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Web Designer's Guide to Getting Started

Creating a website isn't as tough as it used to be. With all the do-it-yourself platforms available, it's pretty straightforward. But here's an interesting twist: the real work of making a website happens before you even start designing it. Confused? Keep reading, and we'll show you the steps that come before the final, exciting reveal of your new site (at least that’s how we do it at Olya Black studio).

The journey to a compelling online presence begins with branding. It's the strategic foundation that informs all aspects of a company's identity, both online and offline. Before diving into design and development, we engage in a deep discovery process, conducting thorough briefings and interviews to understand the business's core values and target audience. This initial step is crucial, as it sets the tone for the entire project and ensures that the website resonates with its users.

With a clear understanding of the client's business, we proceed to the design phase. If a corporate style and logo are not yet established, we focus on creating these key branding elements. The logo, colours, and fonts are selected to reflect the company's industry and ethos, avoiding personal biases to maintain professional integrity. These elements come together to form a visual identity that is both distinctive and representative of the client's brand.

A final style guide, a comprehensive document that dictates the future website's look and feel, also ensures consistency across all customer touch points.

2. SEO: Your Relationship with Google Starts Before Design

It's a common misconception that SEO efforts should begin only after a website has been created. In reality, effective SEO must be integrated into the website's structure from the outset. Building a site without considering SEO can lead to the need for a complete overhaul, resulting in wasted time and resources. Therefore, before development and design commence, it's crucial to define keywords and a SEO strategy to ensure the site meets search engine requirements and is optimised for visibility.

Considering SEO from the zero step, immediately after branding, sets the foundation for advanced SEO practices such as:

Keyword Research: Evaluating search volume and competition for keywords, providing tailored keyword recommendations for each page, article, and service on your site, including similar phrases and synonyms.

Competitor Analysis: Analysing up to four competitors to inform your SEO strategy.

SEO Internal Linking: Planning an internal linking structure to enhance site navigation and search engine indexing.

Understanding the message and emphasising the importance of SEO efforts before the design phase is crucial for a successful online presence.

But, we get it, SEO can seem like a big deal. The truth is, it's not always the right move for everyone. We're not about pushing fancy SEO packages if they don't make sense for you. Sometimes, other ways to get the word out about your business can do the trick. So, we stick to the basics of SEO for every project, laying down a solid foundation to help people find you online. And if that's all you need, we're cool with that.

3. Content strategy and architecture: Discovering an optimal Website and Homepage Structure

Establishing a solid structure for your website and homepage is a critical preliminary step in web design, setting the foundation for user experience and interaction. It's a deliberate process that precedes the visual design, ensuring that the strategic framework is in place to guide visitors from their initial encounter.

Enduring Impressions and Consistent Experience: While the homepage initiates the dialogue, the entire website must continue the conversation, leaving a lasting impression. An intuitive structure across all pages ensures a consistent and seamless user journey.

Trust, Curiosity, and Brand Essence: A coherent website structure upholds your brand's essence and values, building trust and sparking curiosity. Beyond the homepage, each page should articulate your value proposition and invite further exploration.

User Engagement and Pathways: The objective is to craft a user journey that is both engaging and logical. The architecture of your website should promote discovery and interaction, with the homepage serving as the portal to your offerings.

SEO and Pre-Design Strategy: The planning of your website and homepage structure is a strategic initiative that bolsters SEO and enriches the user experience. This essential step is instrumental in the success of your online presence, converting visitors into active users and devoted customers.

By emphasising that structure planning is a foundational step that occurs before the design phase, this version underscores its importance in the overall strategy for effective web design.

4. Copy as a Design Foundation: Meaningful communication on your website

Before designing a website, one of the most critical steps is preparing your verbal content, copy. The textual and graphical elements of a website must work in a harmony to create an effective user experience. It's a misconception to design first and insert text later. Instead, copy should be ready in advance, as it forms the backbone of your website's design and functionality. Designers must understand the text's nuances and ensure every visual element aligns with the content, creating a coherent and impactful site.

Text is also a pivotal component of your SEO strategy. Professionally written, unique content optimised for search engines can significantly improve your website's visibility and ranking. This requires balancing creativity with technical expertise, ensuring the text is engaging and informative while incorporating relevant keywords. Ignoring this step can lead to a disjointed website that fails to resonate with users and perform well in search engine results. Investing in high-quality text is essential for any successful web design project.

5. Visual Content: Elevating Your Website with Photos and Videos

The importance of visual content, such as photos and videos, can vary significantly from site to site and business to business, depending on specific needs and goals. However, there are universal rules that should be considered to ensure your visual content effectively supports your brand narrative and it's essential to integrate it into the planning stages of web design.

Ideally, having your own visual content created by a professional photographer is the best approach. Original photos and videos tailored to your brand and message are far superior to stock visuals, as they provide authenticity and uniqueness. However, if professional custom content isn't feasible, often high-quality stock photos are a better option than poor-quality real photos.

It's crucial to be mindful of copyright issues. Always ensure that you have the proper licenses for any stock photos or videos you use, purchasing them from reputable sources. This not only keeps you legally compliant but also often provides access to higher-quality visuals. Additionally, strive to choose photos that appear genuine. Authentic-looking visuals resonate better with users, while overly staged or fake-looking images can detract from your site's credibility.

Proactively planning and integrating thoughtful, high-quality visual content can profoundly enrich the user experience, solidify your brand identity, and convey your message with greater impact, all while streamlining the web design process.

While we've described an ideal scenario that might seem a bit too perfect, this is genuinely how we do it at Olya Black. It's our tried-and-true method. It's unfortunate that some businesses start their website journey by picking a template, which rarely does justice to their unique story and objectives. We hope this article has expanded your view on what's possible for your future website.

Web Designer's Guide to Getting Started


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