The normal way to build a website is pretty standard throughout the industry. It’s mostly based around design, including the navigation and something called ‘UX’ or User experience.
In brief (and it does vary, but not by much) the process is as follows:
A meeting with an Account Manager and a designer, possibly a developer or UX specialist. They will try to understand what you are looking for, how you want it to look etc. They will ask about your objectives and your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ if you have one, and lots of other information.
They will then go on to design ‘Wireframes’ These are preliminary drawings showing where elements might fit on your web pages. Once you approve those designs you will then move to the next step…
The next step is for the agency to draw up designs utilising one or more different systems – Adobe Illustrator is pretty common but there are others. When they produce a design they normally show the design on desktop, mobile and tablet.
Although these designs should show you the look, they won’t show you how the system works, like navigation or page transitions on desktop, mobile or tablet.
Once you sign off your designs, the web company build it. Usually the developers take the designs and code them using various different tools. Sometimes it’s pure html, sometimes it’s a content management system like Joomla or Drupal or WordPress.
Some weeks to months later you will see the first draft of the website and you’ll be asked for comments/changes.
As you can well imagine this process should be ‘iterative’. But what you will find is that there’s a limit to the number of iterations you can make (normally 3). Once you’ve signed off those designs that’s what will be built. If you deviate from the design then you pay.
Soon enough there will be a sign off, handover and you will pay for the site, then support charges and if you need any future changes you will be quoted.
What's wrong with this approach?
The first thing is that it takes a long time, between designs, sign off, iterations and approval.
The second thing is that you may never get what you want because of the costs involved.
Third is that when you define what you want your website to look like at the start, inevitably there will be changes and this method ignores the ever-changing nature of business.
The fourth thing is that when you approve the designs you still don’t know how it’s going to work for the visitor, unless the designers use some fancy tools with the inevitable cost implications.
A better way to design and build websites
When we started out building websites, this was the way we did it. We were heavily dependant on our designers and account managers interpreting what you want. With the best will in the world this can go horribly wrong.
We looked at new ways of doing it and over the past few years we’ve developed a new system. We find that there are 4 benefits of a new approach:
- First it’s quicker
- Second it’s cheaper
- Third you get what you want
- Fourth you are in control going forward and you are independent of any web company (including us).
So what's the new way?
Our method makes use of technology that enables us to put designs together with you online. We don’t have to set up meetings, waste time travelling or any of the other issues associated with long, or short, distance travel.
We start with an online meeting and a discussion around what you need the website to do – build your audience, sell products and services, build your brand and reputation etc. While we’re online we’ll pull together some initial ideas and designs, which you can see online as we talk.
We then produce three website designs for you. These designs are actual websites which you will be able to play with, navigate around, review colour schemes and if you have an e-commerce system, then buy stuff as well. In fact most of our designs are fully working websites.
We then have a second online meeting where we start to settle on the look, feel, colour scheme, fonts etc. We’ll then produce a fully working system which forms the basis of your website and from there we can start to fine tune the whole site.
The biggest difference with our methodology is that at any time you will be able to see the website as it actually is, fully working with everything you will want it to be, albeit with dummy content and share this content and the website with others.
Once you have your final design complete with all the templates, you will be able to build out all your content with a consistent look and feel.