Building Great Websites


Designing and building your website

Once you understand the users of your website by carrying out user research, mapping user journeys and analysing your content, you are ready to start designing your website.

Designing for users is an iterative process not a single event. It requires careful research, conceptual planning and constant validation to ensure your design keeps moving in the right direction. 

Key points

  • Know your users: You are not the target audience. Define your primary users and focus on their needs, tasks and expectations. Don’t try and design for everyone!
  • Users are not designers: Users are not very good at developing new design ideas. Do not ask them to improved design. Focus instead on their needs, goals and behaviour.
  • Choose the appropriate methods and tools: There is a wide range of tools available. Choose those that work best for you, your users and the time and resource available. Decide early on how best to communicate with stakeholders.
  • Measure and evaluate: Set success measures at the start of a project and measure everything you implement. Evaluate the impact on your users. 
  • Iterate: You won’t get the design right on the first try.  Even if you do, users, technology and design standards change over time so keep evaluating and iterating.

This video (10 minutes) by digital expert Paul Boag gives an overview of this section's information on designing with users in mind.

MediaCentral Widget Placeholderhttps://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/9528


Overview of the design process

Discovery phase

In this phase you need to define the following:

  • Business objectives: what is a successful outcome?
  • Content capabilities of website editors and constraints of the existing technology
  • User needs and requirements: to what extent are their needs being met? 

Good design achieves a balance between business objectives, content capabilities, technological constraints and user needs.Conceptual designConceptual design outlines your overall approach to the website. In this phase wireframes and diagrams show what you are trying to achieve holistically. This stops you from designing individual pages or smaller elements before you have a clear idea of the whole.


Designers and developers bring the concepts to life either through hi-fidelity mock-ups of the site or HTML prototypes. The aim is to achieve high-fidelity designs which have been tested and validated by both internal stakeholders and users. 

Once you have this approval of the design from internal stakeholders and end users, you are ready to move into the development phase.