July 2019  |  13 MIN READ

The Ultimate Guide to Web Design and Development

by Clint McIntyre

How a well-designed and technically superior website can help take your business to the next level.

As you’ve probably discovered, the landscape for designing and building websites is always shifting. Not only are businesses trying to keep pace with changing customer behaviours and expectations but they’re also balancing it with the arrival of new technologies.

Business owners and key decision makers within organisations are faced with a range of questions and complex issues when considering a new website project:

  • Why are we building a new website and what purpose is it serving?
  • How will it help us achieve our goals and grow as a business?
  • Who do we engage to help build the website and what skills do they need?
  • How do we maximise our Return On Investment with a new web build?

To help answer these questions and many more, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for everything you need to know about designing and building websites.

From the signs you need a website, to the best approach, to the best design and development, to how you measure its success. It’s all here for you.

1. Help! I need a new website

Researching how best to approach a new website can be a bit of a minefield. Chances are you’re not looking for a do-it-yourself website builder that you may have seen advertised - what looks easy and affordable on TV is rarely anything of the sort in real life.

Right now you’re probably just getting a feel for what you might need. You might have a general idea (“something slick and cool to show off my business”) or it could be very specific (“I want a customised Shopify store to sell my products on”).

Narrowing down your options is what we’re here to help with.

There are a whole host of reasons why a business or product owner might be considering a new website. It could be:

  • You’re a new business and need a completely new customised website representing your new brand
  • You’re not attracting or converting enough visitors to your current website
  • You’ve updated your brand but your website no longer reflects who you are and what you do
  • Your current website isn’t optimised for mobile
  • Your website’s page speed or Google rankings are performing poorly
  • Your competitors are making your current site look outdated
  • You’re branching off and considering a new product or app for your business
  • Your business is growing and you need to cater to new customer demand or expectations

So, what’s the right approach for your new website and what are some of your options?

As you can probably guess, the considerations that will drive your decision process for your new website are your budget, timeline, resources and stakeholders.

Having a solid understanding of your initial needs will help you in the early stages of the process. For example:

You may have a sizeable budget but need a rapid turnaround - this can influence the type of approach for the design and development process.

You may have a specific functionality which you need for the website - this can influence the type of technology solution.

You know your customers are coming to you with a certain problem they need solved - this can influence the marketing and content strategy.

In choosing an agency partner to design and build your website, check what the their previous is work like and ask things like:

  • “Have you handled projects of a similar size and scale in our industry?”
  • “Can you demonstrate a return on investment for your clients, such as a lift in customer conversions?”
  • “What have previous clients said about you?”
  • “How do you communicate your thinking and deliver value to clients?”

Aside from judging on their pricing, talent and capabilities, you’ll also want professional chemistry. Ask as many questions as you need to get a sense of their culture and values.

To get the best possible outcomes they should be collaborative, flexible, open minded, and able to communicate the best options for your particular website needs.

2. Finding the right solution for your business

You know your business inside and out. You could probably talk for hours about your skills and expertise, about how you help your customers (better than your competitors!), and also about what you stand for as a brand.

In deciding to design and build a new website, you’re naturally excited at its potential and also impatient to see it turn into reality.

You could be re-branding or you might have a new product or service about to go to market, or you’ve realised your old website is losing out to your competitors and needs a serious refresh.

This sense of anticipation can be a little overwhelming at first and most will want it all done yesterday. But this part is critical and can’t be rushed or overlooked. It’s all too easy to get lost in all the decisions you have to make.

The most common questions you’ll be faced with before you choose the right solution for your specific needs will be:

  • What are your main brand attributes (eg. innovative, dependable, honest, patient, smart) and how do you want this reflected on the site?
  • Who is your ideal customer and how do they typically interact with or purchase from you?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them with your website?
  • What are the goals, both short and long term, of your website?
  • What does success look like and what are the basic measurements of your website’s success?
  • What are some of the opportunities and possible drawbacks?

Answering these can take a lot of hard thinking and soul searching, but they’re absolutely critical in determining the look, feel, flow and functionality of your website, and ultimately have a direct impact on the success and longevity of your website.


3. Understanding who your customer is

Who was it again who famously said, “If you build it, they will come”? Many people think of a web build in a similar way: the sheer effort of designing and building your website, will surely mean customers turn up, right? Wrong!

For any successful website it’s not a matter of just launching a new website and hoping your audience will come. It’s about understanding who you are building it for and what you want them to accomplish when they get there.

This is where Buyer Personas (often called Customer or User Personas) are absolutely critical for your website.

Here’s a nice little definition of who they are:

“Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all - in marketing, sales, product, and services - internalise the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.” Source, Hubspot

Using your expertise and insights about your customers – which might include any sales reports, demographic data, survey results, assumptions, research and customer interviews – you can begin to define who your audience are and what motivates them.

We broadly know they’re coming to your website for a reason, but digging deeper into their needs and expectations is a step you can’t skip or ignore.

Buyer Personas also help to define, prioritise and inform the many aspects of the design and development for your website. For example, the problems you’re trying to solve for site visitors, will include elements like:

  • The hierarchy, design and layout of your website’s content
  • What the navigation titles will be on your website’s main menu and sub menu
  • The type of content you use to communicate your product or service offering to buyers
  • How your brand personality helps empathise with your buyers wants and needs
  • What actions you want your customers to complete to accomplish their goals

Detailed, well-thought out Buyer Personas are a great launching pad and will help you determine where to focus your time and effort for any web build.

They will also give you a greater understanding of what the marketplace looks like and how you can measure your website’s overall success.

4. Designing the user experience (UX)

The way in which customers interact with and experience your products and services (both online and offline) will go a long to determining your success as a business. In theory this makes perfect sense, but in reality it’s much harder to do.

For a website, this is where User Experience Design plays a critical role.

You could think of UX design as the overall or macro experience of your website, whereas User Interface (UI) Design - which is often confused with UX - is a specific or micro experience within the overall framework of your website.

If we think about the way a customer experiences their visit to a bricks-and-mortar store, the User Experience (UX) can be more easily illustrated. For example:

  • How we well did it cater to their needs?
  • Could they find their way around easily?
  • Did the layout make sense as a consumer?
  • Did the customer accomplish what they set out to do?
  • Was it enjoyable, memorable and efficient?
  • Did the customer receive good service?
  • Would they be likely to return based on their impressions?

The design and functionality of a website is very similar. Here’s a good definition to start:

“User Experience (UX) refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service.”

While this may sound subjective, it’s far from it. A user’s ‘emotions and attitudes’ include the usefulness, ease-of-use and performance of your website.

It’s not about how pretty a website is, but how usable. It’s about how empathetic you are to their needs and involves a conscious and strategic process to understand how users interact with your brand.

For a new website, a UX designer can tap into that most human of qualities: our need for simplicity and convenience. We want things to be easy and painless.

The more work we have to do to complete a task, the higher the likelihood we’ll avoid it.

In deciding on the purpose and goals of your website, UX will have a big role to play. Delivering meaningful and enjoyable user experiences will be critical for attracting and retaining your customers.


5.Designing the User Interface (UI)

In its simplest form, a well designed User Interface let’s your customers complete online goals. Most commonly they’ll relate to how a person interacts with the individual visual and graphic elements of mobile and desktop interfaces.

For your digital interface to be effective, customers generally have to be able to achieve the following 5 things:

  1. Able to recognise what it is they’re interacting with
  2. Care about why they would use it
  3. Understand what the interface is helping them interact with
  4. Predict what will happen when they use it
  5. Successfully interact with it, ie. accomplish what they set out to do.

These ‘goals’ are unique to your business and will help inform the design and development of your website.

Like good UX, good UI requires more than just great design skills to make the above happen.

Beyond pleasing aesthetics, it’s all about empathising with the end user and understanding how you can make their interactions easy, intuitive, enjoyable, standardised and accessible.

Here are 4 important aspects of great UI.

  1. Control - ensure the user is always in control, so no confusing directions, nasty surprises or unplanned interactions occur.
  2. Simplicity - always avoid unnecessary elements to screens and use clear language on buttons, labels and messages.
  3. Consistency - elements that behave the same should ideally look the same on all screens, and those that are different should be easily identifiable to users.
  4. Flexibility - make it work across all device types, screen resolutions and browsers, otherwise you could be missing out on potential customers.

Without any of these UI boxes ticked, it’s more than likely your internal resources will be stretched if they have to deal with emails or calls about something a customer should’ve been able to complete online.


6. Selecting the right technology

For many people, one of the most daunting aspects to a new website is understanding the world of web development. While it’s undoubtedly complex, highly technical and ever changing, it broadly comes down to two tasks: the building and maintenance of your website.

Web developers use their expertise in coding and programming to help achieve these - they make websites look great, perform well and work fast.

When considering your new web build, it can be helpful to have at least a basic understanding of front-end and back-end development.

  • A front-end developer (sometimes called ‘client side’) will take the visual designs of a website - often given to them by a visual designer - and then builds it in code.
  • A back-end developer (called ‘server side’) deals more with the servers that host the website, the applications for running it and the database containing the data.
  • A full-stack developer, as you might’ve guessed, takes care of both.

What does this mean for your web build? Web developers can guide you throughout the entire process to help you understand the best technology options and programming languages for your project.

This includes touching on questions like:

  • Do you need a marketing website or an e-commerce shop?
  • Do you have a current web platform in mind (Wordpress, Joomla, PHP, Shopify, Magento etc)?
  • Do you need a custom front and back-end system built from scratch with unique special features?
  • Do you have current integrations with other software like Salesforce, Dynamics or Hubspot?

Our developers not only build beautiful, robust and secure websites but will also collaborate with you throughout the entire process using the Agile Web Development process, where regular testing allows for new ideas or enhancements to be incorporated into your website.

We can help you understand what development tools are currently being used and how they might be able to benefit your business.

7. Maximise your website success with Inbound Marketing

Let’s say you recently launched a new website. Maybe you’ve got 5 or 6 of your main pages exactly as you want them. They look and read great, they provide a great user experience and the user interface and the technical implementations are spot on.

And like the grand opening of a real life store, you want a regular flow of customers coming in the front door.

But how do you achieve this? Inbound marketing could be just the answer.

As opposed to traditional marketing, which is based on the idea of outspending your competitors, Inbound marketing refers to marketing strategies such as content marketing, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and social media that "pull" prospective customers when they’re looking for your products or services.

Think of it as attracting customers to your company rather than having to chase after them.

So, what does the data say about inbound vs outbound?

- Inbound generates 54% more leads than outbound
- Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound
- Inbound generated 3x more qualified leads than outbound

The inbound marketing methodology typically has 4 steps.

  1. Attract the right audiences who are interested in what you are offering with blogging, ebooks, videos, social media
  2. Converting these visitors into leads by gaining personal details with contact forms, live chat tools, phone calls and a smart CRM
  3. Closing means you’ve succeeded in converting customers (generally through sales) with pipeline management, reporting and lead intelligence tools.
  4. Delighting is providing a memorable experience which speaks directly to your audience's needs and wants.

While no customer journey is perfectly linear, inbound marketing uses the most common path people take when making informed decisions about the brands they buy from.

There’s a lot of marketing leaders who swear by inbound marketing, basically because it speaks to how users have evolved their behaviour online - nobody wants to be talked at anymore, but rather to have conversations with brands.

By having stronger influence and authority over your customer's decision-making, you’re more likely to shape their buying habits.

8. Measuring your website’s ROI

As a business or product owner, you’ll be super keen to know upfront the cost of designing, developing, launching and maintaining your website. Part of this discussion will also include how you’ll measure its success.

Measuring your Return On Investment (ROI) is the most common question and concern for anyone looking to have a new website built.

And like any investment, you’ll want to know what you’ll get in return for the dollars you put into your new website.

Car buyers are pretty savvy when they purchase a vehicle and will think ahead about what they want it for and how long they’ll own it. This is something you should consider before making even a minimal investment in a website.

Here are three important areas to understand when thinking about your website’s ROI.

How the website fits in with your sales and marketing process

The percentage of visitors who take action - becoming a lead or purchasing - will play a big role in determining your bottom line results. It’s critical to define the value of every conversion to your business and weigh this up with your overall website investment.

It’s possible the final ‘sale’ could happen offline - say through a direct phone call or store visit - so you may need to track this lead flow through a cutting-edge CRM or Google Analytics. Sales Attribution can help you understand the success of your different marketing channels, so be sure to investigate how this ties into your ROI.

How your site traffic is measured and interpreted

Gone are the days of simply showing a client flashy site visitors for their website.

50,000 hits a month could be meaningless if people are not taking meaningful action and helping your bottom line.

Not only have measurement and conversion tools become more effective, but business and product owners now also have a greater understanding of the value of site visitors. Your website’s success really is a matter of quality over quantity.

The ideal lifespan of your new website

Measurement on your website’s ROI could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, either in direct revenue from e-commerce sites or in the value of leads for a lead generation website.

So how regularly should a business or product owner be updating it?

As a general rule-of-thumb, any new website which doesn’t exist beyond two years is unlikely to have generated a solid ROI. Think more in the three to five year bracket and ensure you’re adopting the latest technology solutions.

So, now that you have an in-depth understanding for designing and building website, what’s next?

A new web design and build sets off a whole host of challenges. Juggling all the various aspects, from budgets to deadlines to resourcing, can feel overwhelming.

However, with the right guidance and expertise, you’re in a much better position to ensure your new website is a success.

Want to level up or implement a new website in your business? We're here to help, drop us a line!

Get In Touch

Clint McIntyre

Born and raised in country VIC, Clint is energetic and down-to-earth. After 15 years of working in traditional print design, Clint co-founded Honest Fox, he brings creativity, big ideas and design thinking to the business.

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