When decision makers think about Web design, there is a tendency to assume there is one program or just one or two people needed to build a website. There is no question that one can build a website on those resources, but building an effective sales and customer service tool is not so easily managed.
A variety of programs, personnel and ideas go into the making of a website. You need more than a design and a tag line.
For most companies, the process of Web design begins with an idea sketched out on paper or using any other graphical means. This proof of concept is called a mockup, and it’s become an important part of the design landscape. Mockups give a visual concept of what the site will do, and in best case scenarios provides some level of function. Great mockup programs provide dropdown functionality, simulated linking, graphical elements accurate to pixel and several other aspects that come into play during the final design phase.
Essentially, mockups are like designing blue prints. You need a program that will let you build an effective blueprint that a designer can work off of. The beauty of mockups, and mock up programs, is that they are easy to use so anyone at any level of management can have an active role in the design process.
Part of mockups involves evaluating the user experience. There is a limit to what mockups can do, but the idea of usability is to simulate changes in an environment that is not live. The people building the website, and those overseeing those changes, can visualize their impact immediately. Several programs exist to this end, including Balsamiq and Moqups, and all of them outperform Photoshop on speed and efficiency.
Usability has some basic rules to follow that will guarantee a good experience:
- Usefulness: Before an element is placed, consider what it adds to the user’s experience. If it is not relevant to some task the user might have, it’s not very helpful.
- Consistency: Use terminology that makes sense, keep your messaging consistent and use commonly understood names or symbols when you need to represent something.
- Simplicity: How many clicks does it take the user to get something?
These principles till guide you, there are many more including questions of workload. If the user’s PC or Web service needs to work harder to serve content, chances are strong that the page will be ineffective.
A program like Photoshop doesn’t support any kind of in-depth testing. Testing involves tinkering with a function, like creating a use case that demonstrates what happens when a customer uses a particular element. A good example is when you need to test small things, like making sure that a link is working. A service like automated testing from Tricentis helps reduce the time you and your people spend clicking on elements of a Web page to check functionality. The data from those tests is reported to you in a format you can easily read, which cuts down time for analysis. Manual testing using your staff and several test cases can take weeks to set up, let alone carrying out.
There are a variety of tasks to be done outside of Web design that Photoshop wouldn’t be able to assist in any capacity. Analytics, for instance. Understanding what people do with your website is also part of improving your ideas. You need to incorporate statistics and data into your decision making, if you want to stay competitive within your niche.
The management of a website also requires the ability to store files, organize directories and perform a variety of backend tasks. Photoshop and Dreamweaver can assist in some of these aspects, but a separate program is often far more effective.