Things to Consider When Designing a Website
Should I hire a Pro?
There are a lot of things to consider when designing a website but hiring a professional web designer should not be at the top of your list just yet. Having a professionally designed website can be a powerful communication tool for your business but working with a web designer is not for every business.
There are a lot of do-it-yourself resources out there for companies that are in the start up phase. Perhaps you’re still trying to get clarity on what your business is all about. If you’re still working things out, a DIY site is perfectly acceptable and probably the smartest thing to do.
The Most Important Things to Consider when Designing a Website
Your Website is Too Important, Don’t Rush it
Don’t rush into a custom site until you’re sure your business is viable and you have clarity on your message. The investment will go so much further if you wait until your business is ready.
Putting together a DIY site, in the beginning, will serve its purpose. If I could give any advice, it would be to wait on investing in a website as a communication tool for your business until you’re sure who you want to speak to and what you want to communicate. If you rely on your site via a shopping cart or if it’s an access portal for your services you should still wait and test the viability of your business before investing too heavily in the site. Using WordPress and WooCommerce are always good choices. Using WordPress also gives you flexibility via plug-ins. There is a host of WordPress plugins designed to organize courses and subscription based material that can do the trick in the beginning.
If you need a site to make money, now
Okay, some websites are the main income stream for the business. If you use a shopping cart or an access portal for subscription sites or for your services you should still wait. I know this may sound counter intuitive. You want your site to be perfect to get people to buy or subscribe, but you need to know if your business is viable before you start laying down large amounts of cash.
Test the viability of your business before investing too heavily in the site.
Using WordPress and WooCommerce are always good choices. Using WordPress gives you flexibility via plug-ins. There is a host of WordPress plugins designed to organize courses and subscription based material that can do the trick in the beginning. When you’re ready, you can create an entirely custom WordPress site or do something completely different. The point is, time is on your side. Take small steps, so you don’t have to backtrack later.
Things to Consider when designing a website from scratch or using a theme
No matter what direction you take, whether you hire a pro or not these are the most important things to consider when designing a website
There are so many things to consider when designing a website. Your message needs to be at the top of that list. The message is the reason the site exists in the first place. Getting clear on your message is where you should start with your web design.
- Do you know who you’re talking to when creating your site’s message?
- Who is your ideal customer and how will your web design and layout attract that person to you?
- What is your message? A website is a tool for communication as well as an interface for sales. What do you need to get across to your clients and customers?
- What do they need to know about you and how do you want to say it?
- When you figure out your navigation structure, you’ll get a good understanding of the pages you’re going to need. We’ll talk about that a little more in a minute. For now, think about the content you want to put on those pages. Remember, this is one of the most important things to consider when designing a website. If your budget permits, you should also consider hiring a professional writer to polish up your content for you. When working with a Designers and developer, they typically don’t write content. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a person that can do it all, but this is not part of the design fee.
- Collect photos and other media you want to be included on your site before you start designing. There’s nothing worse than starting with a plan and then changing your mind on the images or media. It can impact the entire layout.
- Use as much of your media as possible before purchasing stock photography. Using your media will help keep the authenticity of the site. As long as the images are professional and of high quality.
- Make sure you know the size of images you will need and that you have the right images for its intended purpose. A hero image should be at least 1920 pixels wide. Check sizes for your hero, features, header, etc.
If you’re working with a designer, some design firms will do a photo shoot with you and your staff. Creating photo documentation of your business culture. Whether you go all out with a photo shoot or use what you’ve got, having content available that is custom to your business, your staff and your work will help your customers get familiar with your company. They will know your offices, staff and the business in general before they even contact you. If they feel like they know you it will make them that much more comfortable when deciding to work with you. Making your clients feel at home with you should be among the top things to consider when designing a website.
Pay attention to the navigation of the sites you visit for inspiration. Navigation will give you a good idea of what you need regarding how many pages and how you want those pages to flow. Navigation is one of the most important things to consider when designing a website next to the content itself. How and if your customers can get through the site will either cause them to leave or get frustrated, and you don’t want either of those things to happen so pay close attention to navigations for the user experience.
Getting Clear on the Web Design Layout and Look
Get clear on what you need your website to do. Here are the most typical things to consider when designing a website layout.
- Are you looking to design a website from scratch and what exactly does that entail? Do you need a website built from the ground up with custom HTML and CSS or will a template work just as well? Most themes can be modified to create a semi-custom look and feel. In most cases, this is quicker to set up, cheaper and easier to use than a custom website.
- Is branding something that you need help with or are you still working out these details? If you’re still working on branding your business, you should wait on designing a website. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a website. However, creating a website that represents your brand requires that you understand your brand’s identity.
- Do you need a shopping cart? If you’re using a theme, make sure it has a shopping cart integrated. If not, your shopping care plugin should be customizable to fit the theme.
- Will you have a subscription only area on your site? If using a theme, make sure your theme supports this or the plugin you’re using is customizable to match the rest of the site.
- Will you need someone to maintain your site? Do you need someone to perform back-ups? What about uploading pictures, blog posts or making tweaks to your web copy on your behalf?
Finding inspiration for your site will answer a lot of questions and will probably give you a few more things to consider when designing a website but you’ll have a crystal clear picture of your options.
- What features inspire you? Do you like “hero” images, video backgrounds, and minimal design with animation? It’s okay if you don’t know these things right now. When you start searching for specifics, you’ll get a better grip on where you want this project to go.
- Collect inspiring textures, colors, shapes, patterns, and fonts. The point is not to copy another site but to find inspiration for a unique design. Having inspiration is helpful for you or the designer so that they can get to know you. Having a clear understanding of your style and what your goals are for your business will result in a better website. You can create something more in line with what you envision. It’s a step in the right direction.
- Start researching looks, themes, colors and features for your site. Find some inspiration sites to share with your designer if you’re working with someone.
- Take screen shots of individual elements and save them to a web design folder.
- You can also put together a Pinterest board to keep design inspiration.
If you’re working with a designer, you want them to be crystal clear on what they’re giving you.
- Pay close attention to how you describe what you want to your designer. What you’re asking for is primarily a visual media. Visual elements are difficult to explain with adjectives like “fresh” “new” cutting edge” “clean,” etc. You see what I’m getting at here? This type of description is usually what a designer receives but it’s vague. Be careful with these words. Adjectives like these leave a lot open to individual interpretation. What is “cutting edge” to you may be something entirely different to the designer.
Working with a Pro
IMPORTANT: Don’t assume the person you hire can do it all, there are a lot of specialists out there. A web designer may not code and visa verse. If you’re hiring a boutique designer or a freelancer make sure you understand what they do. They will most likely design the site and hand the PSD files over to your developer who will do the programming. Do you need an all in one shop? If you do, be clear about this in your communication of this from the beginning.
Communicating with your Designer
Always get everything in writing. All communication should be via a written contract. Or at the very least you should send an email confirming the conversation. Making sure everything is in writing will keep communication crystal clear throughout the project and save a lot of headaches later on.
Questions and Criteria for your Designer
About the Designer
- The designer’s specialty is, and why they chose that specialty
- Links to three completed projects that are currently live on the web and the specifics of what they did on each project.
- What they like to work on the least and why
- Are they comfortable with the scope of the project?
- How and when can you contact them?
- What are their phone hours? A lot of designers have blocks of time designated for designing only. Not being available is not about being indifferent to their clients it’s about putting the highest focus possible on the final product. Your deliverables are what you’re paying them to do. If they’re not available during design hours, don’t get upset. Remember, your project is getting undivided attention.
About the work
- Is the work doable given the budget and technical constraints of what you’re asking?
Important Note: If your designer tells you they can get it done they’ve taken on the burden. If it’s impossible to get the project done, it’s their burden, not yours.
- What can you expect from them regarding, communications, meetings, revisions, and scope? Here are some questions you will want to ask.
- Will you have a briefing or will the designer use a questionnaire?
- How many revisions of the design can you have before the design firm charges additional fees?
- What does your design contract include? Is this a web design or does it include logo design, web copy and developing the site as well? Don’t assume that logo design, writing services and developing the site are part of the job.
- How will you deal with the possibility of significant changes to the design once work has started?
- Copyright and Legal – Who owns the copyright to the designs? Be clear on legal ownership of the design and all images, icons, fonts or videos used in the production of the site. Make sure you own all licensing rights to the designs and all images that comprise the site. Verify that the designer provides the licenses and documents for the site and its contents.
- Deliverables, what format(s) will you receive the files in (typically PSD or Illustrator).
About Design costs and Payments
- Get clear on cost and extra fees up front. Make sure you get a contract with the number of revisions and deliverables specified. It’s important to have this so that you know what to expect. You don’t want any surprises or miscommunication.
- What is the payment schedule? The payment terms usually fall under one of the following:
- Paid in full before the design starts
- Half down with the rest due at the end of the project
- Paid in full at the end of the project
- Some designer’s, particularly large firms have other payment plans available as well. I’ve seen some design firms offering monthly installments for extended amounts of time. Most don’t offer this.
- Make sure the time frame for deliverables is evident in the contract.
There are so many things to consider when designing a website and this is not an exhaustive list. These questions will give you a lot to think about and move you in the right direction before you take on this big project in your business. Your website will have a huge impact on how people perceive your business so it shouldn’t be taken lightly but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it right from the start. Nothing is perfect, benefit from the time you have as a start-up before everyone knows your name to make all the big mistakes and enjoy the experience!
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