How to Design & Build a Website That Wins [Ultimate Guide]

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Web Design

The process of designing and creating your new and vastly improved site can be a complex, multi-phased project. But, if you know what to expect — timelines, costs, scope, roles, and responsibilities — it doesn’t need to be a total, un-slayable beast.

In this blog, we’ll show you how we tackle the website design and development process. Not only will you get a general understanding of establishing a fresh web presence, but you’ll also have more clarity on how to build a website that brings in visitors and gets them to convert.

Initial Steps – Web Design Discovery Process

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You’ve made the decision to explore the possibility of overhauling your old site or getting a professionally-built inaugural website. That’s a huge step in and of itself — so, congrats!

But now what?

Getting to Know You

During this step, the agency you’re working with will take a bit of time to learn about your company, your industry, your customers, and so on. In fact, through this discovery process, you’ll probably have some Eureka! moments as well.

Onboarding & Kickoff

So, once you’ve signed the contract, you’ll embark upon a series of conversations and questionnaires to start establishing rapport and benchmarks.

During onboarding, an Account Manager is assigned to you. Your AM is your primary point person and will work with you to get necessary stuff like passwords to your existing website and analytics accounts, any branding materials (e.g., logos), style guides, etc. You will probably become fast and forever-friends with your AM.

The official kickoff meeting takes place with the partner and the agency. The meeting’s purpose is mostly to:

  • Learn about you
  • Identify your priorities and goals
  • Strategize
  • Explain process
  • Set expectations

It’s also the first opportunity to broach the nitty-gritty of your website. Internalizing the vision for the site in terms of the kind of feel, look, design preferences, functionality, etc. will begin.

Research & Audit

In this phase we do research and an audit of your current site (if you have one). The audit allows the team to determine technical requirements (features and functionality), content needs, SEO, user experience essentials, etc. for the new website.

We can’t stress enough how pivotal this piece of the discovery project is. And, you should know that many web agencies either don’t offer research and audit services or give this portion of the process short shrift.

Bringing It All Together + Next Steps

By the end of the audit, there should be a clear picture of what you want and what your users need in a new site. With all this in mind, a proposal that outlines and accounts for all the work necessary to build the website you’ve been itching for should be created.

Web Design Process

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You’ll want to don your creative cap — like we do — for a deep dive into the look and feel of your site. The best website design takes into account your audience expectations and industry standards, so you can stand out from the competition.

Steps to Designing a Website

  1. Have a collaborative, in-depth design meeting 
  2. Create a style board
  3. Create homepage comps (one design, two layouts: desktop and mobile versions)
  4. Presentation of initial design 
  5. Get your design feedback
  6. Make design revisions
  7. Get your approval on the design
  8. Design additional pages and content blocks (repeat 4-7)

The team should meet with you to present the initial design and get your feedback on what you like and what elements you don’t like. Several revisions are usually allowed to get the design to your liking.

Once the updated design is approved, the next state is content development.

How long it takes: 4-6+ weeks (depending on size and complexity of the site)

What you get: Style board, design mockups for the homepage and other site pages

Content Development

This part of the website project can really vary from client to client. Some may have content that’s ready to go or, at least, a dedicated resource with fingers already poised over the keyboard. Others need help with all or multiple aspects of content. It’s a continuum — your experience will fall somewhere along the line depending upon your unique content sitch.

To be as speedy as possible, the best method is to start in Content Development while the Design phase is still underway. Working concurrently is ideal not only because it’s efficient, but it can be helpful to the build process to have something other than endless lorem ipsums filling your pages.

The Content Development phase is a whirl of SEO keyword research to make sure you’re target all the possible keywords your target audience is searching for. Additionally, a lot of copywriting hours happen to get copy that is persuasive and effective. Lastly, looking and adding images to the site is another important that can’t be overlooked.

How long it takes: 2-3 months

What you get: Depends on your content needs, but may include an SEO keyword report, webpage copy, imagery, video or other rich media assets

Building Your Website

Steps to Developing a Website

  1. Build the foundation of the site
  2. Style the site
  3. Code any custom development
  4. Load content into CMS
  5. Optimize on-site SEO

This stage is all about the website infrastructure and configuring it. Coding is based on the style board and homepage design, installing plugins and themes, and working on any custom features or integrations. These components are what give your site its form, formatting, features, and functionality.

Once the site’s core is complete and the page templates and customizations are ready, the content gets loaded into the backend. The title tags and meta descriptions should also be added (e.g., page description and keywords) to optimize your web pages for SEO.

How long it takes: 2-3+ months (again, depending on size and technical specs)

What you get: A website on a staging server that’s ready for QA

Web Development QA Process

Proper quality assurance measures are non-negotiable, so make sure this step is not skipped.

Your site should perform properly and accommodate users as it’s intended to. Visitors don’t appreciate being directed to a website to complete an action and then having the website not work correctly. A suboptimal encounter with your site could turn them off temporarily or — worse — turn them away permanently.

Internal Review

During an internal review, there is a thorough sweep of the website with multiple team members for more sets of eyes. The purpose is to look for everything from functionality to content organization to weird UX issues to slow-loading pages.

After the internal review, the next step is to invite your team to use and review the site.

Partner Reviews

In most cases, you’ll have the opportunity to do two rounds of site review. This is known as User Acceptance Testing, or UAT. In UAT, you go through your site as you’d expect an average visitor to. You’re checking to see if there are any strange behaviors, images that need changing, or layout issues that weren’t caught in the internal review.

It’s not uncommon for you to have changes. It’s not a reflection of a poor internal review, but rather because you’re more familiar with the content and the potential users. And, you’re seeing a functioning staging site versus a static design for the first time.

From your first review, your team will compile a single, comprehensive list of changes for the web agency to resolve. The edits will be made to the site and then sent back to you for a second review. Again, your team will test the site out and send us a final set of adjustments and fixes.

With your formal launch approval, the next step is to begin all the activities for deploying your new site.

Launch Prep

During launch prep, here’s what should happen:

  1. Inform you of what you need to know and do
  2. Queue up all the resources to make the site go live as smoothly and quickly as humanly possible

Launch preparation includes practical things like:

  • Ensuring that all hosting and domain credentials are accurate (Please, don’t change your domain password the week before we launch!)
  • Advising you to block your schedule on launch day for any questions or problems
  • Setting up form notifications

There is also a Day-Of Plan, which is meant to have the whole team functioning like a superbly-choreographed dance troupe at curtain time in a packed auditorium. Everyone’s on their mark at the correct moment, doing all the explicit and proper movements and gestures.

How long it takes: 3-4 weeks

What you get: Pre-launch and Day-Of plans

Site Launch!

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The big day is finally here!

Site Deployment

Assume it’ll take in the ballpark of 3-5 hours to deploy the new site on Launch Day.

Usually, there should be no more than two hours of downtime during which your site is entirely unavailable. (Visitors will get a friendly message saying the site’s temporarily offline for upgrades.) Be forewarned, though, that downtime can vary on a number of factors. And, the more complex the website, the more downtime there’s likely to be.

After pushing the site to the production environment, several checks and tests are run to validate the site.

And now…

Breathe Deeply & Smile

Par-tay! Your brand site is now live and you can finally take a breath of relief.

How long it takes: 3-5 hours

What you get: Finished and deployed the new website

Post-Launch

We know you’ll be in a loud and festive mood, but our recommendation is to keep your announcement soft. Limit your “tell list” to family, friends, staff for about a week, in case any wrinkles appear and need to be ironed out. (It’s rare, but can happen). The bigger the project, the more time you should allow.

After a suitable amount of time — broadcast it to the world! Your grand achievement deserves visibility and recognition. 

How long it takes: Varies

What you get: Esteem, accolades

Steps to Developing a Website: Key Takeaways

Designing and building a new website can be a big, complex, but totally-worthwhile endeavor. With the right mindset and commitment, a web agency that’s experienced in web planning and development, and proper budget and expectations — you can have a successful project and finished product.

At Intuitive Digital, we expertly guide you through our proven framework. Honed to be efficient and effective, our website project flow encompasses:

  • Discovery
  • Design
  • Content Development
  • Website Development
  • QA Testing
  • Site Launch

All in, Not only will you get a stunning and incredibly functional new website, you’ll have a pleasant, collaborative, well-managed experience throughout our engagement.

We encourage you to reach out with questions or to get the conversation about your website rolling.

About the Author

Piper Denney

Piper is a Senior Web Developer at Intuitive Digital. They bring a wealth of technical expertise and a keen eye for design to every project they work on. Piper's passion lies in helping businesses achieve their long term goals with beautiful & functional sites that integrate seamlessly with their existing technological needs. Outside of work, Piper enjoys taking long walks and writing music.

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