Steps to Take Before Designing a Website :

Us web designers… we like to jump right into the creative ball pit sometimes, and get right to the fun stuff in Photoshop & CSS. I know I’m guilty of it sometimes, and I bet you have been too in the past. It’s not the end of the world, but it really isn’t best practice for design – and if you’re a professional, you should be paying attention and adhering to best practices. That’s why there are a few steps you should take before designing a website.

Meet The Client

I’m a big proponent of meeting the client face-to-face at least once prior to beginning a project, when possible. There’s no better way to build trust with someone and figure out whether the two of you are a good match for a project than a face-to-face meeting. Here, you can make some small talk, learn about their business and goals, tell them about yours and more.

How do you can use this guide?

Using this guide is very easy. You can either work through it in a systematic way following the planning process

Who are the potential users of this site?

Be as specific as possible: general demographic, age range, income bracket, expected computer literacy, etc.

By which methods will the users arrive at the site?

 For example: organic keyword search; post-meeting with business owner; referral from friends; etc.

On what platforms will the users be using the site?

For example: desktop, tablet, laptop, smartphone?

What does the site need to accomplish (for each/every user group)?

 For example, provide easily searchable information; drive more sales; drive more sign-ups; etc.

Are there specific functions required?

For example, submission forms; e-commerce; blogging; etc. Provide a range of possibilities to your client based on the answer to the previous question.

Do you require statistics tracking?

We generally always have this in place for our clients.

Needs Assessment/Site Requirements

The needs assessment is a vital step in the beginning stages of a website design project. It identifies user groups, their needs, and the company’s goals and adapts this information to a requirement list for the site. It provides a logical backbone to design off of and will allow you, down the road, to design to meet those outlined goals and requirements.

Some design firms have clients fill out an online form or a questionnaire of some sort, on their own time, to gather this information. While this will save you time, we prefer to gather this information through an informal face-to-face meeting (usually the initial meeting, outlined above). The reason for this? Defining a list of users, the methods in which they’ll find the site, the options you want to present to them etc. are all very industry-specific skills. It’s entirely possible your client – say, a mom-and-pop restaurant for example – will have no idea how to accurately answer these questions.


The needs assessment/site requirements list allows you to go off and write up a proposal for your client. This proposal is a document that outlines all the information required for the project. Our proposals include the following sections:

  • Client Name
  • Client Needs (outlining what was described in the needs assessment; can contain both high-level and specific requirements)
  • Recommended Solution (how you plan on meeting all the previously described needs, e.g. if the client needs a CMS-powered site, you’re going to build the site on WordPress)
  • Project Phases (this explains the project workflow to the client, so they know exactly what to expect. Suggested phases: Needs Assessment, Content/ Research/ Wireframing, Design, Development, Testing, Launch & Training)
  • Fee Summary (a breakdown of the costs for the project)
  • Next Steps (a clear action for the recipient of the proposal to take if they want to move forward)