Creating a strategic and effective website is crucial in today’s fast-paced online world. Your design clients only have a few seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention, so they need to provide a clear path to follow.
Once that path is in place and active on a website, it seems like creating it was an effortless exercise, but often that’s not the case. Creating a strategic and effective website can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially when you’re staring at a blank Illustrator file.
There are two main methods you can use to get your ideas flowing and manage the project at hand: plan the design first and work in the strategy afterwards, or plan the strategy first and create your design around the strategy.
Each method has its supporters, but only one will help you manage project overwhelm by breaking it into steps.
What’s the benefit of creating bite-sized tasks for your design project? Going through the process step-by-step can help manage overwhelm and give you a good idea of your progress.
Mockups First, Strategy Second
Creating your initial mockups first and then incorporating strategy after you’ve designed the website may feel more comfortable to you because it’ll likely be more of what you’re used to. You can give your design free reign at the start and create a beautiful website design for your client. Every designer’s dream.
However, despite the complete design freedom, there are drawbacks to this method. You’ll need to be aware that your stunning design may not remain the same once you start trying to work strategy into the mix. You may even discover that the website you designed doesn’t fit your client’s strategy at all.
That’s a bigger problem than it seems. Trying to get an already-designed website to fit within a particular strategy is like trying to fit your foot into a shoe two sizes too small. No matter how much you try, you just can’t fit it in – at least, not without some modifications.
If your design doesn’t support the necessary elements for your client’s strategy, you could spend even longer on the site design ensuring that all of the pieces fit together smoothly.
If you do decide to start with design first, be aware that you may limit the strategic possibilities of your client’s website. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this problem, and method number two will show you how.
Map the Journey and Design Around It
This strategy is my preferred approach when working with a designer on a website. It’s great because you’ll be strategy-focused from the start.
You’ll have the vision of your client’s strategic website to design around, so you won’t have to spend time tweaking your design to meet basic strategy needs. Instead of trying to fit a foot into a too-small shoe, you’re designing the shoe to fit the foot, which gives a much better fit all around.
Another benefit to this method is that your design will flow seamlessly into the website’s strategy because you designed specifically for that strategy.
Divide Your Project Into Steps
One of the biggest draws to the strategy first, design second method is the ability to break down the project into the steps you need to follow, making the whole project less overwhelming.
Translate Goals Into Items and CTAs
The first step you’ll need to take when planning out your website strategy is to translate your client’s goals into items and calls-to-action (CTAs) on the website. This gives you a clear idea of what the goal of each page will be and where to direct people on the page. It’s much easier to design a page around a CTA than it is to try to slip a CTA into an already designed page.
Consider Item Arrangement
Once you’ve got your list of items and CTAs, think about how they should be arranged. Your goal should be to create a complete journey through your client’s website, regardless of which webpage someone starts on. Brainstorm the different entry points your client’s website has, then map out potential paths visitors could take, keeping your items and CTAs in mind.
Design the Website
After creating a journey for website visitors, it’s time to dive into the design. As you create your mockups, keep the strategy in mind. Putting so much thought into creating visitor paths does you little good if you forget about it when you start designing.
Break It Up to Fight Overwhelm
When you get ready to design a website for your client, be sure to focus on creating the strategy first and designing around it. Starting with strategy and then moving to the design aspect allows you to break the project into smaller steps, which makes it easier on you.
Doing several design projects at once can be overwhelming, so remember to break down your design projects into manageable steps. These small steps will help you keep track of where you are in each project, make it easier to come back to a project after a break, and give you clear, simple tasks to do.
Don’t forget to grab your checklist to give your next design project more structure and less overwhelm.