Some clients come to me with no idea what kind of website they want. They just know that they NEED one. Which is true, but your website needs to be carefully suited to your business. Sometimes precious weeks are wasted before I can even start the preliminary design for the site. Here are a few tips for you to get organized and speed up the process… even if I’m not your designer. 🙂
First and foremost have an idea of two things:
- The function of your website. Informational, ecommerce, lead generation…
- Your budget. Don’t be afraid to indicate to your designer your budget limits. As long as you’ve hired an honest professional, he or she will work within your budget.
Next consider what you want your website to accomplish within the function of the site. If it’s informational, do you want it to be basically an online brochure with information about your business or do you want to have a BLOG where you continually post new info? Do you want your clients to be able to log in to be able to do something? If so, what is it? Do you want to collect, store and/or share information from a database? Do you want to have banner ads? Go back to your business plan if you have one, or write one if you don’t, and decide how your website should help you to accomplish it.
Based on the information so far, your designer can help you decide what structure would be best for your site. Whether it’s something like WordPress, a fully custom design or something inbetween.
Consider also your target audience. Technical geeks, moms, teenagers, business professionals…
Next comes the fun part. Look around for websites that you like, or where you like a specific feature. Not websites to be copied, just sites that you especially like. Think about the feel you want your site to have and colors you like. Using keywords like soft, bright, technical, fun, cheerful, professional, warm, cool and others will go a long way to getting your idea across to your designer. It’s his or her job to design the site, but you can save a lot of time by communicating your preferences.
Decide as specifically as possible WHAT you want on your site. Pages, forms, slideshows, animations, etc. Your designer will want to nail this down as much as possible before giving you a quote anyway, especially if he or she charges a flat fee.
You and your designer will come up with a layout and flowchart of your site. If you have a preference for horizontal or vertical navigation, roll-out or drop-down menus or two- or three-column layout, make sure you communicate that. Changing these things later in the process can get expensive, so make sure you and your designer are on the same page.
While your designer is starting the design process, you should begin gathering information to be posted on your site. If your designer will be writing the content, be sure he or she has enough information about what that should be. If you’re selling a product and you haven’t already, organize your photos, description and prices. If you are having a BLOG designed, go ahead and start writing a few articles that you can post right away, and learn as much as you can about the BLOG platform you are going to be using.
If there is something you see in the website that is being built for you that you’re not entirely happy with, let your designer know right away. It’s easier, quicker and cheaper to make changes early on than when the designer has propagated it throughout the site. And don’t keep quiet about what you want, it’s in your designer’s best interest for you to be completely happy with your site.
When I finish designing a site and test it I give my clients 30 days to “kick the tires”. After that time any changes they request are considered maintenance, fall under my maintenance policies and will be completed only after the website has been paid for. If your designer has a similar policy, make sure you do your due diligence during that trial period.
One last tip: Be specific. I’ll take a control freak over a flighty, noncommittal client any day. I really don’t mind when my clients tell me exactly how to design their site, at least that way I know when they’re happy.