My Web Design Process

My Web Design Process

When I first started out as a web designer (not very long ago, mind you) one of the things I was most frustrated with was not being able to do anything. I took online courses that taught me about coding and about color theory and whether you should include sandwich icons in your responsible nav menu, but I didn’t know what a web design process for a project really looked like. I had no idea where to start or what marked completion.

I ended up getting an entry-level job at an agency and I learned a ton about how to and how not to run a web design project and what a bad web design process looked like. The most important thing is to keep your web design process fluid and flexible for each client. Everyone is different and each project flows in its own way. However, you need to figure out some critical checkpoints in your system to cover all your bases and keep your system intact.

For everyone out there who is just starting out, or maybe you’re building a quick Squarespace website and you don’t know where to begin, take a look at my web design process.

Information Phase

This is the beginning. The first thing you’d want to do is submit a proposal in writing of the project. This gives the client an idea of what they will be getting for the amount of money you’re asking. You can spend this time tweaking expectations, services, and pricing as you both see fit. Once you agree on the proposal, get your contract signed, send your invoice, and receive your deposit. You should never start working until you get your deposit!

If you’re designing on your own, write yourself a proposal that includes everything you’ll need to include on the site and how much you’ll need to spend. (Remember to include the price of domain names, hosting, email automation, etc.)

Send a welcome email to your client and anyone else on the team. Explain what the expectations are, the best ways to contact you and when, and any other information you need to share. This is a good opportunity to share any forms of questionnaires you need them to fill out to help you start designing. Also in the welcome email, you can schedule a kick-off meeting to go over the questionnaire and answer any questions on either side. You also need to collect e-commerce information and SEO requirements here.

On your end, you should take this time to schedule any payment reminders and checkpoints for the project. Once you get your questionnaire back and have your questions answered, you’re ready to go!

Pre-Build Design Phase

The next phase is, in my opinion, the most fun. This is where you take the information your client gave you and translate it into something real.

The first thing I do is build a sitemap of each page on the site, which pages are nested inside other pages, etc. From that, create a black and white wireframe of each of the site pages. You’ll want to get this approved before moving on. You can use the wireframe to request content. With a specific idea of how much content you need and where, you can provide your client with a list on what type of page copy you need on each page, how many photos you need, etc.

I like to provide my clients with a document or link to an article on how to write good page copy and SEO best practices for content. I don’t always send the same one; do some research and find some resources you like, especially if you’re writing the content yourself.

Now I come up with a color palette that matches the client’s needs and wants. I’ll build a mockup of the website from the wireframe and include the colors from the palette. I’ll get this approved by the client before moving on to the next phase.

I will purchase hosting and the domain name and set up my environment. I use WordPress and host on GoDaddy, so this is the time where I create a development database, install WordPress and install my theme. Tip: If you are using WordPress, make sure you discourage search engines from indexing the site!

Build Phase

This is most people’s favorite part. Build each page according to how you had them mapped out in the mockup. Upload and insert your content, proofread everything, add your logos and favicon, and design your blog layout. This is probably the most straightforward phase but can take the longest amount of time depending on the size of the site.

E-Commerce Phase

If you are building a site that has to have e-commerce capabilities, now is the time to integrate it. Make sure you create a Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy page. Add and organize any products, add e-commerce permissions and integrations, and test the ordering payments. If you are using automation tools, you’ll want to work them in here. Tip: If your site is entirely e-commerce, you should merge this phase and the previous phase together. 

Since I use WordPress, I use Woocommerce integrated with PayPal for my e-commerce sites. I highly recommend it as it flows in seamlessly with the rest of the site and is easy to teach clients to use.

SEO Integration Phase

You should be thinking about SEO the entire way. But if you’re just getting used to using SEO, you can go back near the end and double check that you’ve got everything down. Instead of going into full detail here about on-page SEO best practices, check out my blog post on improving your on-page SEO in an afternoon.

Post-Design Steps and Testing

Make sure that before you move on to this phase, you get the overal design appoved by the client. Let them know that you’ve not done any testing yet. It doesn’t make sense to test and perfect everything if the client will want you to make big changes anyway.

Spend this time to add all the final touches. Add social media integrations and feeds. Test all your forms, test all the links (yes, manually go in and click on everything), and test the site on every machine and browser that you can. Fix any discrepancies or broken elements. Get friends and family to test for you to make sure the user experience on the site is flawles. You can use a site like Heap to analyze how testers use and interact with the site – and it’s free!

You’re almost done!

Post-Launch

The site is live! Traffic is flowing in! Your web design workflow was a success, but it’s not over!  Schedule a training session where you can teach your client how to use their new website. Link them to any other services you provide that they might be able to use. Then, schedule a 1 month follow up call and a 6 month follow up call. There’s no better feeling than hearing your client say “I’m so glad you called! I love the site but I want to add something… can you do that?”

I advise you to test a third time after training before sending an invoice. You never want a client to reply to an invoice by saying “the site isn’t even working right!” Once you’re paid and everything is roses, add their site to your portfolio and your social media. Brag about all the hard work you’ve done and how great it turned out![/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][vc_column_text]

Build Your Own Web Design Workflow

No one process is THE BEST. But you can look at this web design workflow and make tweaks to fit your needs, your own clients, and your own preferences.

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Which is Better: WordPress or Squarespace?

Which is Better: WordPress or Squarespace?

As a web designer, I have been asked this question thousands of times: When it comes to building a website, WordPress or Squarespace? I’ve never been able to come up with a really convincing answer. My personal preference is not convincing enough to someone who is about to put some serious cash into a new website. To me, it’s like the difference between buying something at Target or Walmart; you may pay less at Walmart for a similar item, but the shopping experience and quality of the item you buy is pretty much guaranteed to be better at Target.

That’s not to say I never shop at Walmart. If I need toilet paper or milk, it’s my go-to. But if I’m shopping for shoes, bedding, housewares, stationary… you can bet I’m going to clear an afternoon to spend at Target.

It’s the same thing with websites. Having a quick-fix website can do you more harm than good. Squarespace websites may look nice on the outside and be easier to use. But if you need a website that grows with your business and allows you to elevate beyond the norm, WordPress is the only real solution.

However, don’t just take my word for it. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t even used Squarespace very much. I’ve never built a full website with it. I just know, from research and experience, how powerful WordPress is and how Squarespace doesn’t compare. But, to offer a fully formed argument, I asked some friends and even some strangers in the industry to compare WordPress or Squarespace.

I conducted an interview with my friend and Squarespace user, Jill Wejman, of jillchristinestudio.com. I asked her WordPress or Squarepsace – which is better?

 

Me: Why would you choose Squarespace over WordPress for a project?

Jill: As a graphic designer, I quickly realized that the Internet was a growing place and I needed to learn code and web design and development fast. I spent most of my career in two design fields; weddings and websites but not together. Recently, I have transitioned to mainly weddings and I needed a website quickly. I decided to give Squarespace another try. Yes, another. I hated it the first go around so I quickly gave up and dove back into WordPress. This time was a little different. I decided to design in Squarespace using one of their templates. Of course, I wanted it to do things the template wasn’t set up to do so I added some code. There are places to inject code, which is a nice feature. I also wanted it to be mobile friendly and have a commerce feature to be added later. Squarespace seemed like an easy answer. It is easy but designing it was nothing short of easy. It may have been my knowledge of WordPress but Squarespace definitely didn’t do what I wanted it to do easily. I love my Squarespace website now that it’s live but I’m noticing the difference in SEO.

Me: What are 3 things you prefer about Squarespace that you can’t get with WordPress?

Jill: For my floral and stationery design company, I wanted a website that I didn’t have to think about maintaining every time there was a new update. Each time I updated a WordPress website, I held my breath hoping nothing broke on the user end. Oftentimes, I would have to go fix something because the new update didn’t communicate with the theme or plugin. I was also burned out from designing websites so I thought I’d give Squarespace a try. There are 30 beautiful, up-to-date Squarespace templates to utilize and countless WordPress templates; some that are great and some that are terrible. It’s nice to know you’re not spending money on templates (if you don’t build your own) and then not like it or find out it has bad code, etc. With Squarespace, you can switch at anytime and it doesn’t cost you. You can purchase a domain, email service through Google Apps, hosting, and everything you possibly need to run a website all in one place with Squarespace. With WordPress, it’s all on your own and can be overwhelming to figure out how to install it.

Me: What are 3 things you would improve about Squarespace? Anything you absolutely hate?

Jill: Oftentimes, when trying to resize or move text or a photo, it won’t go where I want it to go. It becomes incredibly frustrating. Having the ability to resize an image on the page as if it were an Adobe Illustrator art board would be a nice way to build or update a website, except I find that it is more frustrating than helpful. I don’t like that I can almost always pick out a Squarespace website. For the most part, we’re all using the same 30 templates so they get used many times over. They are beautiful as stated above but it’s important to make them your own. I wish I could take my Squarespace website and move it to a hosting company of my choice. If Squarespace decides to close their doors tomorrow, I am out a website and if I haven’t backed it up, all of my content and images are gone, too. That is a nightmare! With WordPress, if your hosting company closes their doors, you take your backup and go to the next hosting company.

Me: What are 3 things you would say are pretty much the same about both?

Jill: Squarespace utilizes a template and the WordPress uses a theme but ultimately it’s the same thing. They’re both blog and e-commerce friendly. With either choice, you’ll have a website on launch day!

Me: Which is easier to use – WordPress or Squarespace? Why?

Jill: If you’re not a designer or developer, I think Squarespace is easier to get your website up and running but WordPress is easier to use once it’s built. I prefer WordPress content management over Squarespace. I believe it’s more intuitive. Squarespace has a really good support team and frequently asked question’s section on their website. With WordPress, you’re flying solo…unless you search google and find some reliable WordPress forums or groups.

Me: Which is more powerful?

Jill: Without a doubt, WordPress is more powerful.

Me: Why do you say that?

Jill: You can ultimately do anything you want your website to do with the right amount of code, plugins, and the right choice of hosting.

Me: Which do you think is better for driving sales?

Jill: WordPress is open source, which is better for search engine optimization (SEO). Ultimately, it makes it better at driving sales. If you are creating a shop, you have to use a plugin for WordPress. Woo Commerce is a powerful choice. Its important to read the reviews on the plugins before purchasing, if required, or installing.

Me: I agree! Is WordPress or Squarespace better for blogging? Why?

Jill: WordPress. Again, the SEO is key in blogging. I also think it’s easier to add new posts using WordPress. I prefer the media library, too. You can edit your photos, add them to the library and go back to them later. It’s a nice feature and I like having all of my photos and documents that are on my website in one place.

Me: Do you have any little-known secrets or hacks for working with Squarespace you’d like to share?

Jill: If you’re trying to get your Squarespace website to do something specific, try googling for the code. You can use the inject code feature and if you have the correct code, it should work. It’s nice for making little tweaks. Create a cheat sheet for your hex codes (web colors). This will help when in the design menu.

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I was still curious to know what the world thought, so I took to one of my favorite Facebook groups and asked some of the members which they liked better…

 

Squarespace

Squarespace is much easier! The way I usually describe it is Squarespace is perfect for beginners! You can create a gorgeous, professional-looking site yourself. However, there are limitations so if you have an idea that requires a lot of customization/moving parts, WordPress might work better. The learning curve is much steeper though and you will likely need to hire out. – Louise Henry

For me, square space. I had and paid for WP for almost a year and honestly couldn’t understand it. I switched to SS and had my website up in 1 day. It depends on your level of expertise, the time you have, the money you have to invest. I’m perfectly happy with my SS website. – Tyler Justine Nitz

WordPress

WordPress all the way. Customization options, plugins and control. What if Squarespace shuts down one day? At least self-hosted WP is yours. But, some people really love Squarespace and say it depends on your needs. I personally don’t find it as user-friendly as everyone says. I log into it for a client’s blog and find WP easier, but maybe I’m just used to it. – Marlene Srdic

You can create whatever you want, you’re not limited, and if you’re into plugins, there are a ton of them at your beck and call. – Makeda Mutema-Newton

It Depends!

Depends on what your business is and what you need your site for. Squarespace is pretty & user-friendly. WordPress has great plugins & ideal for an active blog. […] I use both platforms […] and find that WordPress is a touch more intimidating initially. But with a little familiarizing, it’s not too bad! – Serena Waller

I love Squarespace but WordPress has a lot of more features/plugins/ customization capabilities! – Jas Deol

I use WordPress currently for my personal business (always have) and Squarespace for my non-profit. Squarespace is so much easier.  Wordpress is great if you have someone who knows how to customize your website or you yourself are really knowledgeable on its interface.  – Jaime Nicole Scott

As a designer, I love WordPress for customization. If you’re DIYing it, Squarespace. – Alyssa J. Gavinski

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So this is what I learned…

WordPress Benefits:

  • You get a uniquely designed site with the available themes. Given that there are only a few Squarespace templates, your site is recognizable as a Squarespace site.
  • The SEO features and benefits are noticeably more powerful.
  • Because of the SEO, WordPress is better for bloggers who rely on SEO for traffic.
  • E-Commerce and selling options are more powerful.
  • You can have more control over your site and your hosting since, if Squarespace goes down, your site will disappear.
  • Once the site is built, the WordPress backend tools are easier to use.
  • You can build more powerful and intuitive websites with plugins.

Squarespace Benefits:

  • You have access to free pre-made templates, and you can also inject code to customize further.
  • You don’t have to to worry about updating and maintaining plugins and themes.
  • With Squarespace, you can purchase domain, hosting, and everything else in one place. With WordPress, the process for setup is a lot more complicated.
  • The customer service and support for Squarespace has your back, whereas with WordPress, you’re on your own for troubleshooting.
  • There is no need to hire a developer to help you launch your site and you can DIY your site quickly.

 

Which one do you prefer? Leave it in the comments below!

 

3 Ways You Can Improve Website Traffic With Facebook

3 Ways You Can Improve Website Traffic With Facebook

Probably THE most common question, need, and concern for anyone marketing on the internet is – “How do I get more visits to my website?” You need traffic to convert, to make sales, to get sign ups, and to see that all the money you’ve put into your site, advertising, and more is actually worth it. The Holy Grail answer isn’t black and white. Each site, industry, and audience is different and to improve website traffic, you need to know your own content and audience well. What works to send traffic to a web designer’s website won’t necessarily work for sending traffic to a car aficionado website or a jewelry maker’s website.

HOWEVER. There are some things you can do to try and boost your traffic, no matter who you are. One of the best tools for increasing website traffic, and therefore revenue, is Facebook. It’s the single most popular social media site available. If you’re not convinced that Facebook is where you should start, maybe you like hard data? According to Zephoria.com

  • Worldwide, there are over 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users (Facebook MAUs) which is a 16 percent increase year over year.
  • 1.18 billion people log onto Facebook daily active users (Facebook DAU) for September 2016, which represents a 17% increase year over year.
  • There are 1.66 billion mobile active users (Mobile Facebook MAU) for September 2016.
  • In Europe, over 307 million people are on Facebook.
  • Five new profiles are created every second.
  • Average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes.
  • One in five page views in the United States occurs on Facebook.
  • 42% of marketers report that Facebook is critical or important to their business.

Now. That’s all well and good. But what does it mean for you?

It means that Facebook is where you should prioritize spending a lot of your marketing time, effort, and money. It means that Facebook is where your audience already IS, so it doesn’t make sense to ignore it. It means that if you want traffic, it will probably be easiest to get through Facebook.

I market my website mainly on Facebook and Instagram. I find Twitter is full of a lot of people who talk a big game and don’t act. Pinterest is a secondary avenue that is growing quickly, but I’ve found the easiest and fastest success on Facebook and Instagram. Right now, 66.7% of my website traffic comes from social media alone and 74% of THAT comes from Facebook. And I don’t even use paid advertising! Can you imagine how my traffic would skyrocket if I did?

Let’s get to the meat of the discussion, shall we? What are the BEST ways to improve your website traffic with Facebook? Like I said, results may differ depending on your business. (Which is why – sneak peek – I’m going to give you more than 3 ways. 😉 ) But let’s go over the ones I’ve found are the best at generating clicks.

Linked Images

I want to cry when I see amazing marketers posting on Facebook with a description, link, image … and the image isn’t clickable! I swear, it is one of my biggest pet peeves. We all love a big pretty image, but come on! If your goal is driving traffic, having a link in the text simply is not enough.

Many people won’t see it, for one. They’ll be looking at your big pretty image and may only skim your text.  Plus if your text is long, your link may disappear behind a Read More tag and no one will EVER see it.

If you make your image clickable, you are automatically increasing the surface area that leads to your website. Sure, the un-linked image might be bigger, but it’s not clickable so who cares? Not to mention the fact that on mobile, those tiny links are SO hard to click on. But an image is nice and big, easy for your thumb to tap.

If that isn’t convincing enough, linked images give more metadata so you can minimize your description and add descriptive info directly underneath the picture!

Secret tip #1: These posts are what you want to post most regularly. I post on Facebook at least once a day and more than half of my posts are in this format. Feel free to sprinkle in plain image posts here and there, but if you’re driving to up your traffic, they need a clickable area.

Secret tip #2: Also make sure that your landing page is optimized for that post. If you’re talking about a particular product or service, don’t send people to your homepage! Send them to the page on your site that goes into more detail about that product or service. That’s how you avoid high bounce rates. (i.e. People going to your site and leaving right away.)

Facebook Ads

I’m not going to say you HAVE to spend money to have a successful social media campaign. But it’s kind of like going to Disney and not riding Splash Mountain. You’re missing the main attraction. Facebook ads are easy enough to understand and use if you take an afternoon and a tall cup of coffee, read some great articles on improving Facebook ads, and try it out.

I learned how to run Facebook ads when I worked for an agency. They were a cornerstone of every social media campaign we did and our results would have been laughable without them. We budgeted $500 per ad per month. Some ads did great, some didn’t. The most important thing is to go out there and try. See what works for you!

Secret tip #3: Instead of trying to target everyone, it’s better to target the people who already appreciate your message and who are more likely to click on your ads. Remember – never say “my target audience is everyone!” That’s my second biggest pet peeve.

You may be thinking… But Allie, it stands to reason that if someone sees a post more times, they are more likely to click on it, right? Not necessarily. And sometimes, not at all. If you show a post about tampons to a 50-year-old man a thousand times, there is pretty much zero chance he will buy tampons. But if you show them to a 24-year-old woman, the chances of conversion go right up!  If you’re new to ads, this is a big lesson. If this is old news, it bears repeating!

Take a look at your Facebook Page Insights and make note of:

  • Who is engaging most – men or women?
  • What age group?
  • What locations?
  • What kinds of posts do they like best?

Pinned Posts

The people who actually visit your page are the ones who are most likely to convert.  They are so interested in what you have to say, they’ve clicked on your name to learn more. As soon as they arrive, they should be met with something that will make them realize “Heck yeah, I want to work with/buy from these people!” This is where you want to put those posts

This is where you want to put those posts that give your visitor no chance but to click! On Facebook Pages, you can Pin a post to the top of the Page. It will be the first post a visitor sees.

You want to choose posts that give information about who you are, that answers a question someone might have, or that offers some real value. Posts that benefit people who already work with you may not be the best posts to Pin as new visitors won’t really see much value in them. On average, my pinned posts have 25% more engagement and reach than my regular ones.

Secret tip #4: Measure and optimize everything. If you notice your pinned post is performing pretty well, let it sit for a few weeks and add a new one. Do an A/B test and figure out which performed better. You can do this with your ads, too. One will always perform better than the other. You can use that data to say… “Men clicked on ad A more, and women mostly clicked on ad B. If I’m targeting women, I should probably do something like ad B again.”

There you have it! SEVEN whole tips about driving traffic to your website from Facebook!