Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beginning Your Website Project

Need a new website design and don't have the slightest idea where to start the process? We can help! Below are a few things to think about before we dive in. The suggestions below may make you feel like you're doing our work for us – but that is not the case. Utilizing the suggestions below provides us with a solid starting point so we get it right the first time. In the end, we can save you time, money and get your website launched on schedule. The biggest benefit of this approach is that the resulting website will reflect your organization’s personality.

1. Tell us what you like. Do some web research. Look at different websites including your competitors, websites related to your industry, and possibly websites that have nothing to do with your products and services. Tell us what design elements you like in regards to design, navigation, function, colors and style. For example:
  • Do you like the navigation menus across the top or down the side?
  • What colors are you attracted to and/or what are your company colors?
  • Did you run across particular layouts you liked more than others?
  • Was there a background pattern/texture/gradient that you liked most?
  • What font families/styling/coloring stood out to you the most?
2. Tell us what you don't like. If you already have a website and we’re talking about an update or total redesign, tell us what you don't like about it and what's currently not working for your company and/or clients. While researching ideas related to #1 above, if you find a website with blatantly awful design/content/structure, note it so we also have examples of design elements you dislike.

3. Write your website content. Have at least a rough outline of the content you want on your website. Think about your current customers and the customers you want to attract – how will your website help them? First you may need to consider what pages will be in your website. InfoPathways will provide you with a suggested Site Map; the skeleton of the site structure. Write (or if you already have it, copy and paste) your content in a word editor like Microsoft Word or Note Pad and email it to our development team. We’ll format the text to improve its visual appeal and readability. As the website nears completion, you can send us content revisions, if needed.

4. Collect your imagery. Send us your logo and any other graphics or photographs you need included or want considered during the design process. However, keep in mind that first impressions can make or break you.
  • Graphics: Old logos and graphics may need freshening up.
  • Photographs: It is not likely that images taken by your staff with point and shoot cameras will be of high enough quality to produce a professional website. But do share these with us anyway. You can also purchase photographs form stock companies. And lucky for you, InfoPathways staffs a professional photographer, should you have the need.
  • Other: In branding yourself, you want to have a consistent look and feel including but not limited to your logo, website, advertisements, brochures, handouts, business cards, post cards, etc. If you have any additional designed material that should be considered in your website design, please share them with us. All of your material helps us conceptualize the design.
5. Function over design. After reviewing our suggested Site Map, consider the navigation of your website. You may want to make changes based on the needs of your potential/current clients. It needs to be easy to use so your website visitors can find what they are looking for within a few clicks. If a visitor cannot find what they need quickly, they will go elsewhere.

6. CMS. Will you need a Content Management System for your website where you can update targeted website content on your own? A CMS can add to the cost of the project, but if you need to make updates often, you will likely recoup your costs in a reasonable timeframe. However, some updates should be filtered through your website company not just because the cost makes more sense, but your time is more valuable when applied to your specialty. Let us know what you want to take charge of and what you want us to handle. We’ll talk to you about your options.

7. Incorporating other elements. Other elements could be as simple as a graphic image that needs to be incorporated, logos of partnership companies that should be noted, or any minor detail related item. It could also be a bit more complicated, like Facebook and Twitter apps to connect your social media or setting up a Blog. Another thought would be incorporating email marketing such as Constant Contact and a ‘Join Our Email List’ sign-up box or and setting up visitor tracking with a solution like Google Analytics. Many of these elements affect design. Some affect cost. Let’s try and figure out everything upfront so there are no surprises.

8. Involving your team. Asking for input from your team with consideration of what the website should provide and look like can be very beneficial. However, these types of discussions should be completed before starting your website development. Not only do we (InfoPathways) need firm decisions to base your design on, but involving too many people will lead to delays. During the development of your website, one person at your company should be the lead contact for the website. They need to be available and have the authority to make decisions and provide imagery and/or content in a timely manner.

9. Domain and hosting details. Launching a website can be quick and simple. However, it can also be a nightmare.
If you do not have a website yet, we need to decide on your domain name and where you would like to host the website. Think of your domain as your address and the hosting as the monthly rent. A domain can be purchased for one or more years. There are multiple hosting providers to select from. You can host with InfoPathways, which we prefer, to keep everything in one place.

If you already have a website, you need to at least know where your site is hosted and how to access the account (your login and password). If you are not in control of this account, it is likely your current/previous web team is. If this is the case, ask them kindly for the information (the account and FTP information). Some web developers do not let go easily and this is where the nightmare can begin.
Having your information upfront will help us stay on track with your target launch date.

10. Launch goal. Choosing a reasonable launch date is crucial and it is important that this date can be flexible. In ideal situations, websites can be completed by the initial launch date goal, but keep in mind that your part and our part may encounter unexpected hurdles as well as additions and changes to the project. Time management is also a big hurdle that we see a lot of clients struggle with. Make sure you have time to complete your part; writing and editing content, collecting photos and responding to our web designers and developers with feedback. Our experience tells us that launch dates are missed more often due to the time it takes the customer to write and assemble the content. We’ll do our part to keep your project moving.

Give us a call at InfoPathways – together we can brainstorm great ideas and solve your website challenges with the help of these basic stepping stones!

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