5 Things To Do Before You Hire A Web Designer

So you think you're ready to take your passion, your business to the next level, huh? Everyone everywhere - including me - is telling you that you need a website and amazing graphics and you're probably freaking out. You’re usually the person that takes matters into your own hands. DIYing is always the first option but you're thinking it's time to hire a designer. You need to prepare but how? There are a few necessary steps to take before you event contact a web designer to make sure things run smoothly and your vision is brought to life. Here’s a few tips:

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KNOW YOUR site GOALS

Before engaging a designer at all, you need to map out your site goals and priorities.

What is the purpose of my site?

To sell products and/or services?
To simply provide information?
A little of both?

What are the top 3 things you want a visitor to know or do when they land on your site?

See my portfolio?
Fill out a form?
Download a freebie?

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Create a virtual design vision board/wish list

Vision boards are not only for 20-somethings that are trying to get their lives together. They also can help business owners make decisions and create an aesthetic for their brand.

Your virtual vision board can be a Pinterest board or just a folder of images on your desktop but the point is to include things like colors you want incorporated into your brand, preferred font choices, slogans or phrases, and graphics you intend to use when marketing your business.

While visiting other sites for inspiration to create your vision board, keep a wish list of actual functions and features you want on your site. This could be things like button and menu types, social media links, a booking section, an email list and other forms, etc.


Create your content + HAVE it ready

This is the part most people skip. If no one has ever told you this before, thank me later.
Web designers are not copywriters. Web designers are not photographers. Web designers are not social media managers. Web designers are not business managers.

Now, you will run across Superwoman/man-like people that have a few of these skills up their belt but I’m telling you not to assume.

A web designer is someone who is both creative and technically inclined, and uses both these attributes to build or redesign websites. The web designer has the ability to understand what is needed to make a website functional and easy to use, but at the same time make it aesthetically appealing to the user.

You might be surprised to hear this, but you should have the words for each page ready to go before your designer begins work on your website.

We’re not talking ideas and outlines here; you need the final polished copy for your site completed. If you have no clue what to say or feel uncomfortable or unable to write it yourself, you’ll need to hire a writer to do it for you.

The goal should be to hand over this final copy to the designer at your project start date. This way they can design around it. This will save you money since the designer doesn’t have to walk you through copy creation, and it will help speed up the process overall.

As the business owner, it is your job to determine what the content is so that we [web designers] can make it functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Ask yourself -

How many pages do you want your website to have? What is the goal of each page? How much copy, or words on each page, do you anticipate? Do you have images to accompany or illustrate the copy. Do you have product/service descriptions?

These are just a few of the questions you need to ask before approaching a web designer who will most likely charge you by the hour to help you answer these questions.

Again, the best approach is to find websites in your industry you admire and try to emulate (not copy) what you like and take not of what you don’t.

If you don’t know how many pages you’ll need, start with these five pages that your customers expect to see:

  • Home

  • About

  • FAQ

  • Product or Service Details

  • Contact

Your website will be a fluid marketing channel for your business, meaning you can update it as time goes on to keep it current, if the structure exists to support it.

Keep in mind that adding pages, changing the format, or making any significant design changes to your website will take additional design work. Meaning, it will cost you more money for a designer to update your site. The goal should be to create a baseline site that you can easily update with information and doesn’t require structural changes.

What to do with it

Chances are you already are creating and managing your business materials using tools like Google Docs or Dropbox to manage files. Since easy online collaboration is key when working with other creatives, create a folder online to begin gathering ideas and storing key pieces of information they will need to access for your project.

Here are some of the items you will want to store in this online folder:

Your Copy

A shared file is a great way to create draft copy for multiple people to review simultaneously. By using software to track changes to the document, users can view changes made in real time. This can be a great way to speed up the creative process.

Images, graphics, and pictures

Any image owned by you for your website should go in this shared folder. You will want images for your website including photos, logos, illustrations, and animated gifs. What I mean by “owned”? This is where copyright comes into play. Any image on your site needs to either be created by you or obtained through professional help or purchased outright. Do not copy and paste images from other sites or blindly download images you found on Google.

  • Take your own pictures or hire a professional to get the quality shots you need

  • Purchase stock photos from stock images websites that sell images for commercial use

  • Hire a graphic designer or illustrator to create custom graphics/illustrations for your website

Images will tell your story as much as the words on your website. Make sure they look professional, compelling, and brand-specific to have the most impact.

Website sitemap

This is an outline of your website. Each subset of this basic planning sitemap should include the page name and give you a sense of the layout of your site.



RESEARCH

You wouldn't hire a babysitter without doing a background check. Everyone you work with, who has any type of access to your life, you need to be able to trust with your information and your vision. 

Do your Googles but also use your professional network. Ideally, you want someone that comes highly recommended from someone else you know. If you are the kind of person that wants to sit down with someone in-person rather than on Skype, your network might help you find them.

Know your budget

Building a website is a lot like most purchases in adulthood: it always costs more than you anticipate. I’m not saying this to scare you. I want you to prepare you.

Genuinely, not everyone knows their budget. It’s rare that web designers get specific figures out of people and that’s absolutely fine. Knowing a rough budget is often an even better starting point than an exact budget. If you can come up with a range, then we know what level of service we can offer.

Do your research and find out what the going rate for web design work is in your area before you speak with potential designers.

The best resource to find out this information is to ask other local business owners in the area who they hired to create their website, and the total cost involved. If you find yourself loving a specific website that isn’t local, reach out to the owner and ask if they would mind sharing the contact information of their designer. They will appreciate the compliment, and most likely would share that information.

Now you’re ready to contact a designer. When they say “you’re so prepared,” tell them #AshleeTaughtMe.

Creative Lingo: Brand vs. Branding vs. Brand Identity

Am I the only one that has to step back and remember I’m a nerd and others might not know what I’m talking about? Yeah? Okay cool.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the terms I use are not in everyone else’s daily vocabulary. A huge part of the joy I get out of running a design business is educating my clients and sharing knowledge with other non-designers.

In light of that, I’m going to be breaking down some common terms and buzzwords. Here we go:

The design terms I want to focus on clarifying in this post are

BRAND | BRANDING | BRAND IDENTITY

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Wait, Ashlee! “Branding” … “Brand Identity”? This isn’t all the same thing?

Were you not listening?  That’s why I’m here. The terms “brand,” “branding,” and “brand identity” are sometimes treated as interchangeable, but that’s not the case.

  • Brand is the perception of the company in the eyes of the world.

Let’s say you’re the socially anxious kid at school but you want to sit at the jocks table at lunch. You know it's not that easy. Otherwise, you would have just sat down and started charming them, right? You can’t just expect other people to have that image of you. In order to develop this brand, you need to do some work.

  • Branding involves the marketing practice of actively shaping a distinctive brand.

You start working on your free throw. You study the stats from last night’s game. You rehearse your intro in the bathroom mirror. I’m not encouraging you to be something or someone you’re not but you get the point, right? These actions are the work you’re putting towards developing your desired image; they’re your branding. Finally, you need to make sure you look the part.

  • Brand Identity is the collection of all brand elements that the company creates to portray the right image of itself to the consumer.

You hit Footlocker for some new hooping shoes. You get your haircut. You try out for the team. You make the team!! Those tangible elements—the shoes, the haircut, the team membership—that’s brand identity.

Your brand identity is what makes you instantly recognizable as the jock - or makes you recognizable to your customers. You want your audience to automatically associate your visuals with your product or service. That identity shapes the connection between you and your customers. It builds customer loyalty and determines how your customers will perceive your brand.

 

It all came full circle, right? Cool. So, what are the next steps? You need to get started on developing a strong brand identity.

 

Have any other terms you’re confused about? I’d love to help you understand those, too!
Leave them in the comments below, or send them to me in an email at info@ashleenicoleartistry.com

5 Tips For Planning Your Brand Photoshoot

 Styled product image for  The Success Script . Photo Credit: Ashlee Nicole Artistry, LLC

Styled product image for The Success Script. Photo Credit: Ashlee Nicole Artistry, LLC

Though the goal is to look stunning, a brand photo shoot is not just capturing beautiful photos. There has to be strategy behind the visuals to ensure the photographs are working to help your business thrive! 

 

1. USE YOUR BRAND COLORS

Remember that color palette you're obsessed with so you chose it for your business? Stick to it and use those 3-5 colors in your brand photos. This will ensure your branding is consistent and cohesive throughout your website, print materials, and photography. You can incorporate the colors in things like the backdrop (studio shoots), your clothing, your props, etc.

 

2. SHOW YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS

This is your chance to show what your business does and literally has to offer. Giving a BTS view humanizes your brand. The creative process is different for every business but can include anything from photos of you at your desk to images of you packaging your products for shipping.

 

3. SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY

You want your voice and personality to translate into the copy you write, on your site (and captions) and your brand photos.

Are you/your brand:

Fun and bubbly?
Serious and reserved?
Super Feminine?
Super Masculine?

Each of those provokes a different image. Define your brand voice and present it in your brand photos as authentically as possible.

 

4. MAKE YOUR PRODUCTS LOOK IRRESISTIBLE

Every business with products needs clear and sharp photos of their products on a white background. But don't forget to present your product as desirable and useful by styling the products in a real-life setting. These are the photos that persuade customers to purchase.

If you sell t-shirts, not only do you want to highlight the design but customers want to see the cut and fit as well. If you sell blankets, let us see someone wrapped up and warm. Sell it!

 

5. HIGHLIGHT WHAT MAKES YOU STAND OUT

You're still in business so you're doing something right! What makes you stand out from your competitors? This might be harder to capture for some but I encourage you to take the time to brainstorm how to really highlight your competitive advantage on camera.