We're going to build you a great website

Posted by Emma Hughes on 05 December 2016

Do you believe me?

Not yet? Fair enough.

It's an unfortunate trap that many agencies, including ourselves, fall into at times.  As a client at a sales presentation, you are often expected to trust that because an agency has brilliant people on their team and have done other sites that are successful, they’ll also be able to create something for you that is spot on.  On a high level it makes sense.

More often, however, we find clients want more and they’re right to do so.  They want further assurance that we are the right people to not only build their solution, but also the ones they can trust to take their precious brand and create something amazing with it.  This is when we need to inspire confidence with more than just examples and explain our structured, deliberate and justified approach to design.  We could throw some more glitter over the members of our team and hope that they seem shinier, but that’s not cute.


Aren't we sparkly?


Seriously though, we don’t rely on strokes of genius to get by and our expertise comes backed up with something solid – a process which includes you every step of the way.  After all, that is one of the core values of our new brand – Us, as a collective, collaborative unit. 

If you have spent some time on our website or worked with us before then you may be aware of our customer first approach.  We use a four step methodology process named InSite™ which has been carefully crafted to help guide our clients through each stage of a web project with Us.  The step that I am mostly involved with is the Prototyping (or design) stage – where we take a client through from branding and early concepts to an HTML prototype of their new website, ready to be implemented.

Research

Let’s take a step back, first.  The research phase of your project is an extremely important one and will define the landscape that we have to work with when it comes to design and prototyping.  It will decide not only the obvious, such as a sitemap but also identify key audiences, personas and what devices they will be accessing your site from.  These outputs help us draw conclusions about how best to optimise your responsive solution in terms of layout and presentation, and to ensure that we are considering your users as a priority above all else.

Style guides

Prototyping starts with collecting things.  Branding and marketing material is a great place to begin, but we need more than just existing collateral to make sure that what we’re designing is going to work the best for you and your users.  We’ll give you a questionnaire to fill out which asks questions of not just your own preferences when it comes to look and feel, but also about your competitors and other sites in your specific industry.  Your answers to this will be reviewed and combined with your brand and further research to inform a style guide for the website – a representation, free from context, of the visual language of your solution.  This will come in the form of a collection of individual site elements such as buttons, forms, photography, colours, and text which will then be collaborated on with you so that we get the look and feel right before starting on layouts.

Wireframing

Wireframing with Us begins on pen and paper.  We used to use software and spend time drawing them up separately, but as our philosophy has changed to a more collaborative approach we have dropped this idea in favour of getting practical with you in a workshop environment (usually a room somewhere with plenty of caffeine and biscuits).

Once we’ve defined what needs to be on the homepage we can start drawing layouts for you then and there – and if we don’t like something we’ve come up with then it’s as easy as screwing it up and starting over again. 

Prototypes

Once layouts are agreed we can then take our drawings away and combine those with the style guide in order to create our first set of prototypes, which are HTML designs that we publish online.  Gone are the days of static comps – we’ve adopted this approach so that you’ll be able to not just see your designs but experience them in the browser, on all devices. 

As the homepage is taking shape the rest of the site will quickly follow suit.  Design informs design and will have a snowball effect; as more and more visual elements are agreed, the pages will start building themselves and you’ll soon find you have a full set of working prototypes to show off to your stakeholders.  We’ll also work closely with the development team as we go to ensure that the presentation of any element on the site remains congruent with how it functions to eliminate clunkiness and ensure a smooth ride for all of your site visitors.

Hopefully this goes some way toward explaining how the design phase of a project with Us works.  As you can see, we have a structured and deliberate approach to everything we do in this phase, all the while ensuring that you are happy that what we are creating meets your requirements every step of the way.  We understand the importance of branding and will protect your visual identity as if it were our own throughout the project and include you in all decisions - big or small -  which will result in you being as invested and excited about the design of your new web project as we are, but most of all confident that you’ve chosen the right partner.

Emma Hughes

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