Web design and development first serves an online marketing purpose and second serves a graphical purpose.
Some graphic designers may hate that statement. But they don’t have to pay the bills.
Ask people their opinions about certain Web sites, and wait to see if they talk about the graphics or about such issues as speed, functionality, ease of finding content and other experiences.
Someone responsible for a site has made the design more important than the audience when:
- The main body type is a light or medium gray color, which reduces legibility.
- Graphics are large and not optimized for fast loading.
- The home page requires numerous pages of scrolling.
- The width is set for the widest possible resolution because the site staff has large monitors.
- Each page is jammed with excessive server calls to various products and services, which slow page load.
Site design is a process of prioritizing stages in its development. Let’s look at four hypothetical stages.
Stage 1: Architecture and Layout
Site architecture starts with the code on the templates that determines the presentation.
Simplicity results in fast page load speeds, less ongoing maintenance and often in lower costs (labor and bandwidth).
Architecture also involves the functionality that is displayed via the templates, such as commenting, search, RSS, etc.
Layout, also known as the wireframe, takes those decisions about architecture and leads to decisions about where to position certain types of content and site features.
Viewing a layout in the form of a simple set of CSS-driven borders will help confirm if the initial decisions are correct.
Stage 2: Content, SEO and Navigation
Now that a rough layout is in place, it’s time to lay in the content. It’s like y the content can be subdivided into a set of specific subjects.
That subject list will be represented on the home page and inside section pages.
SEO research will help identify the best keywords to use to describe the subjects. They are then used to name each section front and the anchor text used in navigation (or at least influence the naming of them).
Stage 3: Graphics, Colors and CSS
It is useful and interesting to review a prototype with nothing but raw content, navigation and links and leave out the graphics altogether.
It forces the designers and managers to look at the site in terms of content and functionality.
Too many times I’ve seen people swayed by the look of a site because the graphics command their attention and make them completely overlook the content and functionality.
Once the raw site has been reviewed by all of the project stakeholders, THEN it is useful to implement graphics, colors and CSS and let them review it again.
Stage 4: Launching, Analyzing and Revising
The internal review is complete and the site is ready to go live. But that step of launching means that another review is about to take place — the public one.
One of the simplest ways of judging the public response is based on the audience metrics of pages per visit and time on site (which are related).
A high pages per visit number says that the public is clicking around, finding content and experiencing a site that is loading in an acceptable amount of time.
A low pages per visit number says just the opposite. In this case, analyzing audience numbers to identify pages with high exit rates is essential for correcting problems.