If you’ve ever changed your mind half way through a construction project, you know that change orders are expensive. Adding a room, moving a wall, or relocating a sink can have a ripple effect on things that that might seem totally unrelated. One change over here makes something over there not work.
The same can happen on a website. Adding a new page or changing the size of an image can blow apart the design and have the web developer scrambling to adjust. This inevitably adds time and money to the project, and possibly decreases it’s effectiveness.
Whether a house or a website, the more time and effort spent in getting the blueprints right — in discovery and drafting — the less likelihood of change orders taking the project over budget and causing delays.
straightTALK: Change is inevitable, but has consequences.
You wouldn’t dream of building a house without a set of good blueprints. A website should be no different.
Blueprints not only provide technical details for the builders, but they are the first step in helping to visualize the finished product. They are critical to determining the materials needed and therefore a large part of the budget. Blueprints can also help to identify problems before a single 2×4 is cut or a single pixel is placed. The more time spent getting the blueprints right, the faster and cheaper the actual build will be.
It might take a bit of effort to read and understand blueprints if you’re not familiar with them, but doing so will save confusion and disappointment in the long run. Blueprints (which for websites are mockups, wireframes, and style tiles) are a critical means of defining and communicating the end goal.
Remember that the communication is meant to be two-way. If there’s something that’s confusing or doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or make suggestions.
straightTALK: The clearer the plan, the better the result.
When you buy a home, you likely have several people helping you. People such as a realtor, a mortgage officer, a house inspector, an insurance agent, perhaps even a builder. But it would never occur to you to just throw up your hands and say “you do it for me” and let them make all the decisions and sign all the papers with their names on it. You shouldn’t do that with your website either.
A website, and especially a domain name, is a legal piece of property that is governed by the same laws that control other property. If it’s not in your name, you don’t own it. Or at the very least, it will be difficult and perhaps expensive to prove you do.
Whether you build your website yourself or have someone build it for you, make sure your web domain is in your name. How can you tell? Go to http://www.whois.net/ and look to see the name listed as “Registrant Name.” Is it you? If not, you need to contact the registrar listed and begin to sort it out. (And if you’re building websites for other people, you should never put yourself as the registrant even if you do it for your client!)
straightTALK: Make sure your website’s domain is in your name.
One of the scariest parts when looking at hiring professionals to help you with your website is the question of how much it will cost. Everyone involved needs to know, and usually everyone is afraid to talk about it.
In an effort to help you understand the market I would like to share this great article on what to expect regarding market rates. As it states, it makes many assumptions and the answer is always “it depends,” but it does provide some great background into what to expect.
How Much Should a Custom WordPress Website Cost, by Brian Krosgard on Post Status
Two things to add, though. First, if you have a set budget, letting the professional know what it is up front can help them get you the most bang for your buck and avoid a lot of frustration. Two, if you really have no idea what something costs, but are willing to find the resources to make it happen, well I hope the information in the article provides some guidance for you. If this is the case, then having a chat with a professional to have them help you define what your likely budget might be can be very helpful. Once again, let them know that you’re just looking for information rather than a full-on proposal and that you might not be ready to move forward just yet — because “straightforward” works both ways.
The prospect of a new website is exciting, isn’t it? You’ve been surfing the internet looking at all the possibilities. There’s a great graphic over here, and a cool scrolling site over there, and look how they’ve embedded videos? Isn’t that fantastic?
Before you start looking about for all the bells and whistles you want to include on your site, you have to take a step back and …
SO not glamorous or exciting. BUT ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to creating a great website.
What is it you want your website to do for you? Increase awareness of your services or expertise? Educate people on some topic? Engage them in a conversation or community? You need to begin with questions like these before you start to think about design elements.
In addition, what do your visitors want your website to do for THEM? Just find your location and phone number? Get critical information without having to call you? Become a way to connect with like-minded people?
Only after you’ve answered those questions can a website be designed to meet those needs.
The colors you choose will depend on those answers.
The words you choose will depend on those answers.
The functionality you include will depend on those answers.
The amount of resources you dedicate to your website will depend on those answers.
A good website design starts by asking questions. LOTS of questions. Questions that make you think.
And once you’ve figured out the answers to those questions, the next step is to write. If a website is a publishing medium, what is it you plan on publishing? Where is the text? Who is going to create it? How about the images? You can get help creating these, but no one can create it without your input. And until the content of your site has been determined, you’re still not ready to start looking at design.
Building a website is a lot like building a house. If you know you’re building for an affluent single person, you’re going to build something completely different than if you’re building for a multi-generational family that likes to entertain. Making one live in the space designed for the other probably isn’t going to work well, even if it is a roof over their heads.
The old adage “Begin with the end in mind” is useful advice before you start to decide what should and shouldn’t be on your website. Much less how it should look. So before you begin… think.
Before we can begin work on your website, we need to be very clear on the message it needs to communicate and to whom.
What we’re talking about here is a brand. No, not a logo, a brand. A logo is only one small piece of that. If you’ve not developed a brand strategy yet, now is the time.
There are lots of branding resources or services out there. If you’d like some assistance, I can recommend a few.
But if you’re scraping by on the skin of your teeth, you’ll need to at least have answers to the following ten questions. They are taken from the book Small Business Branding by Maria Ross. Maria also offers reasonably-priced workshops and other services through her website at Red-Slice.com.
Ten Key Questions to Building Your Website Strategy (okay I changed that just slightly)
- How do you describe your company and what you do? (What do you do? Why does it matter? Who cares?)
- What are the product or service package and pricing descriptions?
- What are the organization’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the adjectives and emotions around your brand?
- Who and where is your audience? What do they look like? What do they read? What groups do they join? How can you find them?
- What are the main benefits you provide to customers? Why can you make those claims?
- Who is your competition and how are you different?
- How do you need to communicate: With current clients/interested parties? With new prospects?
- What is your company’s greatest asset/one unique thing?
- Metrics: How do we measure success? (Awareness > Education > Consideration > Purchase)