Answering these questions will give your designer a better steer. The fact is many businesses don’t know what they want other than in the broadest terms: “I want an ecommerce site”, “I want something more up to date”, “I want a news section I can regularly update”, “I want to be able to capture email addresses.”
While these are hugely important a designer needs to know about your business, what you sell, what’s important etc., so he can make recommendations on design, functionality, and the type of platform you will need which in most cases will be a content management system (CMS) or ecommerce platform. Popular platforms are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Shopify, Magento, Volusion and Woo Commerce though there are many, many to choose from.
A designer will not expect you to know everything that’s available and a good designer will help guide you and give a better understanding of what’s possible. Design is a two-way process.
Images, Text and Functionality
You may think design is the be-all-and-end-all of a great website but it’s only part of the story. Content (typically text, images and video) and functionality (what you want the website to do) are equally as important. Websites often look great because they have great images, graphics, icons and quotes etc. Replace those with poor images and the impact is completely different.
When considering images consider the following common problems:
- Images do not fit where you want them to
- You provide an image in portrait to be used in landscape
- Backgrounds distract or interfere with the subject matter
- Poor quality, blurred or out of focus
Your web designer will typically suggest three options:
- Purchase images from a stock library such as Fotolia or Shutterstock
- Hire a professional photographer
- Take pictures himself
Stock image are a great start with millions to choose from but they are not exclusive to you – anyone can buy them so don’t be surprised to see the same image or model elsewhere. If your business has a particular niche, product or relies on its unique location you may need to consider taking your own pictures – which will of course be yours to use wherever you choose.
And … Photoshop is not the solution to improving poor quality images. Start with obtaining great images. Don’t just hand a bunch of images to your designer and expect him to create a work of art!
Do not underestimate how long it takes to create content. Many a website has been delayed because content simply isn’t ready. This can be a major undertaking and the time scale is often underestimated. A simple brochure site might only contain a few pages, but a business or ecommerce site might well contain dozens.
Many web designers are quite literate (well, we are!) and can assist. If they can’t write good copy or don’t have time they will know someone who can. However no one knows your business like you do so consider the following:
- How many pages do you need?
- If you have a news section or blog how often will it be updated? Be honest! Don’t expect visitors to stay on your site for long if your latest news piece is six months old. You need a content calendar.
There is absolutely no point in putting a half-baked website live. It will do you more harm than good.
Functionality can make or break your website. If you sell digital goods to be downloaded or you’re an ecommerce business, it is essential. The user experience needs to be spot on with everything working perfectly. If it’s more of a brochure site you may need to capture email addresses and drip feed more content.
Take a look at what other websites do. Functionality isn’t just rotating banners and bouncing icons (which can be distracting). It’s more about how you interact with visitors.
- What do you want visitors on your website to do: contact you, make a purchase, book an event, read your news, find out information? What are your calls to action?
- Is special functionality required: link to business systems and databases, link to a CRM?
- Do you want 3rd party advertising on your site? Do you currently allow advertising? How do you source advertising: sales staff, Google Adsense?
- Do you use marketing automation software?
- Do you use Google Analytics?
- How important is email marketing? Do you capture email addresses?
- Are you part of a wider community? Does this need to be made clear on the website? Does information need to be pulled in from another source?
- Do you need to show Tweets and Facebook activity?
- Is Trip Advisor important?
- How about customer ratings?
- Are customer comments important?
- Many businesses trade internationally. Do you require multi-lingual pages?
Email marketing is big business – and for good reason. It works. But in order to capture email addresses you need to embed the functionality into your site. You then need to create a content marketing calendar so your legions of fans are kept up to date.
Email marketing solutions can range from the simple to the complicated. Many web designers and developers may offer marketing services themselves but if they don’t they’ll know someone who can – so ask now, not after the site has gone live.