Website Design is one of those jobs where there is 1000 different approaches to arrive at the same result, today I'm going to share my creative process on how I go from idea to finished graphic design; ready to sell as a PSD.
Where to start
Choosing a Topic or Niche
Assuming you are making a design to sell (not a client job) you first need to choose what your website will be about. Even if you want your website to be used for multi-purpose; an initial topic will be needed so your dummy text and photos all make sense.
Research a gap in the Market
Have a look around some of the popular market places (ThemeForest, Creative market etc.) and see what is selling well. On the flip side also look at what is missing and see if your new design could fill that gap.
I find my strongest designs are when I design something that interests me, for example I have children and I'm a woman so sites within these topics I excel at vs a corporate boardroom type design, that's just me. So if in doubt make a site about something you love, outdoor adventures, music, travel, finance, business whatever topic you know a lot about.
Designing with passion is especially important in the early days when you are learning to design, you need a passion to drive you beyond being an average designer. The first website I ever made was about a video game ODDWORLD Abe's Oddysee, I was obsessed with this game and I made a website from a HTML book at 16 years old. I spent all my spare time on this site and enjoyed it all, I learned so much so quickly and my website design career was born.
Research your chosen Topic
Now that you have a topic do some searches in google, template sites, blogs etc and see what's been done and how you can improve or offer a bigger and better idea. Have a design notebook handy to sketch ideas, screen shot anything that sparks an idea for you. These can be colour combinations, fonts, cool shapes, image overlays anything that makes you go wow.
While some basic ideas are fresh in your head grab a pencil and your notebook and sketch a few shapes down. Box ideas for the side bars, where to put the logo & menu. Will the site have a large hero image or multiple boxes etc.
Choose a Name
You want the name of your design to be unique to whichever market place you will be selling your file. You also want it to say something about your topic if there is no thumbnail to go off.
Sometimes the names for my designs just come to me, they sometimes change before the final file once I try to use them with a font style. A tool I use is thesaurus.com, you add a word like "Leaf" and it will give you suggestions for words that mean the same thing. You can find some really cool sounding names using this method and they still make sense.
Organise your folders on your computer
I have a consistent folder naming system so I can always find my files & ideas.
- Name of the Project
- Final (exported images, jpgs, html, css)
- Item (packaged up files for sale, item graphics, previews)
- Stock (stock photos purchased, fonts, effects, vectors etc)
- Ideas (screenshots of anything that sparks your own ideas)
- Working (all the photoshop files in progress, design1.psd, design2.psd)
TIP: I like saving versions of my design as I go, every time I feel I'm going to make a large change to the layout I save-as a new file just in case it doesn't work out and I want to go back and resume my old idea.