This article is another addition in our free advice for people who want to get involved in website design. Here, we’ll talk about how to design a website. We’ll discuss each step that goes into the design process, and include a few pro tips for each step.
Of course, there’s no substitute for the years of professional experience that went behind this article – so we can’t turn you into an overnight success. However, if you’re on your way to learning the web design trade, this article will give you a solid foundation for the work practices we use every day in this industry.
So, let’s jump straight into how to design a website!
Step 1: Plan the Structure
This is the boring part for a visual designer, but it’s really necessary to do the site’s structural planning before you start to work on per-page layouts.
If you skip this step and start deciding how to design a website’s individual pages first, you’ll find yourself going back later to squeeze in things you forgot – and your designs will be ruined in no-time.
Designing the site’s structure means figuring out not only its sections and navigation paths, but also the varieties of page layout you’ll need. Will there be…
- all-video pages?
- Magazine-style feature layouts?
- Simple article pages?
- Section or topic introductions?
- Readers’ guide pages?
There are a lot of different whole-page elements that can go into any given website project.
Figure out not only the variety of content and the rough number of links you’ll need in every page’s navigation scheme – which is also an important part of this step – but also spend time deciding how many different styles of layout that navigation needs to fit into.
This planning step alone will save you tons of hassle later as you decide how to design elements such as the must-click features, the navigation scheme itself, where related content should go, where search and login forms should go, and so forth.
Step 2: Sketch the Layouts
Today, most of us know that two or three columns is the absolute maximum. Many computer displays can’t fit even a third column, unless you squeeze things down so narrow that each column becomes a cramped, useless presence with no purpose.
When deciding how to design a specific website or page, it’s all about that page’s purpose. Is it a splash page, or an introduction to a topic? If so, a single column with a huge header section is often best. This draws the attention and helps the visitor’s mind relax its way into the content.
Is it an article or some other page that features a single mass of text and other content? Go with two columns – one for content, one for navigation and/or sidebars and related information. If the bulk of content supports using only a single column, even better – but site-wide consistency is important, and single-column layouts can be bland, especially if each page is relatively lite on core content.
Section landing pages are really the only place where you want to use three-column layouts, and normally, only select portions of a section homepage should have three columns. Otherwise, you won’t be able to reserve featured-content spaces that are wider than a three-column layout will allow.
Bottom line: each page’s purpose is the sole deciding factor in how to design each page of a website.
Continue to part two of this article, “Internet Website Design,” where we discuss more key steps in how to design your website project for minimum development headaches, a smoother work flow, and maximum creative freedom.