A lot of folks think that if you want to design a great website, you need to be some Silicon Valley whizz-kid or have state-of-the-art tools. The good news? That’s total garbage.
That said, you will need to know a thing or two about web design. After all, it’s important – so much so that 38% of visitors will leave a website if they find the layout unattractive.
You can think of web design like selling a car – it could have the most incredible engine, but if the chassis is hideous, people won’t be interested in buying it.
Here at Website Builder Expert, we know a thing or two about designing websites. So to help you out, we’ve put together this simple, easy to follow, eight step guide. For a quick overview, here’s what we’ll be covering:
Designing Websites: Our 8 Step Guide
- Define Your Site’s Purpose and Strategy
- Research the Latest Web Design Trends
- Choose Your Platform
- Select a Template and Start Customizing
- Decide on Your Branding
- Add In and Optimize Your Content
- Publish Your Website
- Analyze and Improve
Below, we’ll run through all eight steps in detail, and teach you exactly what to do at each stage. If you’re interested in designing a new website, or giving an existing one a makeover, then you’re in the right place.
Have your mouse at the ready, and get those creative juices flowing – it’s time to dive in.
Define Your Site’s Purpose and Strategy
It sounds like such a simple point to make, but before you jump head-first into designing your website, you first need to be clear on its purpose.
Beyond simply knowing your industry and defining a content strategy, you need to think about what your USP (unique selling point) is, and how you want to come across.
People aren’t stupid. If you put yourself out there just to make a profit or raise your own profile, people will see through it. Your website’s design is directly linked to your brand, and it needs to come across as authentic and engaging.
What are you trying to achieve?
Once your purpose is clear, the focus shifts towards what action you want visitors to take when they land on your website. Is your site there just to display information? To sell products? To get sign-ups?
The answer to this will ultimately dictate how your website looks and feels. Using ecommerce as an example, one crucial element of your design is your landing page.
According to Crowdspring – a top digital branding company – your landing page should be laser-focused around one product or deal, with a clear CTA (call to action) accompanying it.
Taking this one step further, we caught up with Wolfgang Bruns, a conversion rate expert at a global tech company. We asked him about the importance of having separate landing pages for different visitors, in order to individually tailor offers and products – a process known as customer segmentation.
Research the Latest Web Design Trends
Web design evolves quickly, but there are some more prevalent trends you can learn from. At this point, it’s important to note that just because a web trend is current, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you.
48% of people cite design as the most important factor of a website, so it’s important to take your time and look at what competitors are doing. Each sector will have different styles, so it’s vital you know whether you want to fit into your industry, or disrupt it.Alex Vasili – a leading brand expert – believes you should always research by industry, rather than age or gender.
Micro-interactions are small animations which takes place when a user engages with a website. For example, if you ‘react’ to a post on Facebook, it will pop up with the relevant, animated emoji.
Micro-interactions are there to inject a website with some personality. Micro-interactions create a human touch point that actively makes your visitors feel like they are communicating with your website.
Micro-interactions can take many forms – clicking, hovering, scrolling etc. – and are important in building a relationship with users. They might not suit serious white-collar businesses, but most sites could benefit from a little interaction.
If you thought you wouldn’t be learning about architecture in this guide, we’re afraid you’re sadly mistaken. Brutalist web design takes its inspiration from mid-twentieth century building construction, and although many people see it as ugly, it just works.
Spanish fashion house Balenciaga was one of the first major companies to adopt a brutalist website back in 2016. And much like its seasonal trends, brutalism has quickly caught on.
Brutalism derives from the French word ‘brut’, meaning ‘raw’, and offers a basic, bold and striking approach to web design. It’s not for everyone, but those looking to disrupt their industry will certainly want to take note.
Here’s a stat for you: businesses spend nearly $1.3 trillion every year on customer service requests. It’s estimated that chatbots could reduce this by 30%.
Gone are the days when chatbots were mere gimmicks – now, they’re becoming ever more essential to customer-facing services.
The major draws of chatbots are time-efficiency and cost-effectiveness. They work 24/7, which frees up your time to get on with other matters. They also save you the expense of employing staff to work as customer service representatives.
Sure, chatbots aren’t perfect, but their emotional intelligence and ability to provide tailored support is improving by the day. There’s never been a better time to install one.
Choose Your Platform
The first thing that springs to mind when you think of quality web design is a professional agency, right? And while top companies largely do a great job, they can be eye-wateringly expensive.
Luckily, there is another way: website builders and ecommerce platforms. These are DIY online tools that allow you to create and design your own website – without needing to know a single line of code!
Naturally, there are tons of options out there – of varying quality – but we’ve put in the legwork and researched the best on the market. Through a combination of expert research and thorough testing, we can now reveal the best options for designing your very own site.
Below, we’ll run through the top three options for both regular websites and online stores. First, though, let’s address the elephant in the room: WordPress.
What about WordPress?
WordPress.org is a self-hosted, open-source CMS (content management system) – but all you really need to know is that it’s the most popular platform for designing a website.
WordPress gives you total control over the look and feel of your website, and is technically free to use. We say this because, in order to get your website live, you’ll actually need to pay for web hosting, security, a domain name, and any additional plugins or themes you need.
The biggest issue with WordPress, though, is that it’s not really suitable for the average Joe. Unless you’re comfortable with code – or have the budget to hire a professional developer – WordPress will prove near-impossible to use.
For this reason, we’d recommend that people who are building their own site stick to website builders and ecommerce platforms.
Designing Websites: Website Builders
Unless you’re looking to sell online, website builders are the most effective way for non-tech whizzes to create their own website. If an online store is what you’re after, skip to our ecommerce platforms section.From our expert research, we’ve been able to establish the 10 best website builders available to you today.
|Wix Pros||Wix Cons|
|Highly intuitive and easy-to-use editor||Can’t switch templates after your website goes live|
|Great value for money||May have to spend more on third party apps to scale your website|
|Strong help and support features||The sheer choice and amount of customizable options can be overwhelming|
|The builder our users were most likely to recommend|
Wix is generally regarded as the best website builder on the market. Its easy to use drag-and-drop editor gives you total creative control, allowing you to add in all your content and position it wherever you see fit.
There’s also a choice of 510 professionally designed templates, a bunch of amazing features which come built-in, and a huge app store where you can install any extras you may need.From thoroughly testing the platform ourselves, we can confirm Wix lives up to the hype.
|Squarespace Pros||Squarespace Cons|
|Best quality templates in terms of design and flexibility||Limited number of price plans|
|Best quality features of any builder on the market||Not totally beginner friendly|
|Full customization control without the need for coding|
Squarespace is a website builder that oozes class, and comes with a glossy, premium feel.Squarespace prides itself on its templates. Their cutting-edge designs make them perfe
|Weebly Pros||Weebly Cons|
|Best for small businesses, with all the basic tools you need to build a great business site||Drag-and-drop customization is limited – unless you’re confident with code|
|Cool customizable templates||No personal restore option, so if your site goes down, you’re totally reliant on the Weebly support team|
|Really helpful SEO guides in Weebly’s help and support center||No ADI option (short for Artificial Design Intelligence, this is where a website builder uses information you provide to automatically create a site for you)|
Weebly is marketed as a website builder for all, but really, it specializes in small business websites. It has a great range of templates to choose from, and a drag-and-drop editor that’s pretty easy to get to grips with.
Designing Websites: Ecommerce Platforms
Ecommerce platforms work in a very similar way to website builders, but they’re specifically designed to help you set up an online store. Some are purpose-built just for ecommerce, while others (like Wix) are website builders that have ecommerce functionalities.
|Shopify Pros||Shopify Cons|
|Sell across multiple channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and eBay||You have to create your storefront between the editor and dashboard, meaning you’ll have to flick between the two|
|Brilliant inventory system which helps you manage your store||Only platform to enforce its own transaction fee with Shopify Payments|
|Came first in our research for sales features and customer score||Content doesn’t automatically reformat if you switch to a different theme|
Shopify stands head and shoulders above its peers as the best ecommerce platform. It has a range of themes which are all designed with your products in mind, and more sales features than you can shake a stick at.
Where Shopify really excels, though, is away from your website. The platform allows you to broaden your online store’s reach by tapping into different channels, and by selling across various marketplaces and social media networks.