1. Create a mock-up.

A page mock-up, also know as a wireframe, is essentially the outline of your website (with the initial design being the first draft). Usually created in Photoshop or Fireworks, you don’t have to put too much detail into your mock-up.  Use placeholder text to fill pages, and don’t worry about details. This is just to give everyone an idea of what the website will look like.

If you don’t have a design program, you can also map it out with pen and paper! When you have a general feel of what you’d like, you can send it to a designer to create or do so yourself.

2. Start designing.

The importance of good web design can’t be stressed enough. Good website design includes both usability and aesthetics. An ugly website will drive away visitors, as will a website that’s difficult to navigate. Keep in mind some basic concepts of usability as you go:

  • Make your navigation easy to understand and easy to find. Research shows that most users expect website navigation to be vertical and centered at the top of the page.
  • Use an easy-to-read font for blocks of text. Choose a background color and text color that contrast well (Hint: No red text on a hot pink background).
  • Make sure your site fits the screen. Use responsive design (or an equally effective approach) to make your website one that adapts to all screen sizes.
  • Keep your website light so that it loads quickly.
  • Make the company logo and tag line prominent on the page.
  • Keep styles and colors consistent across the website.
  • Make copy clear and concise, and put important information and features (e.g., your newsletter sign-up form) above the fold.
  • You should also design with the future in mind. For instance, your website may only have a few blog posts now, but what about when you have two hundred?