If you have ever built a website, you know that it can be quite time consuming, especially when you are first getting started or going from one platform to another. Website design is a lucrative business, and there is so much opportunity out there because everyone needs a website! However, website designers quickly find out that things can take longer than expected, and they can quickly cap out.
Surprisingly, tech isn’t the hardest part of web design. You do have to know what’s going on in the tech side of things, but you can resolve issues relatively quickly when they come up. The hardest part of building a website is making decisions. If you are a designer of any kind, that’s literally your job – to continually make decisions on behalf of a brand about their visual design elements.
There are some things you can do to help out in this decision-making process.
Know Your Audience
The first thing I recommend is to figure out who your audience is. Even when you have a client, they may want you to design things based on their personal preferences, or you may be tempted to design based on your own personal preferences. However, when you’re working on a design project, you have to ask yourself, “Who is this actually for?” It may be for someone like you, but it may be for someone who is completely different from you.
So if you want the audience to really love what you do, you need to know who they are!
In order to figure out who your audience is, you need to do your homework. If you want some parameters, check out our previous blog post on figuring out who your ideal audience is. There’s even a little free download with a worksheet that will help you figure out things like where are they shopping, How old are they? What’s their family structure? For me, just knowing what stores they like to go into helps inform my design more than anything else. If I know I’m talking to a dude who just loves going to sporting goods stores, I know he’s going to like a design that has more blues, greens, and browns and is more outdoor schemed versus my boss babe client who is on the internet most of the day and doing all of her shopping online. I would approach the design for these two audiences completely differently. Don’t just assume you know who your audience is. It’s important to dig in and do your research.
The next thing you can do to speed up your design and decision-making processes is gather references. I don’t recommend that you copy other designers, but it’s good to look and see what’s visually interesting right now. Go on Pinterest and type in “best web designs 2020.” It’s also a good idea to create a Pinterest board specifically for your project and pin at least 20 different references for the avatar you are targeting. This will help you find different fonts, colors, and ideas to help inform your design.
Make a Website Style Guide
The next thing you can do is make a brand board using Canva. They have brand board templates on there that you can use to bring everything together. I would recommend adding four or five colors and two or three fonts. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy if you’re the only person referencing it. Don’t Skip This Step!
The next thing you need to do is make a roadmap of your website. We have a tool inside of our member’s only library you can use to help you plan the whole sucker out. We also have the Perfect Homepage Cheatsheet that is going to help give you some ideas. Remember, this step doesn’t have to be pretty or fancy! Just grab a piece of paper and mark it all up.
You got to know where you are going!
Once you have all of these steps completed, you’re ready to make a mockup. If you’re a web designer, you might have been taught on a tool like Adobe Photoshop because that was the industry standard for a really long time. While I still have it and use it, you may have an easier time with a tool like Adobe Sketch or Affinity Pro.
There’s no way to fast track great work. Right!? But maybe you want to to go more simplistic for the thing that you’re working on. Maybe it’s not worth it for you or your client to have some sort of opt-in page that isn’t really needed. Think about the amount of time you’re putting into a design versus the value of what you’re designing.
For instance, last year we had a client that really wanted animated Instagram stories. So I was working with my junior designer on it, and he told me he was going to spend twenty hours that month on Instagram stories that expire after 24 hours. He wanted to make sure it was worth the time because for some reason they just didn’t feel that important compared to the amount of work they were going to take. So I went back to the client and asked them if they were going to actually see a return from these fancy stories or if they wanted to spend that time and money elsewhere.
You have to look at things from the perspective of a business owner. What is the value of what you’re creating versus the time that you’re putting into it?
BONUS TIP: Having the right tools saves you tons of time! Some tools that I recommend are:
- Envato Elements – Thousands of stock photos, fonts and web template.
- Flaticon – The largest database of free icons available.
- Unsplash – Free images and photos that you can download and use for any project.
- Sketch – A design toolkit built to help you create your best work.
- Stocksy – Inspiring stock photos + videos driven by creative integrity.
Build the Skeleton
The goal in this step is to lay things out based on your roadmap really quickly. You can refine it later, but you do not have to go through every single little detail of every single little section.
Your goal is to build the skeleton as quickly as possible, and then you can do a second and third pass until it’s perfect, but you’re going to feel like you’ve got something done and you have a lot more progress which will cause you to be much less likely to throw in the towel earlier.
If there’s something you absolutely can’t figure out, I follow what I call the 30-minute rule. If something takes me more than 30 minutes to figure out, I stop. I either ask for help, or I will just sleep on it. A lot of times even if I just take a break, when I come back, I figure it out very quickly. I highly encourage you, even if you’ve procrastinated and you don’t technically have time, you might want to just take a little break and give your brain some space to work that problem out.