4 Stages of Website Design

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Stage 1 – Style over substance

The first stage is to design a site that the chief executive officer, venture capitalists,

and ad agencies like to see. There are all types of “bells and whistles” in this design.

An entire site might be a Flash animated site. Or there might be some beautiful JavaScript

mouse over effects or drop-down menus in the design. It’s always a pretty design,

but the message is clear – style over substance.


Stage 2 – Designing for online visibility

In Stage 2, the reality of an ineffective web design begins to hit, usually around 3-6

months after the initial launch. A site will typically get rejected by many of the major directories,

not be indexed by the major search engines, or not get the traffic or sales that were projected

based on the various types of marketing strategies used. Typically, that’s when companies decide

that they will try to hire a professional online marketer to promote the site. Doorway page companies,

in some way, shape or form, rear their ugly heads. Unfortunately, many web site owners fall for a

doorway page company’s pitch because the beautifully designed site couldn’t possibly be the problem

with low site traffic. Yahoo might have rejected a site, or the site might have been listed in Yahoo

and the company cannot understand why they have no description next to their company name.

But in no way would many ad agencies or doorway page companies want to tell potential clients

the truth — they simply did not design and write an effective web site — because it would mean

losing thousands of pounds in business


Stage 3 – Designing for your audience

By Stage 3, after spending an exorbitant amount of money on pretty web site designs

and various marketing strategies, web site owners generally figure out that they did

not design or write an effective Web site for their target audience. Typically, web site owners

will bring in a usability expert to analyze potential problems and present various solutions.

Bringing in a search engine marketing expert to help with search-engine friendly web designs

& templates early in the design phase can save a company thousands of pounds in online

marketing costs.


Stage 4 – Site redesign

After careful usability and search engine visibility analyses, web site owners finally

have an effective web site. A site that is written, coded and designed for user friendliness

and search engine visibility generally gets the most traffic and resulting sales because

it was written, programmed, and designed for end users.



Web sites should always be designed with your target audience in mind, not your own

personal preferences. Colours have meaning. Professional designers understand the psychology

of colour and the use of white space to best project the image your audience wishes to see.

(For example, try not to use the colour red on a financial site.)

Understanding the products/services/information your target audience is searching for is

paramount to designing and maintaining an effective web site. When you launch a site,

you might have to make an educated guess as to what your target audience wants.

After that, tools such as site statistics software and reporting from site searches tell you

exactly what your visitors are looking for. Then content and marketing strategies can be

adjusted accordingly. Unless the advanced technology clearly benefits end users, do not use it

on your site. If your venture capitalists or CEO’s or lawyers like the site, ask if they are

going to spend the thousands or millions of pounds to keep you in business.

They’re not. Your target audience who will ultimately determine the success or failure of your site.