The Ultimate Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklist
Web designing can be a complicated process, even for seasoned veterans. There are several things you need to keep in mind, and several bases that have to be touched before the design is called final. A website designer could be dealing simultaneously with several ends, from interacting with the client, to designing, coding, and testing. There are always a hundred little details to consider and keep track of, so it’s only natural if a few fall through the cracks.
To that end, it’s definitely worth your time to keep yourself organized. Read through this handy-dandy checklist to see how you can make it happen for yourself!
The first step to a successful design is planning. The website must meet the needs of the client, and be acceptable to the target demographic. Your web design checklist, of course starts with planning the website which, of course, includes acquiring data and information on the subject. The more data you have, the better you can plan.
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For an existing website, you can check metrics using tools like StatCounter or Google Analytics. Should it happen that these tools are not available, you can get metrics and demographic information from websites and tools like Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast Ranking. Several of these websites will also allow you to do competitor research so you can see the current trends, and set an appropriate plan for your design.
If you are designing a new website, you need to research and register a domain. This can usually be done through the host, but designers generally like to use one registrar for all their domains. Name, Namecheap, and 1 & 1 are domain name registrars you might want to consider.
The host you choose will also depend on the requirements of the website and the budget. While most designers prefer Linux, some would like Windows as the host. You also have to decide about choosing a shared host, VPS, or stand-alone server. Another consideration would be a managed or unmanaged host. Amazon Web Services is a popular choice for unmanaged hosting.
If your budget permits, you might also consider a content delivery network, or a CDN. Amazon, again is very well known for its cloud service, though there are several other competitors like MaxCDN and CloudFlare.
Your website layout forms the backbone of the website. It is easy to see how the appearance can have an immense effect on the performance of the website. Use the research and demographic information you obtained earlier to have a layout that best suits your needs.
Most designers start with a PSD, or a Photoshop document that forms the blueprint of the design. The layout will decide how your website finally looks, and how it handles various queries and functions. While Photoshop of course is the generally preferred method, you could choose other softwares like GIMP and even Dreamweaver to create a layout for your website.
A good layout should well exploit negative/white space. These do form important visual elements and need to be expressly dealt with.
Any website design should have a focus on the user, and the ease of use of the website, with easy access to important information. While the smaller details, like a search box or instance, can be optional, you might want one to make it easier for the visitor to find the desired information.
For a good user experience, the website must have an acceptable text to background contrast. If your website is using a background color, make sure the text is easily readable. In the same vein, use an appropriate font size and style. If the readers have to strain their eyes to read text, they most likely aren’t going to read it at all.
Having a custom 404 page looks way better than the generic warning used by browsers. Besides, a custom page will help your visitor navigate to a different part of your website, and might even help find what they were looking for.
Navigation is an important aspect of the design. Make sure navigation controls are easily accessible and users can move to desired pages. An HTML sitemap will help your visitors find the right page on the website, while an xml sitemap will help search engines index your website right.
Content as they say, is king. Your website design should present content in a way that is engaging to the visitor, and has information the visitor is looking for, and believe it or not, the typography plays an important part. Use the right font, keep the kerning right, and use spacing to your advantage.
And while you’re at it, check for consistency. For example, the website logo should appear at a consistent location throughout the website. An action on page should not change the alignment or presence of different elements on the page. Check your content for grammar and consistency of language, especially with regards to tense and usage. Additionally, stay mindful of the variations in language and styles; for example the differences between UK English vs US English can be quite glaring at certain points..
Also, make sure there is no test content on the website. If you’ve used hard coded links, remove them or change them to suitable hyperlinks. Any hyperlinks you use should be user friendly, or easily understood by the user.
Get the quality of your code right. Good coding must follow, and be up to the mark with industry standards and best practices. Make sure your code is clean, readable, and understandable. As good practice goes, this applies not just only to the person writing the code, but also someone else who wants to look at the code. Add comments to make your code easily understood, and keep it clean and well-formatted.
While modern browsers are often forgiving, you have to go the foolproof way and make sure the code you used is right and validates without an issue. Check if you have used the correct DOCTYPE, because an incorrect doctype will interfere with the validation of your code. Validate your XHTML and CSS, to ensure your code is up to standards, and your webpage will be functional even if the style document or stylesheet fails to load.
A well maintained DOM tree will make your visits to the code easier, and make your page perform better. Useless div elements will often result in a bloated CSS which results in negative effects on page performance. A well maintained Document Object Module will help make the code simpler, and the website more streamlined.
Search Engine Optimization
Don’t knock it before you try it, because SEO isn’t dead and it’s nowhere close to dying. SEO, or search engine optimization goes a long way towards helping a website achieve its business goals. You would want the website to show up higher in search results, and optimization is the way to go. As already discussed, good coding, low load times, and an XML sitemap will help your website with SEO, but there’s a lot more to SEO than that.
To keep things in check, set up your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to get a quick look at how these search engines see your website.
Check to see whether the target keywords appear in relevant spaces and all the on-page elements like your Meta-data and header tags are placed appropriately. If you need to direct the path of search engine crawlers more specifically, you can set up rules in the robots.txt file of your webpage.
Configure Google Analytics, Feedburner, Webmaster Tools, or any other software to see the effectiveness of the campaign.
Browser and Device Checks
Responsive is the name of the game. Actually, it’s been the name of the game for a while now, right along with “seamless UX”. Considering the wide variety of browsers and systems in use, a browser check before your site goes live is imminent. Different browsers will display a change or variation in elements on the page. Check if your website displays correctly in browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
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When it comes to IE, you will most likely have to add extra checks and code. See if you do have compatibility code for IE, and its previous versions included. If you are using a responsive design, check if it handles the change in screen size gracefully.
You will also need to check if the visual elements on your page are optimized for retina display, as they will have a big impact on all Apple devices. We hope you’ve found this checklist useful, especially if you’ve been bouncing around in the dark to figure out a plan for getting started. We can understand how tedious it might be to get organized before the work begins, but take our word for it, an ounce of prevention is always better. Take a look at our web design portfolio to see the work we’ve done and let us know if we can help you in any way!
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