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Starting a website project can be very exciting, but anyone who has gone through the process knows that there are hurdles along the way and smooth sailing isn't always in the forecast. Here are five tips to help you and your team have a positive experience and an end result that best represents your business.

1. Explore Business Goals

You want a new website because your business is growing and changing. The website needs to reflect that growth- whether the company needs something more modern, or you want to showcase a new product line, attract a more sophisticated audience- there was a reason you decided that it was time for a new website. Taking the time to reexamine where your business is going and who it needs to attract is the foundation of your website's success.

Our Client Collaboration Worksheet is sent to every new website and branding client. It asks the tough questions that start these conversations. What makes up your brand's personality? What differentiates you from your competitors? Once a potential client reaches your website, what steps would you like for them to take? - These types of questions help build out your brand strategy and dictate the design and UX direction of your website.


2. Gather Photography

Seems simple- but this can be very time consuming so go ahead and get it out of the way. Also, considering how visual the world has become, photos can make or break a website. Things to consider:

  • Do you have access to professional photography?

  • Do you have the authorization to use that photography in a digital medium?

  • If not, should you consider investing in a photographer or stock photography? (Whitefox has local Charleston recommendations for different industries as well as national partners.)

  • How do you want to deliver photos to your website creator? Organized in a Google Drive? Dropbox? Send a thumb-drive?

Having your photography organized and ready to deliver to your website creator helps to ensure that the project can stick to the original timeline without disruption or setbacks.

3. Define The Website Pages

Like any undertaking, it is paramount to have a plan in mind. This tip for your website project will ensure that you're communicating your web needs up front so they are taken into consideration from the beginning.

Start with something as 'simple' as roughly defining the pages of your website. This task is deceptively complicated and starting the process before working with your website creator is very beneficial to the outcome. Basic pages are Home, About, Contact. But what about Services- do you want to define what it is that your company offers? What about Our Process? That would be a great place to break down a more complex service offering. Do you want to include a Portfolio of past work? Would Case Studies land better with your customers? Do you want to consider landing pages for specific content that you want to link to from digital ads or mailing campaigns?

At Whitefox Design, we facilitate this important step by first having an in-depth conversation about your business and goals, as well as your target audience. Next, we do market research to determine how your competition is serving that information. We look at industry leaders and dissect what they are successfully doing and what could be improved upon. Lastly, we sit down to create your website's sitemap. This document will define the website's structure as well as define the hierarchy of what information and sections are housed on those pages.

4. Understand Development Lifts

Changes to a website's defined Scope of Work can add up. At Whitefox, we are pretty forgiving in this arena, but a lot of web design firms will charge per website change. Understanding what you're asking for can help any surprise bills from arising. Some requests are arguably simple, while other requests can involve complicated steps on your developer's side and change pricing. Here are some examples of both.

Simple changes:

  • Incorporating a social media feed

  • Changing out copy (as long as there is not a sizable difference that would alter the design)

  • Adding a button or link to an external website (you see this a lot with online ordering or booking systems)

  • Swapping a photo or adding a video

  • Adding an additional form to a page

More complex changes:

  • Adding E-commerce (a store) - major lift, multiple pages and hours of set up involved

  • Requiring member logins to view certain pages (gated content)

  • Making sizable changes to a page's layout

  • Embedding Widgets or custom code

5. Content is King

Let's say that again for the people in the back- Content is King. Designers cannot get very far into the design process without having the copy/ content for the website. Just like you can't make a cake without the ingredients- they need something to work with. In our experience, if you do not have a dedicated communications department or marketing staff to handle this internally, it is much easier to outsource this component. There is a certain cadence to writing specifically for web that should be taken into consideration as well, things like:

  • Content strategy for your website

  • Incorporating long tailed key words that your target customers are searching for

  • Writing for task driven audiences

  • Incorporating linked content to improve SEO

Understand that web audiences are a different animal all together. It takes readers 25% longer to read text on their screens. Therefore, on average, readers will only intake 20% of a webpage containing more than 600 words.

“Get rid of half of the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left” – Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think

The web has a ton of distractions so technology is constantly shifting the way we deliver information. Many users are toggling back and forth between multiple pages, working with interactive components and scanning for relevant content.

Only 11% of users read a webpage line by line. Our eyes scan websites in a vague F shaped pattern, looking at the left of the screen and trailing off to the rights. Therefore, your headings need to be clear and meaningful, and your content should be organized with the most important information near the top, moving towards more niche topics near the bottom. An experienced website copywriter, like we employ at Whitefox Design, is keeping all of this in mind when creating your website's copy.

Converting Tourists Into Home Buyers:

Luxury Simplified, a prominent real estate agency in Charleston, South Carolina, wanted a fresh approach to real estate marketing. Something that would grab visitors attention and use subtle marketing tactics to gain reader's trust and confidence. Whitefox Design came up with a strategic "magazine" showcasing all that Charleston has to offer to its tourists- and potential home buyers all while shoring up Luxury Simplified as the leader in the Charleston real estate market.

Brochure design gold courses for Charleston Real Estate Company
Brochure design for Charleston Real Estate Company

This charming magazine was both informational and helpful to visitors, but more importantly, served as a trojan horse in reaching their elite clientele. The 34 page piece includes three distinct sections that can be used as separate brochures as needed- now isn't that an efficient use of a marketing budget!

What is branding?

Gah, it’s complicated. But in a nutshell, your brand is your reputation and it’s visibility in the marketplace. Ultimately, it’s your customers that will define your brand, but there are a number of things you can do to define your company’s voice, your message and establish those traits.

Sounds boring, yes? NO! Ok.. maybe a little. This process is extremely important and should be thoughtfully done before any marketing strategies are in place. To be successful, you need to start by asking the most fundamental of questions and understand the current state of the business and market. You need to go deep. Deeper. Too deep! Go back!

I have my clients fill out a client collaboration worksheet that helps to define their business, goals and voice. Asking yourself questions such as:

  • Where do I want my company to be in 5 years? If your answer is “Makin’ those benjis”.. you need to go deeper.

  • What personality traits describe my business? Quirky? Sophisticated? Whimsical? Trustworthy? Plays well with others?

  • Who are my target audiences and what do they want from my brand? Potty trained toddlers looking to let off some steam? Aggravated equestrians seeking a helping hand?

  • What kind of culture do I want to encourage in my company?

And here’s a big one - know your business’s purpose.

Why do you walk through the door each morning? What are you offering your target audience that makes a difference in their lives? This is actually one of the differentiating factors that separates you from your competitors. Yes, making a profit is an obvious answer, but think about what you do for your customers that drives you. For example, think of Nordstrom. Stop thinking about shoes, stay focused. You have to admit that their amazing customer service does come to mind. In that regard, they are accomplishing their company’s mission statement: To work relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.

So once you are able to get to the core of your values, goals and voice, you’re well on your way to creating a thoughtful and strategic brand that tells your company’s story.

But wait. There’s more. A good brand strategy doesn’t just define what you do, it’s as much about what you don’t do. You’ll want to work with your team to develop policies and values that direct action, but also rules out those approaches you want to veer away from. Think of your brand strategy as the North Star, the foundation.

Next you can begin to move on to logo design (or a logo refresh in a lot of cases), marketing strategies (with those oh so fun tactical executions) and designing all of the beautiful collateral that goes along with it.

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