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Cover Your Bases With a Formal Web Design Approval Process

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We often treat websites as an afterthought, something businesses are required to have to prove they exist. However, studies indicate that this shouldn’t be the case. In fact, a robust website may just be the best asset a company can have. Researchers at Stanford found that “judgments on a company’s credibility are 75% based on the company’s website design.” 

And to intensify the situation, the Gomez Report found that “88% of online visitors/consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.” All of that is to say, good web design is crucial; it only takes one bad experience for a business to lose a customer. Great websites, those that go above and beyond visitor expectations, can position the owner as a leader in the industry; an innovative site indicates an innovative brand. 

For web designers, this poses a challenge: you want to build impressive sites for your clients, but the review process is disorganized, chaotic, and ultimately ends with muddled designs and a Frankenstein’s monster of compromises. That isn’t to say it’s impossible to build a site that satisfies both the client and the visitor – countless companies have proven the opposite to be true – we just need a better way to manage the review cycle. To ensure your client’s site is functional, attractive, and valuable for visitors, you’ll need a formal web design approval process.

Functionality

If a website doesn’t work, whether that be from slow loading speeds, broken links, or shoddy craftsmanship, users aren’t going to stay on it for long – with an abundance of options at their fingertips – why would they? For business websites, in particular, functionality is crucial. If a potential client submits a form and that form doesn’t go through, they’ll never have the opportunity to become a paying customer. By solidifying your web design approval process, you can catch functionality issues before the site launches, test out forms and features, and ensure the site works as it should. 

Intuitive 

A functional website is an intuitive website, one that doesn’t require any high-level thinking from users. The best place to start when designing an intuitive user experience is with your client’s target audience. By observing the habits of your client’s audience, you can better understand what they need from a site:

  • What websites are they already using? 
  • Are they older, younger, somewhere in the middle? 
  • When do they go online, and what are they hoping to accomplish?
  • What devices will they use to visit the site?

Another piece of intuitiveness to look for during the web design approval process is navigation. Pages should be clearly labeled, the navbar should be in the same place across the site, and it should be easy for visitors to find what they need.

On a similar note, icons and buttons should also feel natural to use. While there’s nothing wrong with taking some creative liberty, designers get in trouble when elements don’t look the way users expect. In general, it’s best practice to create buttons that look like buttons and components that resemble the standard version (a profile icon should look like a person, the settings icon should look like a gear, email icons should look like a letter, etc.)

Accessible 

26% of our nation’s population has a disability. According to a study conducted by Google, more people are hard of hearing in the United States than the entire population of Spain, and more Americans are blind or low-vision than the population of Canada. All of this is to say, if you aren’t designing for accessibility, you aren’t designing for a significant portion of your potential audience. 

There are several ways to make websites friendlier for all. To start, it’s essential to have a clear hierarchy and delineate headings. Screen readers and other assistive technologies need to know what order they should be reading the text; using globally acknowledged headers (H1, H2, H3…) helps guarantee that they do. It’s also helpful to allow users to adjust the text size, as many people have trouble reading small fonts. Beyond working accessibility into the code, there are also ways to weave it into the design. For instance, the site should still be intuitive in grayscale; if two buttons are identical without color, you may want to add some text.

This is in no way an exhaustive list of accessibility features to consider during the web design approval process, just a jumping-off point. Web design is all about providing an exceptional user experience, and accessible design allows you to provide that experience for everyone. 

Benefit of a Web Design Approval Process: Better Planning 

A lack of functionality often arises from poorly managed revision cycles, making the solution pretty simple. By implementing a formal web design approval process, you can make a comprehensive plan for your client’s website that includes every aspect of functionality. A solid game plan lends itself to improved communication, reasonable timelines, and more transparency between the client and the designer.

It can be helpful to begin the project by determining the client’s goals – what the client ultimately hopes the site will achieve. More often than not, faulty features occur because they weren’t planned correctly: there wasn’t enough time, they were outside the scope of the designer’s expertise, the budget ran out prematurely, or the feature never really had a purpose to begin with. When you know what the website needs to do at the start of a project, you won’t have to slap together a new capability in the final hours.  

Appearance

There’s a reason that virtually every popular website is visually appealing. According to Adobe, “38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.” Like birds to vibrant flowers, we’re drawn to beautiful things. 

Consistency

Most website creators understand design principles, so the real challenge is making sure that your vision aligns with the client’s. Luckily, there isn’t much debate on the importance of consistency for a well-designed site. Using a small selection of colors and typefaces, complimentary imagery, and one style for buttons and elements, you can create a cohesive brand identity. 

Another reason to build consistent designs is the ease of use. Website visitors don’t necessarily want to spend half an hour learning the ins and outs of the site; by following consistent layouts and making sure elements that look the same work the same, they won’t have to. 

Benefit of a Web Design Approval Process: Increased Consistency and Attention to Detail

One of the most significant benefits of a formal web design approval process is that it lends itself to increased consistency. On Ashore, reviewers can create a checklist for every step of the process, guaranteeing that no detail goes unnoticed before moving forward. Ashore also offers a “website capture” feature. To use the website capture, all users need to do is add the URL. From there, the app will take full-length screenshots of the webpage at common breakpoints and combine them into a single image. With every page of the site lined up, catching inconsistencies is easy. 

Content

Whether they hope to educate themselves on a topic, find out about a company’s offerings, or just parooze, most people visit the internet  for the content.

Company Alignment

The personality of a business is a significant contributor to the people it attracts, so creating web content that matches is imperative. This is especially true for purpose-driven companies; if the content doesn’t fit with their proclaimed values, they could lose their audience’s trust. 

Content is also a great way to conduct organic marketing. If visitors choose to share informative posts from your client’s site, they could bring more traffic, and hopefully, more customers to your client.

Uses

Not only can content support the brand’s identity, but it also has powerful SEO applications. One way to maximize your SEO impacts is to create pages with helpful information for visitors, such as a blog. When trustworthy websites link to your client’s blog, the site’s domain authority (DA) increases. The higher the DA, the more likely their site will show up at the top of the list in the Google search results. 

Benefit of a Web Design Approval Process: Content Governance

Content approval can cause major bottlenecks in the review process, especially when there are a few too many cooks in the kitchen. Luckily, the solution in this area is simple: designate roles at the start of the project so everyone knows what they should review. When everyone knows what they are to focus on and every piece of content is accounted for, errors are far less likely to slip by. 

Clarifying roles is one piece of content governance, which is defined as a set of standard procedures laying out how content should be planned, created, and distributed – in short, it adds structure to creative processes. Another piece of content governance is implementing guidelines to follow throughout the web design approval process, resulting in far more consistent designs. 

Content governance can also save you and your clients a great deal of time. A well-organized workflow allows you to conduct the review process in the most efficient way possible, cutting down unnecessary administrative tasks. 

Perfect Your Process With Ashore

There’s nothing like wowing a client with a beautifully designed, fully functional website – and with Ashore, doing so is a whole lot easier. Ashore streamlines the creative approval process, adding structure, context, and clarity to your workflow. Specifically for web designers, our Webpage Capture feature allows you to enter a URL and Ashore takes screenshots at several different pixel widths – 1200px, 992px, 768px, and 576px – to demonstrate how the page will look on desktop all the way down to mobile. 

By implementing a formal web design approval process, you can deliver the quality your clients have come to expect without the headaches, confusion, and never ending review cycles. Ready to transform your web design approval process? Sign up for your free, 7-day trial of Ashore today!

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