How To Build A Killer Web Design Workflow

/ 11 min read
Grace Lau

When designing a website, it’s important to prioritize your clients' needs. As a web designer, your job is to deliver a website that meets your clients specific goals. In order to do your job effectively, it’s important to find a consistent, reliable way to create unique web pages on time and leave your clients happy.

When designing a great website for your client, it's important to have a way to communicate with your client and your team throughout the design and creation phase. Building a great web design workflow can help you stay organized, and keep everyone on the same page throughout the process.

What Is Web Design Workflow?

A web design workflow is a set of processes completed by a web designer to create a new website. Your workflow should cover each design phase, from web development to graphic design to new content.

This is especially important for when you have multiple teams or freelancers working on a web design project, as there will inevitably be some discrepancies in the design as you loop in more people.

Your web design workflow should streamline the entire process of building a website. When you have a plan of attack, it’s less likely that inevitable hurdles will totally derail you.

Done correctly, your workflow will map each design stage of a website. This covers initial planning, project management, planning your site structure, and beyond. Your workflow will help you and your development team to anticipate potential setbacks and produce a more unified vision.

Your web design workflow also illustrates to a client that you have a clear plan that matches their unique vision. This will help your client trust you, and help you complete your work in an efficient manner.  

The Phases of a Web Design Workflow

Although every project will be different, there are three fundamental phases of every web design workflow.

1. The Planning Phase:

  • Before any work can begin, you need a clear path that matches your client’s goals and objectives.
  • Taking care to communicate and be thorough in the planning phase will save you headaches throughout the rest of the process.

2. The Implementation Phase:

  • This is when you start enacting your client’s vision by actually building the site and starting the content creation process

3. The Launch Phase:

  • During this final stage, you’ll carry out thorough testing, ensuring that the new website runs smoothly with no errors. Once the website is live, you’ll continue to carry out further improvements to ensure the best possible user experience.  

Preparation is key

Before you can begin any stages of website development design, it’s important that you and your client are on the same page. You can use computer telephone integration to help maintain strong communication with the team and with your client, no matter where you are.

With 85% of B2B users saying the experience they have with a brand is just as important as the quality of its products, it’s important that you place brand identity at the center of your design.

The first meeting with a client is one of the earliest and most important steps in your web design workflow. During your first meeting with the client, be sure to have a clear set of questions prepared. These might look something like:

  • What is your budget?
  • What are your goals for growing your business? How do you want your website to play into that?
  • What is your target audience for this website?
  • When would you like your website completed?
  • Why (if applicable) does your existing website need a redesign?

It’s also important to discuss timeframes and general expectations at this stage in the process. By asking the right questions, you will be setting off on the right path to designing a high-quality website that meets your client’s needs. From here, you can start mapping out your wider workflow, and get started designing the website.

Do your research

Research is one of the most fundamental parts of designing a website, and a great designer will never cut corners on this step. Whether you're creating a site for a dog washer or a tech startup, you’ll need to understand the market in order to create a design that satisfies your client.

When you’re diving into research for a particular project, you might want to ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the target market of my client?
  • What kind of front-end visuals will best appeal to that audience demographic?
  • Do I have a good understanding of the kinds of products/services that my client provides?
  • How are successful competitor sites structured in regards to user interface?
  • If my client is running an ecommerce site, do I have a good understanding of their digital marketing strategy?
  • What are the best development tools to help me and my teams complete this project?

Once you know what your client does, you’ll be better suited to create a site that’s tailored to their specific brand and marketing needs.  

Create a mock-up of your site

From the earliest stages of the development process, you should have a clear plan of your site’s structure. Creating a mock-up site is a great way to get organized and offer your client a sense of the website before you get to building it. Whether you're using mood boards, style guides, or look books, making a sitemap and a wireframe should be a part of your web design workflow.  

💡 Tip: When building your mock-up website, it’s a good idea to start with your homepage before moving onto the main pages and subpages.

Make a sitemap

A sitemap is a visual aid that shows you how many pages will be available on a given website, and what the pages are called. You can think of it like a bird’s eye view of your website. Your sitemap should show how different web pages interlink and how a user will navigate from one page to another.

A site plan keeps you and your client on the same page, and gives you both a sense of how the website will work when it’s completed. Using your site-map, your client can provide feedback before you even get started building the site, which saves everyone a headache at the end of the day.

Create a wireframe

Once your site map has been created, you can start wire framing. A wireframe is visual aid used to represent the functional aspects of a website. It should be more detailed than your site-map. It demonstrates the key features that will be included on each page.

When completed, your wireframe and sitemap can be used to show a client the different pages of their website before you complete them. If a client takes issue with the functionality of your design, it can be quickly altered at this stage. This helps to save a substantial amount of time and money that would be wasted altering things at a later date.

A wireframe is like the key for a map— without proper documentation, you risk inconsistent design.

While making your sitemap and wireframe, make sure that you take thorough notes and document how you’re structuring the sitemap and wireframe.

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Learn to Manage Expectations

Even if your sitemap and wireframe are flawless, your design will never be a mirror image of what a client has in their head. There may be some features that are simply undeliverable due to budget, technological limitations, or the scope of the project.

The goal for you and your team is to get your deliverables as close as possible to the vision of the client. To avoid frustrations on either end, try to manage your expectations and the expectations of your client by giving them a clear view of what is and is not possible from the start.

Provide demos as you progress with the build so that they can share any concerns they might have during the process. When a certain aspect of their vision isn’t viable, try to work on finding an alternative rather than getting bogged down in the impossibilities.

Building Your Website

Once you’ve completed the planning process and developed your sitemap and wireframe, you’re ready for the next step in your web design workflow: actually building your website. First, you’ll need to figure out which content management system will host that website.

Choose the right content management system

A content management system is the site you use to host your new website, and what allows you to create and manage the content of your site. Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is an essential part of your website design workflow.

WordPress' homepageImage Source: Wordpress

WordPress and Webflow are common CMS tools, but there are plenty of alternatives. If you're looking to create beautiful, feature-rich one page websites with limitless integration and customization potential, Paperform's easy to use interface might be the perfect tool for you.

Your client may request a specific CMS, but if not, you should consider which option best fits your project. Things to consider when looking at a CMS include:

  • Its design capabilities (like customization options or social media integrations)
  • Whether you have the technical knowledge to operate it.
  • Its ability to be scaled up or down
  • What kind of coding language it supports (like CSS or HTML)

Once you’ve designed several websites, you’ll likely have a go-to CMS to use, making this part of your workflow even easier. Wherever you’re at in the process, once you and the client agree on your CMS, you can get started on building a great website.

Be Ready for Sudden Change

Although we all hope our projects will run smoothly, it’s natural to hit bumps in the road. When you find yourself faced with sudden changes or unforeseen issues in your web design process, you can avoid panic by having a contingency plan in place as part of your workflow.

It's a good idea to build in extra time to deal with sudden changes into your workflow, and lay out best practices for how to deal with them. This might mean plotting out who on your team is best suited to solve which kind of issues. You may not reach out to the same expert for marketing advice as you would for a coding issue.

If the issue at hand takes longer than you expect, be sure to communicate that to your client. This is especially important when collaborating remotely. Speaking clearly with your team will keep everyone calm when problems arise, and your client will be more likely to trust you once they know your plan for solving the issue.

Create Good Quality Content

The meat of a great website is the content you create. Your content includes written copy and all other non-design elements of a website. When creating content as a team, it can be helpful to use collaborative software like Google Docs.

This helps with managing remote employees by ensuring that each member of your team is kept in the loop in real time.

You should also bear in mind the importance of SEO. With 61% of marketers saying that improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority, your client will thank you for considering SEO when designing their site.

You can improve your SEO marketing by taking time to research important keywords that relate to your client’s business and can help increase their website conversion rate.

Design Stunning Visuals

If you’re working by yourself, creating the visual design of a website might be a time consuming but essential part of your web design workflow. You can create visuals or logos from scratch, or you can use online tools like Photoshop or Adobe Creative Cloud.

Better yet, you could try Paperform's brand new image editor which allows you to import, edit, and optimize your photos in any of your Paperform creations, all without leaving the editor. However you create visuals for the site, make sure you involve your client in the process.

When assigning creative tasks to your web design team, consider their unique skills. Is there a member that visually inclined? Someone with graphic design experience? You could assign them to focus on logo creation.

By working with the different skill sets of your team, you’ll create more effective visuals, more efficiently.

Use high-quality communication tools to ensure that each member of your team is clear about their task. If you are the project manager, it’s important to be well-attuned to each of your individual team members’ skills in order to make this part of the workflow effortless.

Test, Test, Test!

Once you and your client are happy with the look and functionality of your website, it’s time to test it out before launching the final product. You don’t want the site to go live, only to find that there are issues with aspects of the site’s design.

When testing your site, be sure to take a wide view and consider all aspects of your website, from the style to the page layout to the functionality. Here are several areas that you should examine and re-examine before launching your site:

  • Check interactive elements: This includes videos, broken links, registration forms, and other forms of interactivity on the website. If you can’t click on your drop down menus, your site won’t be of much use to anyone.
  • Proofread site content: Have you checked all the non visual elements of your site? Is your copy well-written and free from typos or grammatical errors? Is all of your content featured on the correct pages?
  • Optimize for SEO: Take care to make sure that your SEO settings have been integrated correctly, including your site map and meta tags. The goal is to make your site super friendly to your intended search engine.
  • Ensure your site is mobile responsive: Mobile usage accounts for 54.8% of global web traffic. If your site is unresponsive on a mobile device, it’s usability goes way down.

If you bump into any issues, work with your team and your client to solve them before testing again. Testing should be an ongoing process to make sure your site continues to run smoothly.  Even once the website is launched, it’s a good idea to have follow up tests planned as part of your web design workflow.

Over to You

Having a great web design workflow will take you from being a good designer to a great one. It outlines the steps you and your team will need to follow in order to complete a project. With each assignment in web design being so unique, it’s important to have a workflow that is thorough, adaptable, and works for you.

Once you’ve made your web design workflow, you’ll be able to communicate clearly with your client and team, making it easier than ever to give the outstanding results you're looking for.

This guest post was written by Grace Lau, the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad.


About the author
Grace Lau
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered enterprise phone system and communication platform for better and easier team collaboration.

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