You’ve just launched your new business. You want to share what you do and your passion with the world. You need a website! But you’re on a budget. So you decide to DIY. How hard can it really be, anyway?
Well….it took you a week to just decide which platform to use; you’ve spent countless hours trying to pick the perfect template or theme; stayed up past midnight researching what on earth SEO even is; and encountered one too many headaches trying to learn the basics of CSS. And your website still looks like everyone else’s. Or worse- looks like it was done by an amateur (no offense).
The time has come to ask for help and hire a professional. Wise choice. But know – by hiring a professional you are entering into a relationship with your designer. The two of you will be working together to create your dream website and the process is a two way street. You’re investing your hard earned cash into a beautiful, custom design and it can take a month or more before it’s complete. Don’t dive in just yet- make sure you’re ready to hire a web designer.
First of all, do you have a vision for your website? This is YOUR business and brand – so you know it better than anyone. You need to have a clear idea of what you want it to look like and where you would like it to go. Your designer’s job is to make your vision come to life, not to create your vision for you. So take some time and seriously think about your business. Why did you get into this work? Who is your target audience? What feelings do you want people to walk away with after visiting your site?
Think of your website as a valuable business asset. It’s your way to communicate with your target audience. It’s a platform to promote your services or sell your products. An effective website has the power to convert viewers into leads and leads into sales. But an effective website will require a strategy. Consider the main goal of your site. Is it to leave viewers informed? To collect an email address for your mailing list? To have someone contact you? It’s very important that you define the goal of your website before beginning the design process. With this intention made clear, your designer will be able to implement the right strategy to make it happen.
It’s a common misconception that your branding and your logo are one in the same. Sorry friends, but this is far from the truth. Your logo is one (important) component of your branding, but there’s much more to it than that. Branding is a complete, cohesive visual representation of your business. The colors, fonts and photos you use are all decisions that should be made with intention. These elements work together to create the “image” your audience sees and remembers so it’s important to stay consistent.
Think of your branding from the eyes of your audience. List 3-5 adjectives that clearly describe your business. Are these the same words that your audience would use to describe your business? Better yet, what words do you want them to use to describe how they feel about your business?
If your brand’s style and voice aren’t established before you begin the web design process, you risk missing out on a golden opportunity. Your website is like the poster child of your brand. It’s a perfect opportunity to let your audience know what you’re about and guide them into the feelings you want them to walk away with.
If you haven’t thought about branding before, take the time to do it now! Let your website lead the way and implement the choices you make elsewhere in your business.
A custom website isn’t just a monetary investment; it’s an investment of your time as well. A typical web design project can take from 6-10 weeks. Make sure you set aside some hours each week to work with your designer. If you aren’t able to clear a high slot on your priority list, it may be best to wait for a time when you can before you go hiring a web designer.
There’s usually some homework on your end that needs to be completed before kick off. That’s right, you’ll have homework. I begin each project by sending my client a Branding and Planning Questionnaire. This is an incredible tool to help me get to know your business and understand how you’d like to represent it. It also allows me a sneak peek inside your brain so I start off in the right direction and create something you will truly enjoy and can be proud of. I send this questionnaire off a couple weeks before the design process begins so you have plenty of time to focus and think seriously about your answers.
You’ll also be responsible for providing clear and constructive feedback during the design process. Pre-commencement questionnaires can really help to guide your designer in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean they always hit the nail on the head the first go of it. Your feedback is essential to assuring they stay on the right track the rest of the way. Spend quality time on this too. Don’t take 5 minutes to answer an email with “Looks good!” or “I think it could be better”. Explain clearly why you like or don’t like the design. For example, “The layout is a little too crowded. I think a clean, minimal design is more suited to my brand” or “I love how you’ve used green as an accent color, it reinforces that my products are all-natural”.
It’s also extremely important that you stay on schedule when it comes to feedback. If your designer sets an expectation for a 48 hour turnaround time – get back to them within 48 hours. Missing due dates can screw up your designer’s schedule and potentially get your project pushed back.
A web designer and a copywriter are not one in the same. Of course, I do not speak for all designers when I say this; but, I believe I speak for a whole lot of them. It will generally be a requirement that you have the content for your site prepared before the design process begins. The amount of content on each page of your web site could determine the page’s layout or other design elements. Using dummy text in the design mockup is an option, but having the actual content that you plan on using will always be preferred. This will prevent any last minute design changes and give you a more accurate picture of what your site will look like live.
Since this is your business and you know it like the back of your hand, I personally believe your website’s content is best written by you. What is it your audience wants to know? Tell them! Think this through carefully and organize your thoughts. Write your content in an outline form if that helps. For example, if you have different types of services that you offer. Is there enough information and detail for each service to have its own page? Or can you list them all on one page? Do you want to describe each service in a list or paragraph format? Perhaps your About page will have one section about you personally and one about the business as a whole. Maybe you want to to introduce your team on the About page as well.
Be sure to consider your tone and language when writing your content as well. The way you speak to your audience is an extension of your brand. Write to your audience as if you’re talking right to them. Be yourself. Be personable, yet professional. If you struggle with writing content you may want to look into hiring a copy writer.
I’ve written about the importance of good site photography before, right here. High quality images will work wonders for your web site because they make you look professional and aid in maintaining a consistent brand image. And they open doors for you in the world of web design options. Just like your content, your site’s photography should be prepared before starting the design process.
If you don’t have any images, consult with your designer on what style of photography would work best for your business and brand. They can offer tips for taking your own photos, references for professional photographers or recommendations where to look for stock images.
The web design process is just that – a process. Don’t rush it. Take the time to answer questions thoroughly and give thoughtful, detailed feedback. Communication is key. Understand that your designer is not a mind reader and try not to get frustrated if they don’t get it perfect the first or second time. Respect your designer’s experience and expertise and genuinely take their advice into consideration before squashing their ideas. This process is a joint effort and at the end of the day you and your designer both want the same thing – a killer website that you can be proud of.