This group of four quick tips are all things you want to consider early in any new web design project. Sometimes the excitement of beginning a new project can tempt you, and an eager customer, to skip too far ahead before all of the basic details are fully worked out. Unfortunately, this can result in re-work, wasted time, or elements that don’t mesh in the final product. Here are my top four areas to nail down when you start a new web design engagement.

#1 Content before code

Before starting any coding, design, and image work or getting a domain name for the new web site, it is a good idea to have the content up front. Building the site elements, layout, coding, imaging, and design before the content is like putting the cart before the horse — it goes nowhere fast. Once the content is clearly defined, then you can make the decisions on what elements will work and the ones that can be omitted, and this will save you and the customer a lot of headache, effort, and wasted time, which will also have a negative impact on the customer’s budget.

#2 Branding and logo

In the same approach with developing the content, it is always a smart plan to have the corporate branding and logo well defined and memorable before launching thewebsite. If necessary, get the aid of a professional design firm to develop a logo and branding, and ensure they deliver a graphic that stands out from the rest and is easily recognizable.

#3 Test the usability

You don’t have to necessarily hire a usability test firm to carry out your usability study, though many large organizations do, and there is nothing wrong with that approach. It always makes sense to find a group of folks who can pick apart your site before it goes live. Your test group should be instructed to find any bugs, glitches, or design flaws before you hit the streets with your new website URL.

#4 Web standards and semantics

Make sure your semantic code is set to a standard that accurately describes the content, and uses the right element for the job, for example, with effective and descriptive Class and ID naming conventions. Web standards and semantic practices will ensure that your pages are found and ranked among the popular search engines and improve the relative value of the website.

For example, many foodie bloggers were elated with the recent Google Recipe Search tool, until the discovery that the new microformat powered algorithms were excluding many of their sites, and many were not being ranked at all because their blog code did not have named element ids or classes such as “ingredient”, “procedure”, “amount”, “preparation”, “duration”, “cooktime”, “instruction”, “yield” or “recipe” listed in the semantic code. Managing your microformats can be a daunting task, especially when having to convert them into existing code.