Considering a new web design for your business can be exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. With a bit of preparation and knowing what to expect, you can have a smooth sailing project that creates a website that meets all your needs and is finished on time. Here are 10 important tips for you to follow:
1. Identify ALL the stakeholders, and designate one person to be in charge of your website project.
In order to conduct a participatory process and gain all the advantages it brings, you have to figure out who the stakeholders are, and which of them need to be involved at what level. It is important to include anyone who may have an interest in this project or anyone who may have the power to veto any decision that is made. Involving all stakeholders will lead to a better process, greater buy-in, more ideas on the table, and, ultimately, a more effective website. And don’t forget to designate a project leader!
2. Establish the goal for your website project.
Knowing the ultimate goal of the project will help you keep your eye on the ball and help you evaluate the success of your project at the end. A goal could be to give your website a fresh, modern, and new look. Or it could be a very specific goal, such as increase the audience for the blog. Without a goal, it will be difficult to determine if the project was a success or not.
3. Select a web designer/consultant for the project.
There are 3 important things to know before you select a web consultant for your project. First, ask them for evidence (e.g., case studies) on how they have provided business value (ROI, lead generation, or other business objectives) on a similar project. It is not necessary for the firm you choose to have experience in your EXACT field in order to design and market your business online. However, it is important for them to have previously completed projects successfully and on time.
Second, check their references and/or client testimonials to find out how they work. Talk to their references on how it was to work with them, if they are happy with the results, and if the project was delivered on time.
Finally, a good rapport and communication are essential for the success of the project. Have the web consultant explain their processes and see if they are good at communicating. If you feel that they aren’t listening to you, or you are having a hard time understanding them, it is best to find a different web consultant.
4. Determine your budget for this project.
This is a very important step because it is going to determine what you will include on the website. Determine your budget with input from all the stakeholders. Your web consultant will be able to steer your project according to your budget. If you don’t have a budget in mind, don’t start the project.
5. Work with a contract, and know exactly what you are getting.
A contract is a great way to spell out what work will be done and by when, because without one there is no solid agreement as to the terms of the project. The contract should clearly spell out the mutual agreement on the project scope, timeline, and payment terms, as well as the responsibilities of you, the client.
6. Identify features and content.
Together with your web consultant, identify ALL the features and content (text, images, video, links, etc.) that you would like on your website. Websites cannot be delivered on time if the web consultant doesn’t receive feedback or content in a timely manner. If you would like to maintain the website yourself after deployment, let the web consultant know which parts of the website you want to be able to edit. Skipping this step could be costly in both time and expense if you want to include new features or content after the project begins.
7. Don’t overrule the designers on design.
For most web design clients this is the hardest tip! Remember that all design is very subjective; usually no two people can agree completely on one design. If your group is strongly against the choices in colors or fonts, ask your consultant to explain their inspiration behind them. Do not give them ideas to change these design elements—this is not just inadvisable, but dangerous. If you change one seemingly small design element, such as font, it could have reverberations throughout the website.
In regard to subjective matters such as these, you have to trust in the designer’s judgement. That is why you have hired them. So instead of giving your input on colors and fonts, focus more on the overall look and structure of the website, and concentrate on whether or not it has all the content and features that you want in it organized in a logical fashion. Remember: the website isn’t being built for you—it is for your potential clients.
8. Get training on how to maintain the website yourself.
If you want to maintain the website after deployment, then make sure that this is included in the contract. Websites that aren’t maintained regularly risk becoming out-of-date or irrelevant, and that can be costly for a business. So make sure you keep up with it.
9. Don’t pay until the website is up and running smoothly.
Pay your final invoice only after the website is up and working on all the agreed platforms/browser combinations. Your contract should also spell out a period after deployment where any bugs or errors will be fixed for no extra charge. Use this time to test your website to make sure everything is working according to the plan, and especially check all the forms: contact, newsletter signup, etc.
10. Pay all your bills on time, and earn the trust and respect of the web design firm.
When the job is finished, pay your web design firm immediately. If you would like them to respond to your calls in a timely fashion in the future, you need to respect their work and give them their compensation. This is not only your responsibility—it is also your legal obligation.