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How small businesses can master web design

Writing for The Guardian, Sian Lenegan explores how small businesses can effectively integrate design, aesthetics and functionality in order to create a successful website.

As the founder of graphic design company Sixth Story, Lenegan states that great web design satisfies the users’ information requirements, directs them to take some kind of action and ultimately achieves a predefined goal. Functionality, look and feel are all aspects that require equal consideration, and the key is combining them to create a website that is easy to use and supports the brand online.

Web design is a process
As all companies are different, their requirements for a website also differ, meaning that the design needs to grow organically and be borne from research and attention to detail. Whilst many free or cheap website templates exist that can be useful for generating a simple presence, a truly unique and personal design cannot be bought “out of the box”.

Lenegan states that small businesses can tackle web design effectively with meticulous planning. If you intend to use the services of web designers, ensure that you prepare well in advance and have an idea of what you would like to achieve. Exploring the intricacies and nuances of your business can assist a web designer in the conception of a fitting design, and also can ensure that you cost the project accurately from the start.

How to plan a website design project

  1. Create a buying persona for your target audience: Attempt to identify the likes, dislikes and buying habits of your potential customers. Designing with a specific user and human behaviour in mind will create a more interactive and successful website
  2. Map out your user journey: Create a simple sitemap based around how you hope visitors will navigate around the site, and the information they will take with them when they leave
  3. Create an objective for each page: By clearly mapping the content and intention for each page, you can form links and make a logical journey through your website.
  4. Delve into detail: Wireframe your ideas or take a look at your web designers initial idea, the identify specific designs and components for your site. This can be done on pen and paper, presentation tools such as Microsoft Powerpoint or a specific wireframing tool such as Balsamiq

Creative briefing
Once the user journey is clearly mapped out, the next focus should be on the look and feel of your site. Attempt to convey your brand values through aesthetics and colour schemes that will make your site instantly recognisable. Look to other sites selling similar products or services for inspiration.

The device your users will use to view your site is becoming an ever increasing consideration, as you may have to make significant changes for viewing on a tablet or smartphone device. It is important to decide at an early stage whether your website is going to be a responsive design, capable of scaling up or down in size and content for various devices.

Despite fears that investing in a web design company can be a significant cost, Lenegan says that a high-quality online presence is essential for small companies. Adequate planning can ensure that the costs are kept as low as possible and are clearly defined from the outset.

“Investing in quality web design will go a long way. Plan it right, execute it right and it’ll be your hardest working salesperson, 24-7” says Lenegan.

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