10 Steps to a Successful Design Project

Building a complete and effective website truly is a process. In this post we’ll take a brief look at the various steps that lead to a successful project. Of course, this will vary from case-to-case, but this is a pretty standard order of events.

1. Needs Analysis

I believe that it’s important to have a good idea of what you want or need from your website before you really get into the process. Some business owners that decide to have a website built or redesigned simply don’t consider exactly why they are doing it, and what they need to get out of the final product. This is a critical first step, because without knowing exactly where you want the project to go, it will come up short in one way or another.

Take some time and think about your customers and website visitors. What specifically will they need from your website, and what style of site are they going to appreciate? What is it that your business needs from the website?

2. Finding the Right Designer

Finding the right designer/developer for your specific project is also critical. I feel that a needs analysis should be done prior to choosing a designer, because the designer that you choose should be a good fit for the needs of your website. Many business owners simply hire a designer without really paying attention to their strengths and weaknesses, and then they expect to get the best results without necessarily having a good fit.

If your needs analysis shows that you need a flash-based website , you now know that you should focus your search on designers that specialize in building flash-based sites. Likewise, if you need a large database-driven e-commerce site, you’re not going to want to hire a designer who has no experience with this type of site. Some designers and developers are able to do just about anything you need, but everyone will have strengths and weakness that should be a part of the decision-making process.

3. Establishment of Priorities

Once the designer has been chosen, the client and designer should discuss the needs of the client and establish some priorities for the project. During this time the designer will get a feel for specifically what the client is looking for, and ideally the discussion between the two parties will help to create some clarity for the designer about the appropriate direction to pursue.

4. Mockup

Now that the designer knows what is needed, he or she can start working on the first mockup of the site. Many designers start the process by working in Photoshop to create a mockup, so that changes and revisions can be made quickly, and to avoid taking the time to code something that the client may not like. Once the mockup is complete it can be presented for feedback.

5. Implementation of Feedback

In order to get a website that will ultimately meet the needs of your business, you need to be involved in the process by sharing your opinions and suggestions with the designer. No designer will know your business or your customers like you do. There is usually a good bit of back and forth between the designer and the client at this stage before the project reaches the satisfaction of everyone.

6. Testing

Once the design is pretty much in place and both the designer and the client are satisfied, testing should begin. Throughout the earlier stages the designer has most likely been doing some type of testing in various browsers to be sure that the site is ok in all of the major browsers, but the testing will often go a bit further at this point. This is a good time for the client to also scour the site and make sure that there are no mistakes or inaccuracies anywhere.

7. Final Design

Now that both parties are satisfied and the necessary testing is complete, any final changes or corrections should be made. This could be something that resulted from testing, or just correcting some typos, dead links, etc. At this stage the site is essentially complete.

8. Launch

Once the site is ready to be seen by the world, the official launch should take place. At this time the site goes live and visitors will see the finished product. Frequently when a website is redesigned, the business will contact existing customers or members of a mailing address to notify them of the redesign and let them know about some new features that are available at the site. From my experience this is an important part of the process because you can generate some buzz from people who are already familiar with you, and you can get a quick jump in traffic during the first few days following the launch.

9. Marketing & Promotions

Almost all successful websites will need to be marketed or promoted in some way. In order to get the most out of the website, a marketing plan should be developed. You’ve spent time and money building a great website, now you need to get people to see it.

10. Plans for Updates/Changes/Additions

Every website will need to be updated at some point, and some will be updated almost constantly. How frequently will your site need to be updated and who will be responsible for making the changes? You may want to continue to hire the designer to perform these services, or you could hire someone else or keep it within your company. What strategy you choose should fit the needs of your business, but it should certainly be considered or you’ll find yourself with outdated content on your site a few months down the road.

What’s Your Experience?

Is there anything you would add or change from your experience?

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20 Responses

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  • Web Design Glasgow, May 8, 2008

    If it were me, I’d highlight the importance of setting a timeline with milestones, and of starting the actual design work on paper.

    Photoshop is inefficient for playing with ideas, and tempts you to focus on detail too soon. Instead, draw some ruled squares on paper, and sketch a few rough layouts first.


  • James, May 8, 2008

    Finding the right designer is the hardest part, IMO. So many designers I’ve used have not met deadlines, gave up halfway, did a poor job, etc. Once you get a good one, I would stick with him for future projects for sure.

  • Mike, May 8, 2008

    A lot of the time the planning is never there with many web design projects. A design is supposed to be an output of the client’s functional requirements, but it’ll never be reasonably met if the journey isn’t well planned, no matter how great a designer you are. Project Management is an essential tool for anyone working with clients on the web, as a firm methodology is the basis on which any project is undertaken. Overall, I’d say this post agrees with me and I’d go as far as to say that every client should demand it from their designer.

  • Daniel Schutzsmith, May 8, 2008

    I agree with many here that an integral part of a good web design project is the planning. One thing I wanted to note is that the very first thing you should do is define the problem. If you don’t know what the issue is, and why a website is needed, then the rest of the project will be nothing more than fluff!

  • Abhishek, May 9, 2008

    That was something like my SDLC Lecture. I We can call it as ” DDLC – Design Development Life Cycle !!
    Thanks for DDLC Lecture!!

  • Vandelay Design, May 10, 2008

    I actually start with paper on almost every site as well. I probably should have mentioned that. My work on paper is not detailed at all, more of just general layout and sections of the page. Thanks for your feedback.

    I agree with what you’re saying, and that was my motivation for writing the post. It’s hard to give the client what they really need without doing the proper planning, like you mentioned.

    Good point. That belongs in the Needs Assessment section in my opinion, but I could have discussed that further.

  • BMX, May 11, 2008

    As a newcomer in this field, I think it will help me more to accomplish my work successfully. I will try to follow these steps & wish to get a good feedback.

  • Andres, May 14, 2008

    A lot of the time the planning is never there with many web design projects.

  • movies, May 19, 2008

    Once you get a good one, I would stick with him for future projects for sure.

  • Dale Cruse, May 24, 2008

    You went from design to testing and skipped development. In more than 75 site launches that I’ve worked on, none of those sites have EVER skipped development. In fact, no site on the Internet has.

  • yehya, October 6, 2010

    we don’t want to forget the inspiration part before starting a design.