Developing a new website… even reworking an existing one, can feel like an overwhelming task. Where do you start? Below are a ten things to think about before diving in. The suggestions below may make you feel like you’re doing all the work yourself – but really we are just narrowing the focus and solidifying the details of your project. There’s nothing better than getting it right the first time! Considering these ten points will save all parties time, money and will result in getting your new or updated website launched on schedule. And to top it off, the biggest benefit of this approach is that the resulting website will better reflect your organization’s personality and goals.
- WHAT DO YOU LIKE? Set aside time to do some web research. Review different websites including your competitors, websites related to your industry, and possibly websites that have nothing to do with your products and services. Consider what design elements you like in regards to design, layout, navigation, function, colors, patterns, font families, and other aesthetics.
- WHAT DO YOU NOT LIKE? If you already have a website and we’re talking about an update or total redesign, consider what you don’t like about the existing website and what’s currently not working for your company and clients. While completing #1 above, if you find a website with blatantly awful design/content/structure, note it so we also have examples of design elements you dislike.
- DON’T DELAY – WRITE YOUR WEBSITE CONTENT TODAY! Have at least a rough outline of the content you want on your website. Think about your current customers and the customers you want to attract… How will your website help them and what do you want them to do? How do you want your content to help you and your business? What action should your clients take? First you may need to consider what pages will be in your website. I’ll help you format the text to improve its visual appeal and readability both for the user and the search engines. If you are not necessarily a fan of writing, consider hiring a copy writer to assist in the development of your content.
- PICTURES SAY 1000 WORDS. Send us your logo, related graphics, and photographs you want considered during the design process. However, keep in mind that first impressions can make or break your message.
- Graphics: Is your logo strong or might it need some freshening up to fit with the times?
- Photographs: Do you have high quality photos with good lighting and visual appeal? Consider purchasing stock photos or hiring a professional photographer.
- Other: In branding yourself, you want a consistent look among your logo, website, advertisements, brochures, handouts, business cards, post cards, etc. If you have any design material that should be considered in your website design, please share them with us to help conceptualize the final website design.
- FUNCTION OVER DESIGN. Structure the hierarchy of your navigation for ease of use. What do your clients expect or need from your website? It needs to be easy to use so your website visitors can find what they are looking for within a few clicks, if any! When planning the hierarchy of your pages, remember that if a visitor cannot find what they need quickly, they will go elsewhere.
- CONTENT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION. Will you need a Content Management System for your website where you can update specific website content on your own? A CMS can add to the cost of the project, but if you need to make updates often, you will likely recoup your costs in a reasonable timeframe. However, some updates should be filtered through your website company not just because the cost makes more sense, but your time is more valuable when applied to your specialty. We’ll talk to you about your options and expected future maintenance expenses.
- SPECIAL FEATURES & ELEMENTS. Other elements could be as simple as a graphic image that needs to be incorporated, logos of partnership companies that should be noted, or other items. It could also be a bit more complicated, like Facebook and Twitter apps to connect your social media or setting up a Blog. Another thought would be incorporating email marketing such as Constant Contact and a ‘Join Our Email List’ sign-up box or and setting up visitor tracking with a solution like Google Analytics. Do you need any widgets like “Get Directions” or “Check the Weather”? Many of these elements affect design. Some affect cost. Let’s try and figure out everything upfront so there are no surprises.
- BRAINSTORMING & PLANNING. Asking for input from your team with consideration of what the website should provide and look like can be very beneficial. Complete group discussions before starting your website development – it is a great brainstorming opportunity – who knows what your website needs more than your team? Consider interviewing your most loyal clients – ask them what they would like to see on your website. Firm decisions will help your website’s design and content fall into place. During the development of your website, select one person at your company to be the lead contact for the website. They need to be available and have the authority to make decisions and provide imagery and/or content in a timely manner.
- DOMAIN & WEB HOSTING. Launching a website can be quick and simple. However, it can also be a nightmare. If you do not have a website yet, we need to decide on your domain name and where you would like to host the website – this is very easy. If you already have a website, you need to know where your domain name is registered and where your website is hosted. If you are not in control of these accounts, it is likely your current/previous web team is. If this is the case, ask them kindly for the information (the account and FTP information). Some web developers and hosting companies do not let go easily and this is where the nightmare can begin. Having your information upfront will help us stay on track with your target launch date. If you are 100% unsure of where the site is located, we may be able to learn something by looking up your website using a free WHOIS Look Up service.
- LAUNCH GOAL. Choosing a reasonable launch date is crucial and it is important that this date be flexible. Don’t drag your feet to execute your website project until just a few weeks before it NEEDS to be live. In ideal situations, websites can be completed by the initial launch date goal, but keep in mind that we may encounter unexpected hurdles that include additions and/or deviations to the project. Time management and good communication can also be a big hurdle. Make sure you have time to complete your part; writing and editing content, collecting photos and responding to your web designers and developers with feedback. Our experience tells us that launch dates are missed more often due to the time it takes finalize content. We’ll work together to keep your project moving.
Together we can brainstorm great ideas and solve your website challenges with the help of these basic stepping stones!