Now I know there are many web designers out there who like to skip directly to the design stage without giving a second thought to learning or planning, but design is more than just the act of creating. You want to actually create something good and useful and you just can’t do that without first doing some preliminary work before starting to design.

If you’ve already done the legwork of learning and planning, it makes the actual designing much easier. When you don’t have to worry about the little details, it really opens up a whole new level of effectiveness and productivity because you can focus on more important things.

Once you are ready to start designing, keep in mind that you need to design more than just a home page. You’ll need a design for the sub-pages of your site as well. It can sometimes be easy to design a home page concept, slice it up and start coding only to get to sub-pages and have no direction. You may also need to design a mobile or iPad version of your site as well.

The design phase itself is straightforward. Just open up Photoshop (or your graphics creation tool of choice) and start bringing your mock-up to life. Sweat the details. Make it pixel perfect. Even if you feel like the project you are working on is more boring that staring at a wall for 24 hours straight, put your all into it. Your client will notice and you’ll be proud of the work you did.

You’ll have to decide at this point whether you want to use real content in your design or some dummy text (e.g. Lorem Ipsum). There are plenty of fans in either camp, but I personally prefer to use real copy and photos if they are available to make it as close to reality as possible.

During the design phase, it is incredibly important to seek feedback often to make sure all specified requirements have been met. If the client wants to make changes, now is the time to do it before the design is sliced and coded, making it ten times more difficult to make what would be a simple change if you were to do it during the design phase.