I’ve built several custom websites in my life—and it’s never been easy. A common feature of building websites for others is this: no one really knows what they want and each website requires a different experience. So while we have great frameworks like Bootstrap, Material, and Foundation, it isn’t enough. Everyone in web design still goes through the hell associated with trying to bring a website to life

And this will never change. I’ve designed blogs, e-commerce stores, and even this website. I’ve rebuilt my family’s e-commerce site time and time again. When you have an e-commerce site, you want to ensure speed, functionality, and design best practices are met. You want to be up to par or above that of your competitors. As a result, an endless cycle of learning is perpetuated leading to countless enhancements to your website.

5 Key Lessons From Web Design

I’ve been designing websites for a while and for all kinds of customers. With that said, I still have much to learn and look forward to the challenges ahead. When living and breathing the world of web design, you’re never really done. There will always be a new service or design pattern that will give you an edge.

I’d like to share 5 lessons I’ve learned from designing websites. These lessons are applicable to your next blog, e-commerce site or project. Regardless of what your web project is, follow these rules to ensure you get the most from your efforts.

1) Wireframe Your Site

This basic step is overlooked almost too often. Many believe downloading a template and adjusting a few styles will achieve their needs. While design patterns can be replicated, one size does not fit all. Templates are just that: a template for you to build off of.

Dedicate some time to etching out the vision of your website. What is the most important interactions a user can take on your site? Where can a user find the most valuable content? Think about the goals of each page and how the user will interact with it to get the desired result. Determining your information architecture and web design becomes easy.

2) Choosing The Right CMS Platform

Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) can be challenging. There are dozens of well-known platforms to choose from, so how do you know which will suit your need best? You could spend days or even weeks getting your head around this question. I’ve used SquareSpace, Shopify and WordPress. At the end of the day, it depends on what your goals are.

If you’re looking to sell products, I’d recommend Shopify. For those who want to design a blog with little to no code, I’d recommend SquareSpace. If you’re looking to design a blog with a higher degree of control, I’d suggest WordPress. In the end, it all comes down to the need. However, most of these platforms will perform the functions required to get your web project up and running. So just choose one and start building!

3) Choosing The Right Framework

There is absolutely no reason to spend your time building websites from scratch. There are so many open source frameworks available, it would be foolish not to use them. Front-end frameworks exist to help us build faster and focus on what’s most important. Forget the custom styles. Use predefined classes and components from renown frameworks prevalent on the market.

An example of a widely adopted framework is Bootstrap. Bootstrap was built by the guys from Twitter and has been supported by the online community for over a decade. It’s easy, flexible and reusable. TravelBuildGrow was built on Bootstrap.

Another framework I’ve come to love is Material. Material was built by the guys from Google. As a result, the framework is employed in most of Google products. The framework was built with mobile in mind and has some amazing transitions.

4) Define your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Anyone can overanalyze a site. A few pixels here, a few notches on the RGB scale there and you’re looking at prolonging your project for another month or so. While I champion the user’s experience, I tend to advocate function over design—and for good reason.

The design of a website does not necessarily translate into success. Understanding whether or not your website is functioning in a value-added manner is more important. Go ahead, release the first iteration of your website to the world. Trust me, the whole world won’t see it and they won’t judge you. However, you’ll quickly learn if the site is functioning as planned… which leads me to my next point.

5) Measure Everything

When developing websites, the most important action you can take is executing an analytics strategy. Using tools like Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager should be sufficient at first. However, looking for trends in behavior is what’s really important.

How long are users staying on your site? What is your bounce rate? Are users returning to the site? What are the most commonly existed pages? What buttons are they clicking? Where are users coming from? Understanding this kind of data is key to designing a successful site, as it will influence future iterations.

Conclusion

Before you go into building your site, you must understand what is most important for your visitors and your goals. Understanding what you can live without will also help you narrow down your scope for delivering a product. Choosing the right framework will allow you to achieve the correct information architecture for your site as well as streamline the design process. Measuring everything with tools like Google Tag Manager will help you understand what aspects of your website needs attention. Above all else, pay attention to function over form. A beautiful design that reaps subpar results will never be as valuable as a design that resonates with the core audience and brings about desireable outcomes.