- Why are you doing this?
- What is the purpose of your website?
- What is your website budget?
- What look and feel are you going for?
- What existing content do you have?
- What is your timeline?
- How much involvement do you want to have?
- What is the final, specific scope of work?
- How will you measure success?
- Bonus Tips
Deer Heart Consulting has worked on website projects for two decades. I started out overseeing site builds for friends and employers. I had experience doing Art Direction for print media and experience working with designers and photographers. When I started to oversee website build-outs, I thought the web designers would know what to do, understood what I wanted, and would do right by me. So I let them control the process. Big mistake. BIG. And one I made several times, leading to overspending on sub-par websites.
I eventually realized I needed to know more about how websites worked so I could make informed decisions. In the mid-2000s, I started working with platforms like CMS Made Simple and Wordpress. My experience in Unix databases and relational databases helped me understand how websites were created and how they were supposed to impact and interact with site visitors. My work with artists and other creatives and my experience in fundraising meant my approach was about developing creative strategies in the design and function of the site, creating something that looked nice, and did it in the cheapest way possible.
To avoid repeating early mistakes, I learned that there are core questions to consider before you embark on building a new website or doing an overhaul on an existing one. Below, I list these core questions as well as additional ones to help you flesh out the detail.
Take the time to consider and develop a response for each point. It's ok if you don't have all the answers. But, at least know that you don't know so when you meet with the people you will hire, they can help you find the answers.
Having a clear understanding of what you want and what you expect will help you to:
- stay on track toward your goals,
- give direction to those doing the work,
- make the workflow more efficient,
- select the right tools to meet your needs, and
- keep the project on time and on budget.
If you want an outside opinion to help answer these questions, hit me up.
The Nitty Gritty
1. Why are you doing this?
- What caused you to want to get a website or overhaul your current website?
- Is a new website actually necessary? Would it be easier to fix your current website?
- Are you ready for a website - the key marketing strategy for your business or project
- Or is it too soon and it would it be best to wait until after other things are achieved?
- Identify the specific things that are lacking in your current situation and why you need/want to change that.
2. What is the purpose of your website?
- What business goals will this website help you achieve?
- Who is it for?
- Who is your current customer?
- What new customers do you want to attract?
- What do you want visitors to do when they are on your website?
- Contact you?
- Purchase something?
- Connect with others?
- Sign up for a class / Book an appointment?
- Show off your work?
3. What is your website budget?
- Does your budget include:
- domain purchase?
- the right level of hosting to meet your needs?
- self-design or hiring a designer/developer?
- transferring data from your current site?
- on-going maintenance?
- SEO / online marketing?
- graphic design?
- content writing?
- Are expectations for functionality aligned with your budget? Caviar dreams on a McD’s budget?
The Fun Stuff
4. What look and feel are you going for?
- Can you provide examples of websites that have a design style that you like or specific functionality you would like to see on your site?
- Is there an aesthetic you are looking to achieve?
- Does this aesthetic match your visual brand?
- What feelings do you want your site to evoke?
- What is your brand voice?
- Do you have a graphic designer?
- Do you have a photographer?
- Do you have a writer?
5. What existing content do you have?
- Do you have a strategic plan to work within?
- Do you need ideas on compelling content?
- Do you have graphics you want to incorporate?
- Do you have a library of images that either you own or for which you are licensed to use?
- Are your photos formatted to the correct size, compressed, and named for SEO?
- Do you have existing copy you want to integrate into the new site?
- What are the most important messages you want visitors to see?
- If you have multiple calls to action, can you prioritize them?
- Has SEO keyword research been done?
6. What’s your timeline?
- Is there a specific launch date that must be met?
- Why was that date chosen?
- Is there a rush? Why?
- Did you account for the time needed to create all of the features you want to include?
7. How much involvement do you want to have?
- Do you want to be involved in the creative process?
- Do you want to have final approval for each major step or do you want a full draft to review and make edits to?
- Are there any steps in the process that you can/will handle, such as content writing and photos?
- Are there others on your team that will be directly involved? In what capacity?
- Do you know exactly what you want and you do not want to deviate from that? Or do you want to leave it up to someone else?
- What experience do you have planning a website?
- Who gives final approval?
8. What is the final, specific scope of work for the project?
- Who will you hire?
- What specific things are they responsible for completing?
- What is the timeline?
- What is the final budget?
- What are your goals, objectives, and key benchmarks for the project?
9. How will you measure success?
- What criteria will you use to decide how the project went? If you answered all of the questions above, it should be easy to determine if the designing and building of the new website was a five-star project.
- Also, once the site is live, how will you decide if the new site is successfully doing what you want it to do?
- Create S.M.A.R.T. goals for the website design and build as well as for the functioning website. These goals are something you should develop or refine with those you hire to help on any aspect of the new site build.
- Make your goals specific. Provide details on who will is involved and in what capacity, what the look and feel will be, which business goals this will be working towards, etc.
- Make your goals measurable. Include specific dates for every step. Include quantity for word count and images. Have a general idea of how many visitors you want the site to attract, an acceptable bounce rate, etc.
- Make your goals attainable. Be realistic about what can be accomplished with the resources you have (budget, people, time).
- Make your goals relevant. Don't have expectations for the site that are outside the scope of what the site is meant to accomplish.
- Make your goals timely. Have dates in mind not only for the website launch but for key benchmarks and specific objectives (such as when you will see a map of the site's pages, when the written content will be finalized, or when photoshoots will be completed.) Factor in ancillary projects, such as your marketing plan, press releases, event dates, product launch dates, etc.
Make sure the first thing your visitors see is attention-grabbing.
- Think like your customer - What questions are they asking? What are they looking for? Don’t make your visitors work or think too hard to navigate your site or find what they seek..
- Your visitor should be able to ascertain the answers to these 5 questions immediately - or at least see where the info is located:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What information is found on your site?
- What sets you apart from the competition?
- What action do you want your visitors to take?
Good luck and have fun!