Our Website design process
This isn’t a definitive process that we use for all clients – some projects need it due to their complexity, others don’t. But the outline below gives you a flavour of how we approach our website design projects and the steps we take.
Any questions don’t get in touch.
The first step in developing an effective website is defining realistic objectives - the what, why, where. For many, this is the hardest part of the process - It’s where reality starts to bite.
Firstly, what is the overall objective of the site:
- Business generation tool
- Business support tool.
It can be both (most sites are), but the overall focus (and importance) should determine the level of resources which should be directed at the site, both initially and ongoing.
Secondly, what are the more specific objectives of the site:
- Increasing sales
- Reducing costs (of sales / support)
- Developing customer relationships / customer support
- Developing / supporting the brand.
There are many variations here, and again, it could be a combination of many different ones.
Thirdly, the target market:
Perhaps the hardest to define. It needs to be as specific and granular as possible – whilst still being realistically targetable.
Fourthly, what is the ongoing marketing strategy for the website.
Having an understanding of what we want the website to do is the first step. The next step is that of research – understanding our clients better, their business, their existing customers, their target customers, their competition, their market.
Understanding our client’s business:
- Type of business
- Corporate identity / Brand profile
- Resourcing levels / Technical expertise
- Strengths & weaknesses.
Existing and targeted customers (the target market)
Understanding the existing and potential market of our clients:
- Type of client:
- Business – size / type / industry sector
- Consumer – socio demographics
- Geographic location
- Attitudes / preferences / behaviour.
Understanding our client’s competitors:
- Type of business
- Current online / marketing activities
- Strengths & weaknesses.
Understanding the market the client operates in:
- Market size and distribution
- Market trends
- What’s worked elsewhere (hasn’t worked).
From understanding our clients better – their capabilities and their market, we can develop more effective online (and off line if needed) solutions.
Planning & Proposal
Having a clear understanding of the proposed objectives of the site, and an understanding of the client, their business and their market allows Hot Lemon to develop a detailed proposal and planning document for review.
For all major projects, Hot Lemon will produce a detailed proposal document that details:
- Outline of proposed website (structure / content)
- Outline of proposed functionality (as required)
- Content requirements (words & imagery) & responsibility
- Proposed timeline (including project milestones if appropriate)
As far as possible, our proposal document will include a fixed cost quote for the design, development and launch of our client’s website as well as a structured proposed timeline.
However, there are always variables which come into play, especially for a more complex project on the client side, and we pride ourselves on our flexibility in accommodating them.
Content – imagery, video and text – the most important part of any website. Visitors won’t visit your site because of its design, or excellent coding – they will visit your site because of its content.
We place outlining of content prior to design for solid practical reasons – your website should optimise and structure the content you want to communicate – rather than adapting your content to your website (a common mistake for those investing in commercial template designs).
Those new to developing a website may have difficulty in deciding what they should be communicating and how – we can help by advising our clients on what they should have, in what tone of voice and in what format. From product / service related content all the way to “hygiene” content (the stuff visitors would want to see in order to build trust in your site).
For those that know what website content they want and already have it in draft - we can help by providing copy-editing services which will help structure and phrase their content to make it more effective on-screen (and for search engines (SEO)).
And for those that want us to do it all – we can. From product / service descriptions all the way through about us pages, blog posts and articles.
Having done the basics of identifying the client’s objectives, researching their market and getting a good understanding of the content for the site, we start by putting “pen to paper”.
For some clients, those who have never formally marketed themselves, we also develop their brand identity during this process as well.
Depending on the client, their objectives and other factors Hot Lemon will a series of concept website designs for the client (usually four or five – although if the client favours a particular style this might be less).
Initially, and depending on the complexity of the site, these will be one page concepts (graphic files). And they will be used to develop with the client the final look and feel of the website.
Developing the concept
Once a particular concept has been chosen, and again depending on the complexity of the project, we will either produce more graphics of the concept or build a simple mock-up of the site so the client can get to play with it, experience it and comment appropriately.
Having agreed the design and content of the site, we dive straight into developing the site.
We generally build all our sites using a content management system (CMS) (unless the client wants otherwise) so that the client – if they wish – can manage and update the site themselves (either in part or full). The CMS’s we use to develop website with are all non-proprietary (you will not be stuck with something that only we can edit).
We will develop the website on a test server which we will make available to the client. This means that the client can review the work undertaken as we progress through the development and comment appropriately.
This development site will, on completion, act as the testing site for the new website allowing us – ourselves and the client – to review the site, check functionality and make sure everything is as perfect as it can be.
If the client is developing a new site – as opposed to redeveloping an old site – we can arrange hosting for them and place a holding page on their web address pending the go-live for their new site.
On signing off the development site, the new website will be transferred to the live environment.
Having already been heavily tested and optimised within the development environment, there shouldn’t be any issues with the new site. However, we are not complacent, and the new site will be thoroughly tested again.
At Hot Lemon we give a minimum period of two weeks as the launch window for a new site – where we will amend, tinker and adapt as the client requires – cognizant that they will be receiving feedback and may want to make minor changes as they experience the live site.
Search engine submission and analytics
All our sites are submitted to search engines and by default come installed with Google Analytics tracking software (we register the website with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools). We then set this up so the client has full access to their analytics data.
Marketing and promotion
Depending on the client and their market some prefer a soft launch (where they don’t announce the new site initially – letting the site get bedded in and indexed) while others prefer a hard launch – where they actively promote it.
Hot Lemon can help with both. Either marketing and promoting the site to existing clients or developing campaigns and strategies to promote the site to a wider audience.
Note – without structured and consistent promotional activity (SEO / social / advertising) a new website is unlikely to be as successful as one would wish it to be.
Managing the site
Regularly updating a website is critical – both in terms of updating existing content and adding additional relevant content. Not only for visitors – but for search engines too.
All our websites come with an easy to use Content Management System (CMS) so that our clients can update their websites easily themselves. However, the majority of them choose not to, instead choosing Hot Lemon to undertake updates for them.
Our Website Management Services
We provide a full website management for our clients, which is charged on a pro-rata basis (we do not do minimum charges), and given our familiarity with websites, we can usually do updates quickly and with the minimum of fuss.
Further, because of our expertise, we can advise on new content, edit, structure and even write from scratch that content – in order to maximise its effect on visitors to the site and search engines.