9 Questions to Ask in the Design Phase

So, you want to build or revamp a website. One of the hardest, yet most important, conversations is around design. It can be hard to articulate what you want, what design elements are required, and how the design is executed. In fact, one of the biggest differences in price between different website design agencies is how much time is devoted to design. Yet how do you assess how important design is in your project, and how do you find out what you're really getting for the price?

Fortunately, these conversations can be easy, productive, and dare we say … fun?! We’ve created a quick guide of topics and questions that you should discuss with your web design team or agency to create better alignment of expectations and in turn, a more successful project.

Questions to ask in the design phase of your website build

1. Uniqueness — Does my site need to look like the only one of its kind?

There are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to how unique your website feels—a template on one end (less expensive) and custom design on the other (more expensive). Neither is necessarily better—it just depends on how much your site needs to stand out. If a from-scratch design is what’s required, be sure and choose a website partner who produces real business value, not just expense.

2. Trendiness — Does our site need to stay on-trend over time?

If your site needs to keep up with the trends of your industry it’s a good idea to establish this with your entire team, designers and stakeholders. This will help designers know where to draw inspiration and your stakeholders understand that the site may have a shorter lifespan

3. Flexibility — Does my site’s design need to be flexible for all different types of content?

Determine the ongoing needs for flexibility within your website. For example, are people going to be adding different lengths of text on a testimonial? Or different photo orientations on a slider? Elements like blogs, eCommerce product listings, testimonials, photo galleries, etc. can all be created with more or less flexibility in mind.

4. Custom Interactivity — Do I need users to have a highly-customized user experience while interacting with my site (as opposed to using an off-the-shelf solution)?

There are many off-the-shelf solutions like plugins, themes, and SaaS products that integrate with your site. Many times these existing tools work well enough, and you don't want to "reinvent the wheel!”

But maybe you have a very specific user flow in mind, like guiding customers through a product customizer. Or, maybe you need a CRM integration that is tailored to your business processes, and a pre-built solution just won't cut it. Talking through the functionality you need early will inform how much you invest in designing the UX and UI.

5. Familiarity & Similarity — Does my site need to intentionally feel similar to another solution?

Websites may need to look and feel like others, underneath a shared company umbrella, industry, or within a series of brands. Identifying similarities can inform and lead the design.

6. Photographic Style — Does the site’s photography style need to be consistent with existing photography?

An often-overlooked aspect of the design process is establishing a photographic style. It's best for the images on your site to have a cohesive look, and giving examples of what you like (or what assets your company already has) is essential to achieving this consistent aesthetic. On top of this, make sure and communicate how important photos are to your messaging, as this will inform how prominently they are featured on your site.

7. Mobile Friendliness — Does my website cater to a large percentage of mobile visitors?

All websites should be mobile-friendly. Using analytics data from your existing site, you can decide whether to design mobile or desktop first (which will also inform your emphasis in the testing phase).Photoshop mockups that show exactly what the site will look like on a phone can go a long way in ensuring a stellar mobile experience.

8. Feedback Process — Do I or my team want to be involved early in the design process in order to make tweaks? Will there be a number of folks signing off on the design?

To avoid scope creep and a website project that drags on, decide with your development team how to handle change before the project begins. Determine who the key stakeholders are, and make sure they understand the design deliverables and deadlines.

9. Accessibility — Does my site need to meet a certain level of compliance?

Factors like contrast ratios, screen orientation, responsiveness, navigation, labels, titles, spacing and font size fall under compliance and require specific design consideration. For more, check out these resources from Smashing Magazine.

Knowing visually what you want on your website is a great start. And being able to specifically explain why a design does or does not work for you even better!. The more you answered “YES” to any of the questions above, the more you need to consider a significant design investment. A website that requires unique functions or interactions can turn visitors into conversions when designed well.

Need help thinking it through? We’d love to be your design partner!

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