What should you prepare prior to contacting a design and/or web developer? Having most if not all of these items listed below will greatly increase the success of you website. There are many areas that should be planned out before setting foot into the design. If you don’t plan ahead, chances are you’ll have trouble down the road when you decide you want to add pages, reach specific business goals, edit content to improve your SEO and much more.
Phase I: The Basics
Marketing Plan What is your target market? Who are you trying to reach with your new website? Do they even have internet access readily available to them? These are a few of the many questions you should be asking yourself/team before even considering talking to a designer. You’ll want to make sure you can answer everything you possibly can about your potential customer.
Questions to Consider
- Why would your customer want to use your website? How will it aid them with making a purchase or using your services?
- Is your customer web-savvy? Will they understand how to use your site easily and efficiently? Consider interactive elements and hiring a designer that is competent in user interface design to make sure the site is easy to use.
- How do you plan to market your website to your customers? (Consider: Email marketing, PPC advertising, affiliates, television, print and direct mail pieces, product packaging)
Web Hosting Is your business able to host the website on your own servers? Will your designer be able to setup hosting for you? This is a great question to ask your potential designer. It’s good to be open to suggestions, as certain hosts provide different things that could be more beneficial to your website.
What goals do you want your website to achieve for your business? Think of goals you can measure. IE: I want to bring “x” number of visitors to my site by the end of 6 months. I hope to bring in “x” amount of dollars from my website after one year. If you’ve already got a website, re-design goals are also great to have ready for your designer. Solving your current site’s limitations are what designers are here to do for you!
Style, Color & Other Design Elements
You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t it the designer’s job to figure out all of those elements?” Yes and no. It’s good to go into a discussion having some idea of what you’re looking for. Whether you know a few things or a lot about developing a website, you should know what style of design appeals to you and more importantly, your customers. Not sure where to look? Here are some great web design showcases to help you along
- 35 Beautiful E-Commerce Websites
- Delish! 30 Successfully Designed Food Websites
- Top 20 Illustration & Type-Based Websites
- Checking in Hotel Web Design: 50 Cosy Hotel Websites and Trends
How much money do you have available to spend on your website? This can be a large factor in what you’re able to have developed on your new site. Always remember, the more functionality to a website, the more time involved and the more it will cost you. A professional developed website can cost thousands of dollars. What elements are necessary to have? Which ones can you live without? Make sure you know what you are able to put into it without getting too far along and have to cut back on essential elements. Discuss your budget right away with your designer (Even though I’m sure they’ll ask right off the bat).
Phase II: The Content
What ideas do you want to drive home to your customer? Are they essential to your business’s success? Who is going to prepare the content for the website? Do you have a copywriter or should you consider hiring someone to help with this aspect of the site?
SEO Planning & Copywriting
The content of your website deserves plenty of attention. You’ll also want to consider SEO (search engine optimization) when developing the content for your site. An SEO advisor can help you target keywords that will help improve your search ranking when a potential customer searches for you or a keyword (product/service you might offer). These keywords should be found in your site’s content as much as possible. It’s important to think about SEO before building a site as the URL structure can play a large role. Not everything can be done prior to contacting a designer, but consider having a rough plan for your copywriting and SEO.
SEO & Copywriting Resources
- Beginners Guide to SEO
- Ways to Increase Traffic
- 11 Best Practices for URLs
- Copywriting 101: An introduction to effective copywriting
- How To Improve Your Branding With Your Content
Consider the different pages you’d like to have on your website. How many will you need to have? Can you combine pages to make the navigation as simple as possible? Will you need to add more pages on in the future? These are all great items to think about when planning out the pages of your new site.
Do you want to incorporate a shopping cart feature on your website? Do you plan on having a blog section so you can connect with your customers and share knowledge on the topics that affect your business? There are many special features that you can add to make your site more dynamic and engaging. Many of them can dramatically make a difference on the way your site is built, what technology it uses, and the cost of the site.
- Shopping Carts & Online Stores
- Product Reviews & Customer Testimonials
- Forums & Discussion Boards
- Email Subscriptions
Phase III: The Future
CMS (Content Management System)
If you’re going to have an interactive website in which the content is updated regularly, you’ll want to consider a CMS. This will allow you to easily manage your website and make changes to it when necessary. Most websites nowadays have a CMS unless the changes to the site are minimal. This can increase the cost of a website somewhat, but is necessary to improve your user’s experience. The more often you’re changing your content, the more you’re users will want to visit your website. CMS Examples:
- Magento Ecommerce Platform – A popular CMS option for online retailers
- WordPress – Publishing platform which caters to bloggers. A robust & free CMS option
- Joomla – A popular CMS for websites of all sizes
Goals for the Future
Do you plan on adding pages to your website in the future? Who is going to manage your website’s content? The fastest way to lose your viewer’s interest is by leaving your website by the way-side. Have a plan for the future. Make sure your keeping your site’s content fresh and giving users a reason to visit it on a consistent basis.
Sarah Lynn Design offers website management packages as well as copywriting, SEO, and business marketing to help you get your planning started. Check out everything we can offer you to help you business succeed on the web.