in The Sales Cycle
It is impossible for me to produce a proposal for a client without having the entire web project understood. The only way to understand a website development project is to have a full analysis of the business and marketing models of the client. There is no other way to do this but to ask questions and do research. Research on the client’s existing site and also similar sites in their industry. So when we have produced a proposal we have a complete timeline and pathway to designing our client’s new website. We understand the client’s business models and we understand the outcomes the client is looking for.
Design Meetings Focus On details
So when we commence our design meeting we are really focusing our design on the details with a primary focus on the look and feel of the website. We must leave this design meeting with clear direction. To help show the techniques we use in our design meetings here is our standard agenda we use to help us really focus in on the details (with some comments to explain each area)…
Website Design Meeting – Monday September 8, 2008
Client Attendees: Client Rep1, Client Rep2, Client Rep3.
BeareWare – Vicki Payne, Design & Development Director, Peter Beare
We always have myself (Sales and Project Lead) and our Design Director at a design meeting. We encourage our clients to include not only their marketing and IT folks but also any “power users” that are usually most grounded in client’s functional use of their website.
Introduction – Specific Aim of Meeting – Identifying Look & Feel of Website(s)
The meeting is specifically to establish direction for designing the look and feel of the website. Though many items may be discussed the bottom line success of this meeting is based on our design director being able to produce design samples one the meeting is complete.
Client’s Mission Statement – Primary Business & Marketing Models
(Slogans – Logos – Demographic Identification and Customer Review)
Here we are really looking at the client’s business & marketing models – and revisiting this with them which has been first discussed in our sales cycle. We ask the client to expand on their marketing models, slogans, logos, and also really identify specifically the demographic they are chasing (prospects) as well the demographic they are serving (clients). This is absolutely critical. You cannot make assumptions on demographics nor can you “cater” to everyone and be very successful. You must focus on the primary market that your business will come from.
Design Discussion – Website Look – Site Functionality – Web Site Areas
** Color, Images (Photos), Logos, Font Style, Menus (Module & Functions), Graphic Techniques, 3rd Party Software **
Here we look at the actual website itself and establish what specific areas, modules and functions will be a part of the website. We look at the actual designs that we (or the client) has identified that they like – and we thoroughly review those websites. Here we are looking for feed back from the client on what they like (or don’t like). We encourage our clients to expand on all areas that we are reviewing and discussing. We also identify features of the site that are important to the client. (this could be graphic design, functions or even 3rd party software). At this point we are fully fledged design team (BeareWare and the Client) and communication is an absolute the key to our success!
Here are some points that are covered in this design discussion:
- Review Website Areas – WLM outline magazine (website) areas.
- Website Look – (Starting samples attached) – Sample Website 1, Sample Website 2, Sample Website 3, Sample Website 4
- Discuss each site – any other examples?
- Additional Components & Modules – Online Shop, Calendar, Photo Album, Events Calendar, e-NEWS, Advertising?
- Other design considerations?
Additional Questions – Next Step(s)
At this point we have really established all the necessary information and samples for our design director to be able to produce design samples for our client. We do not actually start building the website until the client has signed off on the design those this process. Vicki actually designs a graphic image (3-5 .jpg format samples) that are the exact replica and size of a normal website. This saves time and money in deciding the final design. To design the site (and their change the design look would be inefficient and costly).
Once the client has selected the final design we are ready to move forward with the actual web development. To a very large extent the success of the website has already been established and don’t be mistaken, it has been establish with analysis, communication, and of course a great web designer!