Designing (and Building) a Website

Globe IconSuccessful web design requires a strong mixture of both creative and technical skills.

On the one hand, developing an effective design requires good visual skills along with an understanding of key design principles. Some of the design principles are specific to web design and some of them are common to all visual media.

On the other hand, working with HTML, CSS and scripting requires a clear understanding of the technicalities of the languages involved. You cannot always rely on the visual tools of your web editor to get things exactly as you want them, so there will be times when you need to modify code by hand.

Further, if you wish to get involved in more complex aspects of web development, such as the back end programming of web applications, then the skills required are essentially the same as those for traditional software development.

The Brief

Designing a website always begins with a brief, even if that brief is as informal as a friend asking you to help them put a couple of pages about the pub football team together.

BriefIn a commercial setting, this will usually be a short document describing what the customer wants from the site...

The Requirements

The requirements spell out exactly what is expected by both the client and the design team from the final deliverable website.

BriefThe requirements will have been derived by analysis of the brief. This is a formal document detailing each functional or physical need that the project must fulfil...

The Plan

Before you start building the site, before you even start designing the site, you should develop a plan for the project. Yes, you should! The plan will help you manage your client's expectations and give them a clear idea of the stages in the project.

BriefGetting the plan right will help keep your project on track through all its stages...

The Design

There are a number of separate aspects to the design stage: structure (or information architecture), where you consider how the different parts of the site relate to each other; navigation, where you consider how the user will find their way around; and finally, visual appearance, where you consider how the site will look.

DesignEach stage needs to be fully developed before starting to build the site...

Under ConstructionImplementation

Only once you have a clear plan and detailed designs do you actually start building the site. The more complex the site is, the more important the plan and designs are.

This site contains a great deal of information on the actual tools and techniques that you would employ to implement a web site...

Testing and Delivery

Once you have (parts of) the site built you need to test it to make sure everything works. Ideally large portion of the testing should be integrated into the development process, so that each component is tested as it is developed. In software development, this practice is known as Test Driven Development.

Evaluation and Maintenance

Evaluation and maintenance are the final stages of the web development process. Evaluation tells you if the site is fulfilling its objectives as defined in the specification. Maintenance ensures that the site continues to be relevant to the customer's needs.

DesignEvaluation can provide a useful guide on how to improve future projects...