1. Have all your digital media and statement of new content needs ready.
Whenever I am ready to sign the dotted line for a new project, I advise my clients to start collating their best photographs and content and make it accessible to me on a Dropbox or other cloud-based server. It is not wise to delay your materials preparation until after your consultant has delivered the project, because it can take MONTHS for you and your staff to prepare it for entry.
My Digital Nature places strong emphasis on building a solid content strategy, so if we work together, we’re likely to have a preliminary site map within a few weeks after project initiation, and a plan for collating your materials. Oftentimes, these materials provide me with the juice I need to think holistically about your project and take it to the next level. It gives me ideas on how your website can best communicate WHO you are, WHAT you do, what your values are, and importantly, how your website will improve your business not only by earning NEW members or customers, but by supporting or simplifying your work flow using digital tools. If there’s a way to make your life easier, you’ll know about it from me.
2. Slow down! Commit the time necessary to go through content strategy.
In a hurried business life, it may be tempting to let your consultant just go away and do their job of building a website, without providing much detailed input about your needs, goals, and workflow. I encourage you to slow down and let yourself be walked step by step through the process, and provide supporting materials to the process, as this will save you time and money in the long run.
Many people can build a website. But not everyone has a sense about how to make the website work for you as a communications tool, marketing tool, sales tool, and as a workflow simplifier. Content strategy planning is where we hone in how to make all those things work better for you on your site.
3. Provide timely feedback, and make sure all stakeholders are on board with it.
You will be given opportunities to provide website feedback during your project, usually after the completion of every major phase. The number of times you are invited to comment and receive work revisions is often limited by the scope-of-work contract. This puts a realistic cap on the number of revisions your consultant is required to make relative to the budget of your project; larger projects normally allow more reviews and revision cycles.
There is a huge element of subjectivity in web design, at least in the graphic and visual display arena, and smaller budgets have a harder time achieving that perfection. But no matter the budget, your consultant should do his or her best to:
- understand your desired visual directions and how that will impact the success of your website.
- have the skills to achieve that standard, or be willing to subcontract the work to get them.
- budget appropriately to make your web dreams come true.
- communicate well with you throughout the process.
At some point, you may find yourselves at an uncomfortable impasse. You want something “more” out of the design, but you’ve expended your allowed revisions and change requests. How could that have been avoided?
Assuming your contractor followed the due diligence required in A – D, above, you will probably have to accept some level of compromise.
There are a few things you can do to support your contractor in nailing a spot-on design for you:
- Provide examples of other websites you like.
- Provide favorite photographs that represents your business.
- Take time to communicate, orally and in writing, about your needs and expectations.
- Get staff input for every phase of design. Don’t assume that if it’s okay with you it’s okay for everyone else. It’s important to bring stakeholders along with you on the process.
- Review the contractors previous work to see if they’ve done the kind of work that you want. If they haven’t, maybe there’s a reason. I have an emphasis on nature, birding, and tourism sites because I have a sense for helping them come to life, and can pick the right subcontractors to deliver the visual goods.
And remember, with WordPress and most open source systems, the design you have today is not locked in forever. The DESIGN code is kept separate from the CONTENT code, so you can change design without affecting site structure or existing content.
Many of my clients come back every 2-3 years looking for a little website primping. As the years roll by, their business focus changes, and so must the look and feel of the website.
That’s why I always say: A website is a living, breathing organism.
Roll with it!