Tips for clients on how to be prepared for a web design project
You've decided it's time to build a website for your business, GREAT! We have some tips to make sure you are ahead of the game!
Whether you are just starting out or have never had a website for your business and are starting from scratch, or you have an existing site that is outdated and needs an overhaul, it is important to have a plan in place. Creating a website is very much a team effort between the client and development team, so the more you know exactly what you need and want, and the more you understand the process, the happier you will be with the final result.
Typically when we meet for the initial discovery session and consultation, we find our clients have a good sense of what they want their website to feel like for their customers, and how it should look. We work with a lot of small businesses and start-ups, and have noticed that most are not really sure what is involved in a web design project, or what will be required of them during the process. A web design project is more than just throwing some pretty pictures and words up on the internet.
Your website is an investment in your business, and like any investment it requires careful, thought-out planning to make sure it works to meet your goals. We like to provide a questionnaire to our web clients to gain a better understanding of their needs, likes and expectations. This helps us to get to know our client, as well as their target audience, and to build a truly customized website that they love and that works for them. While we go more in-depth in our client questionnaire, below you will find six things you should know BEFORE you hire a web developer:
1. Your expectations for your website
Knowing what the most important pieces of your website are, and what would just be "kind of nice" to have will help us plan your website within the timeline and budget. It also helps us to decide how much time to spend on what portions of the website, so we can focus our attention on the priorities. Create a list of the top 5 things you absolutely must have on your site, along with 5 more things that you'd like but aren't necessarily required. If you're not sure what your expectations should be, start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you need an informational site or an e-commerce solution?
- Will you need a blog?
- What sorts of interactive items do you want to include: calendars, forms, log-in ability, subscription services? Something really customized to your business?
- What do you want your website to do for your customers? How will they be able to interact with your site?
2. Your goals for your website
You should have a pretty good idea of why
you need a website for your business. Keep in mind that a website can do so much more than offer static information. As a primary marketing tool, your website can (and should) be used to encourage visitors to interact with you to obtain a business goal. You may have more than one goal for your site, with one being a primary goal and the others being secondary, depending on the type of business you have. Consider which one of these goals you would like to focus on and which ones might be secondary:
- Provide knowledge and information to visitors on a specific topic
- Have visitors call me for a quote or consultation
- Get visitors to fill out an online form or questionnaire
- Obtain more followers on social media
- Get more social media shares and likes
- Sell a product or service on my website
- Grow my email list or gather leads
- Get more subscribers for my newsletter
3. Preferences for the design (look and feel)
While designers usually jump at the chance to be given cart blanche
on a project, not being able to provide your designer with some direction usually ends with an unsatisfied client. It's okay if you don't speak "designese
", we can get a pretty good sense of what you want by having a discussion around what you like and by getting a better sense of your business culture. We can make a lot of design decisions based on the type of business you have, who your customers are and what your website needs to accomplish. Here are a few points to note down:
- What colours do you prefer? (Do you already have a logo and branding? Your website should be an extension of your brand identity!)
- What feel do you want your website to have? (Corporate, modern, quirky, minimal, pretty...)
- If your business was a person, what kind of personality would it have?( Check out this article from Amy Porterfield about discovering your brand personality)
- Are there other sites that you really like? Any sites you really don't like? Write down 3-5 examples of each.
- If you have an existing website, what do you like or not like about it?
4. Website content
Lack of content is the #1 reason many web projects are delayed.
It might seem obvious to point out, but a website isn't a website without content! In fact, the entire design is built to support and showcase your message. With that said, you should have your content ready before we dive in to avoid delays in the development of your site. If you already have a website, now's the time to perform a content audit.
Collect every bit of content you have on your website and go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Figure out what kind of content you have, and whether it is working for you. Is there anything you should get rid of? Is the content mostly good, but needs to be updated and reworded to tie in better with your SEO goals? How about images and videos? If you don't have a website yet, do you need content written? If you are comfortable with writing your own content, you've got a head start (if not, we can recommend copy writers who can work with you to WOW your website guests).
Things to keep in mind when developing your content:
- Who is coming to your website? Why? What do they need to find there?
- Make sure your content is relevant to your business and your audience.
- Remember your brand personality! Find your voice.
- Find images that support the text content on each page
- Find out your target keywords and incorporate them into your text
5. Your timeline
One of the questions we are asked the most is "how long will it take to build my site?" The answer depends on a lot of variables - how many pages your site has, what kind of functionality it requires, the complexity of the design, whether we have all the content. Remember that building a website is time-consuming, especially for a hand-coded custom website.
One thing that helps the project run smoothly and not go over deadline is having all the information in place before we start, so that we can avoid needlessly undoing and redoing work. A realistic timeframe for a standard 5 page website is roughly 4-6 weeks from start to launch. This allows us time to do our research, create wireframes, mockups and designs; time for approvals and revisions, mapping the site architecture, developing the site including the site structure, style, user interaction, and testing the site before launching it. A very complex site could take months to develop while a simple one-page site could be finished sooner.
Do you have a specific date you want to launch your site? Maybe to coincide with your business launch, a new product launch, or event? Don't wait until the last minute before deciding to start your web project. Start planning months in advance and budget time for gathering or creating your content. Determining your goals and preferences before meeting your designer will save a lot of time once you are ready to get the ball rolling.
6. Your budget
You might feel that a website costs too much or is completely out of your budget. With web companies quoting anywhere from $500 to $20,000 (and more) for a website, it may be difficult for you to come up with a number that you can expect to invest in a website. Keep in mind just that: your website is an investment.
Many business owners generally want to save money and end up paying too little for a website that ends in unprofessional results and risks losing money in the long run because the website doesn't function the way they want it to (you get what you pay for). Other business owners try to save money by using free online DIY web builders like Wix, or Godaddy's Website Tonight, often ending up with websites that look unprofessional and leave a poor impression on visitors. Still more hire giant web firms that offer cheap "professional" sites but that really just use templates and switch up the colours for you. Nothing stands out, and these cheap options end up costing you more in the long run with add-ons, extras, fixes and lost business. There is a difference between a good-enough website and an industry-leading website. Which do you want?
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Think of your website as a long-term investment and not something to scrimp on for short-term savings. Determine a realistic budget for your website and be straightforward with the web developer. If your expectations can't be met within your budget, you might consider rolling out your website in phases. Start with the most important pieces in the initial launch (remember those 5 priorities from #1?), then add more features in other phases. This can help spread out the cost of your site over a longer period of time, and help you stay within your current budget for the first phase.
Getting your website up and out in the world might seem like an overwhelming task, but that's what we are here for! We want to make sure you start off on the right foot by having an understanding of the process. Our goal is to create a unique website that exceeds your expectations and helps your business grow.