Business + Organization

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.

Auditing and Updating Your Website and Website Strategy

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First and foremost, I want to say Happy New Year! I’m wishing all of you happiness and blessing this year. Go out and kill it! 

I've been working tirelessly to plan Quarter 1 of 2018. This year, my main business goals are to get organized and stay patient (simplified version).

"You have to master what you already have going on before you expand." That’s what I’m on. But that doesn't mean you don't plan for the expansion before you execute. Get ready NOW!

One of the biggest tasks on my to-do list to get ready for Q1 was updating my website. But just saying "update your website" is way too vague. I had to break that task down into smaller weekly and daily tasks to tackle it.

You've heard me say before that your website is your 24/7 salesperson; your star employee! It needs to be working while you work, while you sleep, while you party, etc. That means it’s worth the time, effort, and extra care to make sure it’s doing its job correctly. And to be able to do that,
YOUR WEBSITE NEEDS ITS OWN STRATEGY.

In my first attempt to break down this huge task into smaller tasks, I quickly realized - I have no idea where to start. What content do I already have? What should I get rid of? What is out of date? Etc. So many questions, not enough answers. Let me know if this sounds like you:

  • My website/blog isn’t converting.

  • Why aren’t my visitors opting into my email list?

  • My site’s bounce rates are extremely high.

Me too.

 

STEP 1 - AUDIT YOUR WEBSITE

I needed to review every page, every word, every image, and every link so that I knew what I was working with.

What does a website audit entail?

The main categories are:

  • Purpose and Intent

  • Branding

  • Design/Usability

  • Content + Pages

  • SEO

  • Other Techy Stuff

Once again, this is a huge task that needs to be broken down into smaller tasks. To tackle this, I’ve created an audit checklist for you.

Grab your Website Audit Checklist for just FREE below or over in the Resource Shop.


"Well, Ashlee, I don't have a website, YET. Now, where do I start?"

I hear you, I hear you! Same rules apply when you're building your site. You need to be able to account for everything and make sure every piece of content and code is working to the benefit of your business. Once I knew what was there, step number two was planning the creation of everything I needed to update or add.

 

STEP 2 - PLANNING PAGES AND CONTENT

I'll be honest with you, I was all over the place with this, too. Which got me thinking about how frustrated my website clients must be. If I'm struggling to plan out pages and content for my site, my clients must be pulling their hair out when I ask them to send me ALL their content for their website build.

With you and your frustrations in mind, during Q1, To tackle this, I’ve created a Website Planning Workbook. With this workbook, you’ll:

  • Identify your key objectives for your website.

  • Identify your audience.

  • Plan out your sitemap: How your website will flow with sections and pages.

  • Create outlines and diagrams for each webpage.

  • Write out the copy for your main pages.

  • Plan out your color scheme and visuals.

Grab your Website Planning Workbook for just $8 below or over in the Resource Shop.

You're on your way to having a more functional website that CONVERTS!
Happy planning, creatives!

Set Up Your Branded Email In Gmail

You have your website up and running with the perfect domain name, right? [yourdomain.com] But your clients and customers still have to email you using your @gmail.com account. It's time to level up and make your business a little more seamless and a lot more professional.

Did you know you can send email from yourdomain.com using Google's Gmail platform? Well, You can! GSuite, formerly Google Apps for Work makes it super easy. 

Why Do You Need A Branded Email Address?

Let's be honest. @gmail.com and @yahoo.com email addressed don't give off the same professional vibe as a branded email address. Branded domain email addresses also help you stay out of spam folders! 

Some situations where you may want to use G Suite email instead of the free version of Gmail include:

  • You are branding your small business and it's important for your email address to match your new website domain.

  • You want to start hiring employees who will rely on email to do their job. You want them to use the same tool to make training easier.

  • You need an email tool that includes around-the-clock technical support.

  • The storage capacities of free email tools aren't enough for your needs.

  • Your business relies heavily on other G Suite tools such as Docs, Sheets, or Slides and you want your email to integrate with these tools.

Why Use GSuite?

One word. Syncing. I use just about all of Google's apps and platforms because they sync seamlessly across devices and even between apps, making life just a bit easier.

Just one of the business benefits of GSuite is their branded email addresses. GSuite gives you email, storage, support, admin controls and more starting at just $5/user/month.

Some benefits of G Suite email include:

  • Match your email domain name to your business web site with a custom domain name.

  • Enjoy around the clock technical support by phone, email, or online.

  • Google-sponsored ads are gone.

  • Save more messages with increased cloud storage—starts at 30 GB.

  • Use other packages (like Outlook) as an email client.

  • Log in one time to access both email and other Google business tools like Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

  • Share calendar information between multiple employees.

  • Display your Logo on the Gmail interface.

Sold?
Get started setting up your branded email address through Google today!

STEP 1: Choose a Paid G Suite Option
STEP 2: Enter Business Profile Information
STEP 3: Choose a Custom Domain Name

  • If you choose to use a domain name you already own, the screen asks for the domain name.

  • If you choose to buy a new domain name, the screen asks what domain name you want and gives you an opportunity to check to see if it is available. You are also asked to provide your domain contact information.

STEP 4: Select a Password
STEP 5: Agree to G Suite Terms
STEP 6: Verify Your Domain
STEP 7: Set Up Gmail for Business MX Records

  • Enter the MX record information from this screen into the MX record information on your host account. Again, this process varies depending on your hosting company. For specific setup instructions for various hosting companies, go to the G Suite Administrator Help Center . Follow the specific instructions for your hosting company.

STEP 8: USE YOUR NEW, BRANDED GOOGLE BUSINESS EMAIL