Posted 3rd August 2015 | By Shannon Wright, Creative Manager

Let me start firstly by introducing myself... Hi! My name is Shannon and I'm the new designer here at ExtraMile Communications. This time last year, I was graduating from the University of South Wales with a first class honours degree in Graphic Communication, and now here I am, working full-time at a digital agency looking forward to what the future holds and let me tell you, it's looking pretty cool.

For my first blog post, I thought I'd share my list of essentials that are key to creating a great and effective website (in my opinion anyway):

Number one: Gather information.

The first and most important stage of any creative process should always be research. Researching and information gathering is essential to understanding the client and the brief in front of you. Any good designer will need to have a solid catalogue of information to create a final solution that fits a brief. They should ask questions, get to know the target audience, speak face to face with a client and discover a purpose for the design.

Number two: Plan.

When all the information has been gathered for a project the next step is planning. Planning is essential for any project, as it allows you to structure and organise. By producing an effective project plan, you are able to understand and work through every stage of the design process more efficiently and more communicatively.

Number three: Plan more. (What? It's important!)

A key ingredient to any website plan is creating a site map. A site map enables a designer to understand and develop a simple and consistent navigational structure – a crucial part of any website. Navigation plays a great part in user experience, so understanding how the website is going to work at the beginning is extremely important.

Number four: Sketch.

No matter what anybody tells you, always start on paper. Drawing allows a designer to be truly creative. It allows you to experiment and explore in the most organic of ways, which will always lead to the most astonishing and unique results.

Number five: Wire frame.

Wire framing allows us to understand the functionality of a website. To create a design that fully fulfils the requirements of a brief, as a designer, you need to fully understand what you have visualise. You need to understand how the website is going to format and how it is going to function.

Number six: Keep it simple.

When designing, less is always more (except in the cases when it isn't – the reason I swear I'm already going grey when I'm only 22). Anyway, keeping a website simple and clear to use is always the best way to go. You always have to keep your user in mind and always think of design as a communicative process.

Number seven: Go back to the basics.

Colour, typography and the grid. Enough said.

Number eight: Engage your audience.

Designers are visual communicators. Fact. Your audience is always going to be at the top of your list of priorities. What I like to do is take a design and try to experience that design from a user's point of view. Is the menu simple to use? Can I find what I'm looking for easily? Does is degrade gracefully? How clear are the links etc.? These are all questions I like to ask myself to gauge an effective user experience.

Number nine: Be consistent.

Consistency is key to any good design. The design of a website must always reflect a brand's personality and values. A website is a good tool to market and promote a brand's message, so keeping the website in tone with the rest of the brand architecture is essential.

Number ten: Go back to the brief (phew, finally).

Refer back to the key principles and requirements of a brief at the end of any design process. Make sure you've ticked all the boxes and have created something that has purpose and has context and let's be honest here, make sure you've created a jolly good website.

If you enjoyed reading through this blog, as I'm sure you all did (not), then stay tuned for the next Designer's blog post... The REAL personality traits of a designer.

Written by Shannon Wright, Web Designer at ExtraMile Communications.

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people's creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member's take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.

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