Your website is the face of your business. It is a critical marketing tool—customers expect you to have a well-designed site that is easy to navigate and communicates your business identity and purpose well. There is a lot riding on your website and first impressions are everything.
Yet starting the website design process is a daunting prospect for many time poor small businesses owners. Web designers seem to speak a different language, every company has a different approach and horror stories of web projects that cost three times as much as the estimate and took months longer than anticipated are common.
However, web design isn’t the Wild West and it is possible to get a beautiful and functional website on time and within budget. Following these five tips will help you get the amazing website that your small business deserves.
1. Have a clear vision of what you want
Before you start collecting design bids, spend time scoping out your goals for the site. What will be valuable for your customers? Will you be selling anything on your website? Does it need to be mobile friendly? Consider everything you want your site to do for you, from generating leads to selling products. Put simply: what do you want your website to do? This is referred to as a website’s functionality.
Secondly, consider how you would like it to look. Do you have a specific look and feel or inherent branding you want to reference? Are there any websites you love that have features you’d like to incorporate into yours? Finally, you want to consider your budget. What are you willing and able to spend to get all the features you require? What are you willing to eliminate if it’s out of your budget? Budgets can be difficult to discuss, but be upfront about how much you can spend will eliminate many assumptions or potential issues later.
These are a lot of questions to answer. But collecting those answers into a requirements document or brief is the first step toward keeping your project on track.
2. Understand the job
In website design, you need to be an educated consumer in order to get your website on time and within budget. By understanding the basics of website design, you will better be able to understand what is, and is not, included in the project scope. “Scope creep” that results in skyrocketing costs is a common problem and it is usually the result of parties either not completely understanding or clarifying web design jargon. For example, mobile optimized sites are different to mobile responsive websites and have dramatically different costs and degree of work involved.
Showing the developer examples of features you like is helpful—they can see how what you want works and provide a more accurate cost estimate for you. You will never know as much as your designer or developer, but to protect yourself you should learn enough to understand your requirements. A good website designer will encourage you to clarify any ambiguity you have before starting the project. Pay attention to what is in your proposal or estimate. If everything is in writing, all parties are working from the same reference point, eliminating any potential for error.
3. Discuss deadlines at the beginning
Once you have sorted out the scope and the designer fully understands the project, it’s time to talk deadlines. The web designer should provide a written project plan that details the process and every deliverable in the project. This plan will also include your deadlines—when you need to provide approvals and any content you are responsible for. Having this plan in writing keeps everyone on track, and like with the proposal, gives you something to refer back to if the timeline seems to be dragging out.
4. Stick to the plan
If you and the designer have mapped out a solid plan, then everything should run smoothly. If you feel like the project is going off track, speak up. But also understand that additional requirements or other changes to the project may increase the price and move delivery timelines. Additional requirements aren’t the end of the world and project revisions are common in web design. Open and honest communication is the key to sticking to the plan and communicating your expectations. Remember that this is your website and you want it done correctly. So don’t feel pressured to sign off on anything and don’t be afraid to provide constructive feedback. You and your designer are a team, and you will end up with the site you want if you work together.
Website design is a collaborative process. You know your business better than anyone, and helping your designer understand this will allow them to apply their own expertise. If you put effort into your requirements document and are available for your designer, then a productive relationship will follow. Leading by example will remind your designer of the level of service you expect from them. This includes providing the source materials you promise, responding to questions the design team may have, and staying focused on the end goal—a quality website that will showcase your business.
Your web design project should be a fun and exciting endeavour. Often problems which cause common challenges faced in web design can be easily avoided. By following these five tips, you will be well on your way to getting a fantastic website—on time and within budget.
This article was contributed by Magicdust, a Sydney website design agency providing 100% Australian owned and operated websites, online marketing and e-commerce solutions.