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Over the years, we’ve worked with many different types of businesses. From sole traders and small business owners working on their very first website, to large businesses with equally large resources to allocate to their latest website redesign. 

Many clients, especially those new to the world of web development, apologise for their lack of understanding and experience. However, it’s not just website novices that struggle with the process of web preparation and planning. So, let’s look at some easy ways to identify (and solidify your thoughts on) how you want your website to look and feel —and in doing so, save yourself unnecessary costs and a whole lot of headaches.

Web design preparation

“What will my website look like?” This is what most clients think about first.  That’s easy. Your ultimate website design, it’s look and feel, will reflect your web design brief. But, how good is your design brief?  What should you even communicate? How can you put thoughts into words? It's confusing, isn't it? 

How to get started

Create two Pinterest Boards (or mood boards)

Build them gradually or sit down and tackle them in one caffeine-fuelled session.

  • Your DESIGN mood board is going to:
    • Heighten your awareness and encourage you to think carefully about what you like and why.
    • Create a clear visual of the website elements you like (which quickly determines what you don’t like).
    • Keep you on track by developing a consistent look and theme.
    • Provide a clear, concise visual that can be shared with your web designer.
  • Your WEBSITE mood board is going to:
    • Collate screenshots of websites you like, in one place, and side-by-side for easy comparison.
    • Build a clear, concise visual of other websites that appeal to you, that again, can be shared with your web designer.

This web preparation process is invaluable. We can’t stress it enough. Over time, you’ll begin to recognise consistencies in the elements and websites you’ve added to your boards. Importantly, you’ll instantly recognise what looks out of place. By gradually eliminating them you’ll get a clear picture of what you want – and a much stronger brief for your website designer. 

Before we dig deeper, some words of advice: 

  • Be aware of your competitors but avoid replicating their websites. It’s easy to do.
  • Don’t be distracted into a research frenzy. This is supposed to be a high-level, easy task.
  • Don’t overthink what you add to your mood boards. If you like something, just add it to the relevant board and move on. (At this stage, you’re not trying to evaluate what’s appropriate and what’s not.) 

Consider these two key design details 

1. Colour

If your branding is sorted and ready-to go, it’s easier— but not necessarily straightforward. For example, your branding may consist of one colour and need a complementary colour to bring your website to life. Or, you may have no idea where to start (which is common too). Don’t worry, your web designer will help to explain aspects of colour theory but having insights into your colour preferences provide a great starting point.

You can source inspiration about colour palettes from sites like Colour Lovers

Design magazines and sites can be handy too. (Avoid falling into the trap of choosing on-trend colour palettes that may fade as quickly as the fashion that brought them.)  Add any images that you like to your Design mood board. 

2. Fonts and typography

We won’t bore you with fonts and typography (or the difference between the two), that’s our job. As our clients usually talk in terms ‘font’ (because that’s what they see on their laptops), that’s what we’ll call it here. What is helpful though, is to get an idea of which fonts or style of font, you like. Once your web designer knows what you like, it’s easier to find out why you like it and interpret it into something that works for you, your business and your brand.

The process is the same as before. Check out websites, magazines and so on and add anything that tickles your fancy to your Design mood board.  Our advice is to avoid being drawn into too much detail, like digging into Google Fonts and playing with font pairings. Just look at ‘the whole’, meaning fonts in situ, on a page as part of a bigger picture. Remember, you’re just building a general overview of what you like. 

What now?

You’ll know you have enough elements on your mood boards when you see a clear picture emerge. Some of your images will start to look out of place. At this stage, you can remove them yourself or work with your web designer and eliminate them together. 

Web functionality preparation

Now onto the next step. How do you need your website to work (or function)? This can be challenging but easier if you:

1. Think from your customer/client’s perspective

  • What do you want your clients to do?
  • ​How should they be able to do it? 
  • Do you know of other websites do it well? 
  • How? Why? In what way? 

2. Think from your admin perspective

  • What resources do you have to manage your site?
  • Who will maintain it? 
  • How experienced are they? 

3. Think from a business perspective

  • What are your short and long-term business goals?
  • What information would you like to collect and why? 

Your web developers will partner with you to determine exactly what you want and need from your new website, as well as how it should look. Thinking about website functionality may be baffling but your developers should listen carefully and share their expertise in plain, simple language. 

Why web preparation and planning is so important

Doing a little homework prior to briefing your web developers can save you time, money and undue stress. Why? Because uncertainty causes delays, confusion and unnecessary U-turns. 

The mood board approach quickly gets everyone on the same page, in a way that even the most carefully worded descriptions can’t.  It also helps you clarify what you do and don’t like by ironing out inconsistencies in your own thoughts and ideas before you officially start your project. 

Developing your new website should be fun and rewarding — but from what we hear, that’s not always the case. 

Take it from us, we’ve designed and developed many websites, from the strikingly simple to the creative and complex… and a little pre-planning and prep is worth its weight in gold. Try it and see.

Digital Bridge designs, develops and manages powerful websites and web-based applications for Australian businesses. We are based in Fitzroy, Melbourne.