What You Should Be Looking for When Choosing a Web Design Company?

A website design should serve your visitors, not just be a pretty canvas that no one can make sense of, but offering the visitor an experience to remember and give the searcher what they want, so they leave not in a hurry, not disappointed, but wanting more…

The Difference Between a Good and Bad Web Design

Although design, artwork and graphics are subjective, some will like one thing and others won’t, but it does depend on your design goals as a business and how you want to portray your company in the digital space whether with a website or among the social media gathering.outdoor inflatable entrance tunnel

I’m going to use this as an example of how NOT to design a website: www.painttouchup.co.uk

cartouchup

 

So where do we start?

 

The above design epitomizes how not to design a website. It’s a total car crash! Here are some of the things wrong with the site;

1. Logo/ brand identity mismatch.  Not a bad logo, although looks like a 20 second outline sketch of the ‘bat mobile’.  The bottom line is there is a mismatch between the website brand and the logo. A confusing message to the visitor.

2. Home page Image:  I’m not going to lambaste the image for not being in an animated slider, but there is not a lot of thought about composition or use of a proper image with strapline/message/call to action.  This image looks asthough it’s just crashed into the home page with no purpose or direction.   How about an image of a car, before and after being touched up, or an automobile image with helpful ‘tool tips’ using circles and large question marks.

3. Image Quality: the image quality is very poor. The telephone number image is actually above the fold but the fonts used for the digits are jagged and not smooth. The whole image is actually too large for the left hand side bar as it overlaps.  Even more noticeable is the quality and size of the product images. Maybe a light box would be of use here.

4. Body Text:  The body text is in different coloured fonts and more crucially is a different point size.  Inconsistent and off putting to the reader.  Shows if you don’t care for your website, how can they care about your car.

5. Adsense, why here? There are adsense adverts on the right hand side column for inner pages and these are showing non relevant ads. (I noticed one for hair transplants).The adsense box is too wide and exceeds the main site container width.

6. Footer links:  When hovering over the footer links, the text disappears. A simple css hover command will rectify this.

7.  Using images instead of html tables to display relevant information. As well as the images looking grainy, moreover search engines prefer text so they can index the web page for its content. 

Overall, this site is very poor and would score low on design and most technical SEO areas.  An fair 3 out of 10. Back to the drawing board for www.painttouchup.co.uk – no amount of touch up can resolve these evident website design issues.

So what should you be expecting from a good web design company?

 

1. Requirements Phase

As the client, you should be taken through a requirements analysis phase before any graphic designer starts .  This should include your business objectives, demographic, mobile compliance requirements, any advertising or brand standards that need to adheres to.

2. Initial Design Phase

A web designer worth his salt, should be recommending designing the layout of ‘what goes where’ first before starting to code.  User eXperience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are important elements of designing a website, and is something most design companies miss out entirely or rarely consider in depth.  Wire frame designs can be part of this process which will show how pages are interlinked and how the user can drill down into the content. This process should be presented to you for sign off before proceeding with the graphic/artwork.

3. Detailed Design Mock Ups

Expect a high resolution mock up of your website design in photoshop format, before any web development takes place.

It’s very common for a design company to adopt the use of ready made website templates. This is fine if the design meets your requirements or it can be modified to suit, but presenting you with a high res design and skipping stage (2) above is a short method for web design and can be hit and miss with your end product.

4. Project Management and Updates

You may think it’s a given but is often overlooked.  Project management and communication of your web design project  is important. You need to know what is happening throughout the lifecycle. Some companies use online project management software to manage your expectations and update with relevant milestones and design updates on a 24/7 basis.  The least, you should be given regular email updates and be involved in the process.  An initial design meeting is a good idea before kicking off before anyone gets their hands on a mouse tracker ball.

5. Testing

A website audit, user testing should all be completed before pressing the ‘go live’ button.  Ironing out any anomalies or issues should be captured during a website audit.

User testing, mobile device and browser testing should be included as part of the package. Make sure you ask about these aspects, because a pretty web design on the surface can have lurking within it some horrible nasty’s, and in the end lose you money.

 

An Example Web Design Process

 

Phase 1 –  Logo Branding & Identity

Industry Research, design inspiration, sketching and mind mapping, 3 concept ideas, client feedback, digital implementation, colour and typefaces and final revisions.

Phase 2 – Content Strategy

Decide what the website will be about, it’s purpose and audience.

Text, images, artwork, video and other media.

Phase 3 –  Information Architecture

How the pages and content will be organised.

Low fidelity wireframes showing navigation layout and content for all types of pages. (eg. home page, category page and product pages)

Phase 4 –  Visual Design

Design a look and feel that enhances the content and information architecture.

High fidelity mock ups that show content, information, architecture, colour and style.

Design templates for all page types. (including custom PPC landing pages)

Navigation, colour scheme, banners/images/artwork.

Phase 5 –  Website coding and development

Create development/test environment.

Code website and pages.

html 5, CSS 3 and W3C compliant coding.

SEO compliance.

Phase 6 –  Testing/ Quality Assurance

Cross browser compatibility testing.

Mobile device testing

Phase 7 – Modifications / Revisions

Client feedback, site modifications and minor changes.