How to Prepare for Your Web Design Project
Preparing to design and build a new website, often entails a bit more than people anticipate but it doesn’t need to be intimidating. There are specific ingredients that need to be included in order for a project to be successful. I define success in a project by whether or not it achieves the goals that were set for it. This means, we need to set realistic goals and have a wholistic means of achieving them. With so much hype out there about online marketing, I find that people are often very confused and misled when it comes to getting started marketing their business. We've been sold so many 'flash in the pan' tactics that really don't help when your goal is to build a sustainable business over the long term.
After many projects, I can tell you that the most successful sites are ones that behave as epicentres of an online marketing eco-system that is active, engaging and inspiring to your audience. With a bit of preliminary work, we can make sure you get started on the right foot. Let’s begin shall well?
1) A brand strategy and brand identity.
The first and most preliminary thing you need to have in place is a solid brand strategy and brand identity. If you don’t have them yet - hold onto your horses, back up and do this part first. This is the foundational work of business development that you need to have in place in order for all of your communications (including your website) to be cohesive, differentiated, recognizable and in alignment with your mission and values as a business. All other design and marketing decisions for your business, stem from here. If you’re finding it hard to make design choices yourself or to work effectively with a designer, it’s often because this fundamental piece is missing. If you need help with either or the above, feel free to get in touch - this is my studio specialty.
2) A cohesive marketing plan.
Your site is one component of your online marketing eco-system. Beyond it, there are social media channels, advertising, PR, email, networking, content marketing, SEO and more. In order for them all to work together effectively way you need to know which methods make the most sense for your business and have a plan in place for how you intend to use them. Please don’t buy into the ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy when it comes to your business website. Putting up a site in and of itself will have very little impact on your business. For most small businesses, your website is going to be a tool in your marketing toolkit.It only works if you promote it, drive traffic to it and use it consistently over time as you role out your marketing plan.
3) Compelling copy that converts.
When you go pro with this, it can be a game changer, and yet many small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, opt to write their own website copy. If you understand marketing and fancy yourself a good writer, go for it! But if you struggle with it, procrastinate like heck on it and have the resources to hire someone to do it, please - for the love of all that is good and holy - do. The design phase can’t begin without it.
"Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it's decoration." — Jeffrey Zeldman
Zeldman said it. Without content, the design is merely decoration and that is because design is always in service to the message - it supports it, it amplifies it and it drives it home.With great copy, your brand identity will be given a voice with personality. It will come alive online and your offerings will be compelling and resonant to the right people. There are some really wonderful copywriters out there that can take your rough draft and turn it into something you’ll be proud of. Here are a few See/Saw recommendations just for that.
4) Professional Photo’s
Professional photo’s are super important. So much is being communicated about your brand through your photo’s. By having professional product shots, head shots and images of your business or work space, potential clients are able to connect with you and see the value of what they are buying. Photo’s tell your unique story and allow people to connect with you in a more direct and visceral way. Stock photo's make great supplementary imagery but should never be relied on too heavily. Original and intentional photography creates a distinctive and unique visual narrative around your business that will create connection in the viewer and inspire your audience in a much more impactful way.
5) An evaluated business idea.
I’m saving the best for last because not everyone tests out their business idea before investing in all of the above + a custom website. For many people just starting out, it makes a lot of sense to test out the market with your idea and see who’s interested. Sometimes launching light and lean can give you great feedback and you can use that feedback to either move on with your life…or iterate and make your product or service even better. Far too many people go into debt or overextend themselves on ideas that had very little traction in the first place. Do the work in the beginning to test things out and iterate from there. The beauty of the age we are living in now is that there are so many options available to us that allow us to test out our ideas without having to spend a lot up front. Here are some helpful resources from the Women’s Enterprise Centre on how to identify your target market and conduct market research. It may sound like I’m throwing you back to basics but these are important steps to take before you work with a designer.And now…(drum roll), you are in awesome shape to start your design project.
With all of the above in place, you’ve set your project up right and your designer will be able to focus on what they do best - crafting a great experience for your customers online.
They’ll be able to run with your brand identity and extend it across your new site for a cohesive look and feel. They’ll use smart information architecture to structure your content in a way that makes the most sense and that guides your clients with care and courtesy. They’ll be able to support your message with the right graphics and visuals and compose them in a way that is both memorable and unique. They’ll highlight calls to action and strip away any friction that get’s in the way. Design isn’t decoration. It’s a creative and strategic process with a specific aim. If you have the resources to be guided through the process, you’ll find that it will give you a great start to building and growing your business. The rest is up to you! With any big undertaking, I think it’s so important for you to know what the ingredients are for a successful project so that you plan accordingly and make the right decisions for you in the right order as you grow your business.