Web Design Checklist
Written by Jennifer Anderson
This 10-step web design checklist was created to help you with the many decisions involved in designing a website. If you are really serious about getting a website, then follow these 10 easy steps and you will be well on your way to success!
Step 1: Sizing Up Your Competition
This simple but important step will help you to determine the main purpose of your site. It will give you ideas about specific features you want to offer on your web site, how you want to approach your visitors, and what you want your site to look like.
The first thing you should do when thinking about starting an online business is to search for businesses that have websites in the same field as yours. These businesses will be your Internet competitors, so you want to look them over carefully. What online services do they offer? What are they charging for a similar product? What features are on their site? Do they have online payment capabilities? How about a blog or a forum?
List at least 5 web sites that are related to your product or service below. Pick sites that have features you might like on your site, have similar product/services as yours, or look similar to the way you want your site to look.
Step 2: Differentiate Yourself from Your Competition
Your designer will need to know how your business or product differs from your competitors. Are your prices lower? Do you offer a better refund policy? Do you provide superior customer service? Or maybe you offer a service that your competitors have not thought of yet? This will help you determine what main selling points you will advertise on your website.
Try to list as many differences as you can find between your business and the ones you listed in Step 1.
Step 3: Determine the Purpose of Your Website
There are many reasons to start a website. Your next step is to figure out what exactly you want your website to do for your business. Is your purpose to sell your products directly over the Internet? Or maybe you just want to advertise your “brick and mortar” business to increase brand awareness? Do you want to start an online community where people can interact with each other? Or maybe you’re looking to use the site to collect sales leads?
It is very important that you have a clear understanding of what your website’s purpose is. It will help you decide how many pages your website should have, which features you need to accomplish your goals, and how you want to interact with your visitors.
What is the purpose of your website?
Step 4: Are You Going to Accept Payments on Your Site?
One of the most important decisions you may need to make for your site is e-commerce, so we will cover that one first. There are several ways to conduct business over the Net, so here is a brief overview of the most popular ways to do this.
You can go with the full-blown package, which usually consists of:
- A shopping cart to display products, keep track of your visitor's purchases, and collect payment information
- A credit card processing program that verifies valid credit cards and actually processes the charge
- A secure server directory on your hosting account (https://) to protect the transfer of sensitive data
- A secure server certificate, which notifies your clients that your site is truly secure
- A merchant account with a bank
Alternatively, you can find a service that offers all of the above for a percentage of each sale. PayPal.com is the most well-known service of this type. They charge you around 3%-4% of each sale and you simply plug their buttons and/or shopping cart into your website. It’s a bit more complicated than just that, but basically that’s the deal.
While it may be a bit expensive to set up, depending on your business, the first option may actually be cheaper in the long run than the second option, depending on your situation. There are also many different online companies that work like this or offer some but not all of the above features.
We suggest you do an good deal of research before making a decision on your e-commerce applications. Of course, we will do what we can to help you find a solution that is best for you if you’re still not sure.
List some of your thoughts and ideas on e-commerce here.
5. Will you need any sort of membership database on your website?
Not sure? Well, if you want your members to be able to come back to your site and log in to an “account” of any kind, then the answer is yes! Some member databases are very small and only allow you access to protected pages. Some are very large, collect a lot of data, and allow the members to create profiles.
You should determine the information you want on your registration form, and what kind of features (such as search capabilities, photo upload, chat, etc.) you would like to make available to your members. Please be as detailed as possible at this point because the more your developer knows in advance, the more accurate your cost estimate will be.
List any membership database features you might need here:
Step 6: Other Main Features:
You should decide on any other features you want for your site. Most sites have a few features included, so we have provided a short list of a few you might want to consider:
- Member forums. Generate repeat traffic and put one on your site.
- A blog. This is a good idea for any site that wants to rank well in the search engines these days.
- Photo galleries. There are many, many ways to display photos on your site. Check out our portfolio to see one of our favorites!
- A form to collect information, like a “free consultation” for feedback form.
- A newsletter sign up form or an e-book/report download form.
- Live chat so you can offer live customer service.
There are many more out there than we have listed here. Do a little research to find others you might want to add to your site.
List the features you have decided to place on your site below:
Step 7: Name Your Pages
Now you should decide how many pages your web site needs. What should those pages be called, and what information you want on them?
Some common page titles for the average site are:
These are just a few possibilities. You should already have a good idea about your list of page titles from the research you did on other websites like the one you want. Go ahead and list the pages you need and a brief description below. Please use the back of this page if you need more room.
Step 8: Determine the “Look –n- Feel” of Your Site
Your website will be representing your business. It is (or should be) more than just an online advertisement. You should make your visitors feel comfortable and welcome. Your page should be organized, well written, and attractive. Don’t annoy your visitors by putting up pop-up ads, adding too much Flash, or using scripts that won’t let your visitors leave your page.
The colors on your site should be appealing and easy on the eyes. Try to pick colors that complement each other. These days, popular color schemes come in blues, grays, and black. Colors that are known to “sell” are school bus yellow, orange, and red. Use these brighter colors to complement or contrast with your main site colors. Take another look at our site (and others) and see how color is used to bring attention to specific areas.
On your pages, the basic layout pretty much depends on your preference. A designer’s job is to capture the “look-n-feel” that you want for your site. Do you want a “fun” site or a “no-nonsense” site? Maybe you would like a bit of flair or a sense of humor designed into your site? Just keep your navigation simple, keep your pages neat (too many bells and whistles can run people off of your site), and be consistent.
Which colors would look best with the mood you're trying to create on your site?
Step 9: Decide on Custom Graphics & Flash Extras
Of course you would like to have a bunch of cool stuff on your site. Everyone does! The question is, which ones do you need? You may need a logo created for your site. You may need banners created to advertise your site. You might need a cool photo gallery created in Flash. But what else do you need?
Well, that all depends on the “feel” you want for your site. If you want a “fun” site, then you may need cute little images to place next to your page names, animated characters to entertain your visitors, or even a custom flash game to keep them coming back.
But if you require a “business” feel for your site, then you might need some scrolling testimonials on your sidebar, a custom property map, a video to help sell your services, or maybe a Flash product demo.
Just imagine what your particular target market might really like to see on your site. Just don’t overload them with too many extras that will distract them from the overall goals you set in Step 3.
List some of your ideas for any extras you might like to see on your site.
Step 10: Choose a Domain Name & Web Hosting
Your domain name is every bit as important to your online success as your website is. If you end up with a domain name like www.someone-elses-site.com/happyland/your-site.htm, the likelihood that anyone will remember it and come back to your site is remote, to say the least. A good domain name also plays a crucial part in the search engine ranking you can achieve in some of the top search engines.
Example: Here are two possible domain names for a café named “Joe’s Place”: www.joesplace.com and www.joescafe.com. A search engine will pull up the second one for the search term “café” before it will pull up the first.
Try to choose a name that has your product's or service's name in it. Try to get a ".com" if you can, or at the least, a ".net." Most surfers will automatically want to put .com at the end of a domain name. So, if they only remember part of your domain name, and if it ends in .com or .net, they might find your site again more easily.
Go to a popular online domain name company and search for an available name, or order one through PC-Limited when you order a website.
What will your domain name be?
Web hosting is basically a “place” to store your website. Your site is stored on a server along with other websites and then your webmaster "points" your new domain name to that space on that server. Otherwise, you would have to use something like http://123.456.78.9/~mysite instead of a nice, easy-to-remember domain name.
Choosing a reliable web host can be confusing sometimes. What features do you need? How many megabytes and gigabytes do you need? And....what the heck is a megabyte, anyway?
We suggest that you do a little Internet research and find a few hosting companies that you like. Then then present them to your webmaster for further investigation. Or order a starter hosting account with PC-Limited when you order your website!
List your hosting company preferences here.
If you have filled out this checklist to the best of your ability, then you are now ready to get a full, accurate estimate from any web developer.
Good luck with your new site, and we hope you will choose to contact us for a free quote!