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13 min read

How to design a website like a pro (with tips from experts)

Here's how to design a website efficiently—with insights from seasoned professionals.

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Shaping Design is created on Editor X, the advanced web design platform for professionals. Create your next project on Editor X. 

There’s knowing how to design a website—and then there’s knowing how to design a website like a pro. While much of website creation relies on talent and technical skill, developing a professional routine for each project is what enables web designers to work seamlessly with clients, on teams or independently.

From working with a clear vision, to fine tuning the details, this article will go through the best practices for how to design a website both efficiently and professionally—with insights from seasoned professionals.

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Tips for how to design a website, from the pros

  1. Define your vision

  2. Research

  3. Choose a website building platform

  4. Structure your layout

  5. Create individual web pages

  6. Customize design

  7. Design for mobile

  8. Test it out

  9. Optimize for search

  10. Publish & share

01. Define your vision

The first step in learning how to design a website, and doing it like a pro, is setting clear goals. To better understand the purpose of your project, prepare the following questions to review on your own or with a client, before diving into the design:

  • What is this project's budget?

  • Who is your target audience?

  • What is your brand identity?

  • What’s the desired timeline?

  • What’s the goal of the website?

  • Will you need collaboration tools for teamwork during the design process?

  • Will you need integrated business and marketing tools?

  • How would you like to manage and update this site in the future?

These answers will help set the right foundations for your project, allowing you to streamline the web design process and plan an efficient workflow.

Tips for kick starting the web design process:

Start by deciding which type of website your client needs, and the relevant features that should be included in your design. For example, perhaps their goals will best be achieved with an eCommerce website, including business solutions for online shopping and payments. In other cases, your client may need an online portfolio to promote their work, or a bookings system to streamline their workflow. In a mobile-driven age, you'll also want to think about how you'll adapt your site to smaller screens—choose between responsive web design or using an adaptive platform.

At this stage you’ll also want to set salary expectations for the work ahead of you. How much you charge for designing a website will depend on a number of factors: how much experience you have, market rates, and your specific skill set. The way you structure payments is also something to take into consideration—many designers opt for an overall project fee, while some prefer to receive an hourly rate.

screenshot of website design homepage with purple background, black typography and black images

02. Research

Think With Google, the internet giant’s marketing blog, reports that 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website with a bad user experience. This places a lot of importance on the way users will interact with the final design. Part of having an efficient design process means taking time to understand not only the expectations of your clients, but the expectations of potential users.

A good website will have a clear brand identity and values, and remain consistent with the rest of your client’s marketing assets. Research will help you make strategic decisions when it comes to every aspect of your web design—from the visual elements like color schemes, to the tone of written language and how interactive items like CTA buttons will behave.

In order to make smarter branding decisions, you’ll want to do competitor analysis and audience research. Design research also involves getting to know potential users in order to make more strategic design decisions. Both qualitative and quantitative, this stage will help you answer questions like “who are our users?”, “why are they coming to this site?”, and “how can this website design help them accomplish their goals?”.

If your client already has a website, that’s an opportunity to see how their current audiences experience it, and where it’s underperforming. These insights can help strategically guide and improve UI and UX design aspects of the new website.

Tips for performing design research:

Research involves getting to know both existing and potential users before diving into the actual design process. There are multiple types of research you should consider when designing a website for clients. You also need to research your clients themselves, understanding their brand’s history, values and messaging in order to make smart branding decisions.

Editor X Brand Designer Anita Goldstein says that "Research helps organize all aspects of the website design process. If you skip this stage, you’re in danger of being pulled into a vortex of chaos.”

When asked what topics designers should research, she adds “First, thoroughly the subject at hand, along with the competitors, in order to get as many references as possible. Next, decide on a design angle. And lastly, choose a website structure and investigate each section individually, as if it were its own project.”

03. Choose a website building platform

Your next step is to choose the website creation platform that will help bring your client's vision to life. An effective website building platform should cater to diverse designers, streamlining how you design a website while managing its content all in one place. On top of that, website building platforms should include integrations that support business and marketing solutions, while also providing solid website security.

There are many web design platforms available today which cater to designers with all sorts of skills and backgrounds. Look for one that includes the features, customization tools and integrations you need to complete this project, and perhaps future ones too.

The low-code, no-code movement has enabled programmers and non-programmers alike to create sophisticated websites, apps, and other software without writing code. Today, these platforms are especially user-friendly and malleable—with low code platforms like Editor X requiring minimal coding for more customization, and no code platforms enabling users with no coding experience to build websites using drag-and-drop technology.

Lots of factors will help you determine on what platform you want to design a website: pricing, level of customization, professional solutions, customer service, and design features should all be on the top of your check list.

Tips on how to choose a website building platform:

With over 80% of internet users surfing the web on mobile devices, designers in particular should contemplate whether they want to use software that supports responsive design or adaptive technologies for creating a mobile site.

Editor X is an example of a platform whose design features combine cutting edge responsive technologies with smooth drag and drop user interfaces. This is the best option for professional designers, who already have the advanced web design know-how.

banner create a responsive website

04. Structure your layout

Conceptualizing your layout is next, leading us to dive into web design. Most web creation platforms today feature designer-made website templates, or layout tools like containers to start with. These are particularly handy if you need to design a website quickly. And while templates come with pre-made layouts, concepts, and features, you can also customize them to your satisfaction.

Of course, you may want to construct your website from scratch, in which case you’ll want to make a preliminary layout before creating your web design. Wireframes are a popular tool for designing a website at its early stages. Whether using wireframe templates online or drawing them out by hand, the visual representations will allow you to ideate different layouts and map out your site’s information architecture.

Tips for structuring your website’s layout:

One thing you need to consider when designing a website’s layout, is the user journey. What should a visitor do on the website? Define your main objectives with your team or client and design a user journey that meets these goals.

Ideally, the user journey will help get a new website visitor from an entry page to conversion (reading key content, watching a video, filling out a form, making a purchase, etc.). As a designer, it is your job to help them get there as quickly, and thoughtlessly, as possible.

In terms of speed, the user journey should only take a few clicks or steps. The visual hierarchy of your elements should be structured in a way where the desired action is obvious to the user. And they shouldn’t have to think about how to get there.

If the desired conversion is a purchase, for example, each element such as images, text, and buttons, should lead to a product page. From the product page, the next step should be the checkout and to purchase.

screenshot of website with asymmetric homepage layout