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.
CLIENT COLLABORATION WORKSHEET FOR CLIENTS OF WHITEFOX DESIGN STUDIO
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.
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.