This is Block 81's archive of past articles. Once in a while we may add more, but it's rare.
Block 81 is a design studio producing beautifully crafted websites and brands for independent businesses and startups.
September 9, 2016
Looking for a web design agency to design and build your company website can be a daunting task – who do you hire? What are the differences? And why are the prices all over the board?
All fair questions. While we can’t really answer those questions, what we can do is tell you about Block 81’s web design process. Maybe that’ll help explain why web design is time and resource intensive.
In the image above you’ll see five phases:
Seems simple right? Kinda is, but each phase has at least a couple of moving parts that make our web design process thorough and set up for real success.
Before we fully dive into the Strategy Phase, we always have a Kickoff Meeting. Sometimes it’s in person, sometimes it’s via web or video conference. It mainly depends on where you, the client, are.
The Kickoff meeting isn’t super long – we go over project scope again, make sure all stakeholders and key team members are on the same page with everything, and most importantly, we go over the entire project schedule.
Then we’re ready to dive into the Strategy Phase. This involves a number of deliverables that help us lay the foundation for the project. That foundation is made up of any number of interviews, surveys, phone calls, etc. A project’s success is dependent on this foundation so this phase is paramount to that success.
Information Architecture (IA) is kind of a fuzzy term. Even Wikipedia has multiple definitions for it. Our definition at Block 81 is this:
The stage of a web project in which we inventory, organize, create, and refine the content of a website and its navigation.
Content here refers primarily to copy (i.e. text) but can – and usually does – include photos, video, and other media.
To be clear, our IA phase involves more than just creating a site map. It also involves wireframes, content inventory, content mapping, and copywriting. For us, it’s one of our longer phases (development is often longer), but it’s an important one because it drives the direction of what is to be communicated and how that will drive leads and/or sales.
Here comes the part everyone thinks of when they think of web design – the pretty layout. If only design were that simple. :)
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. Steve Jobs
What your website will look like is, without a doubt, important – it’s part of your brand after all and we make sure that is in line and cohesive with your other marketing collateral. But design also involves the ideation of how people will interact with the site.
Whether a site’s links are blue or green or red, or whether a form is in a pop-up or a new page on its own – those kinds of interactions are decisions made first and foremost by a designer.
Ever visit a site that you thought was just so easy to navigate and understand and use? It was designed that way. Contrary to what our guts may tell us, it’s far easier to create a crowded monstrosity filled with bells and whistles than it is to design simply (and avoid being overlooked).
That simplicity takes time and plenty of iterations. By the time you see a mockup or prototype for your website, our design team has already gone through sketches and refinements. After all, every site we design is 100% custom and unique to your business.
Developers make designers’ visions come true. All the focus on details in the Design Phase pay off when the site gets built from the ground up in the Development Phase.
In addition to building the site to the design spec, we’ll integrate and build the features needed for your project. That may be any number of web forms, a blog, search functionality, e-commerce, content management, etc.
On-page SEO also comes into play here. Remember the IA Phase? We will have already planned out the SEO for each page of your site. Throughout the project we implement what we’ve planned and in development, we double-check we’ve optimized each site and included all the juicy code that Google needs to crawl and index your site.
And let’s not forget testing and quality assurance. We’ll put your website through deep internal testing that involves multiple mobile devices, functionality testing, usability testing, browser compatibility testing, and proofreading.
We’re only human though, and by this point we’ve been looking at your website for so long that we may miss the occasional typo or small bug. That’s why we go through testing twice and then turn it over to you to kick the tires.
Delivery is go-time and then some. This final phase is not just about launching the new site – it also includes training.
We’ll make sure we have all the info we need to launch your site, such as web hosting information, and schedule your launch date. Prior to launch, we’ll make full backups of your existing site in case something goes horribly wrong and we need to reset and try again. (That has yet to happen, by the way.)
In addition to launching your site, we’ll provide custom training in the form of either PDFs or a set of 1-3 videos. Although we use the same process for every project, and some sites use the same CMS, how we build the site is deliberately tailored to fit your business processes. That’s why training is customized and given to you in a format you can reference for the life of your site.
While that’s our website design process in a nutshell, the fact is, no website is ever really done.
Like anything in your business that you spend a significant amount of money on, it will require upkeep of some kind to make sure you keep getting a return. (We won’t get into that here – instead read this)
But now you’ve got a pretty good idea of what our web design process consists of. Hopefully that shows why there’s no easy button for professional web design that aims to build your business.