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:
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?
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:
Product or Service Details
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:
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.
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.
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.