So you’re ready for a new website? You’re clear on your purpose and goals, and know this is the right step to move you forward. Firstly, that’s a mammoth decision in itself, and should be recognised as such. You know the direction you want to move in and why, that’s a huge part of this process. That’s what’s going to keep you on track and guide you through this process. Momentum is going to wane and wax in this project, so keep coming back to your goals and why to reignite you and move you forward.
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Is it looking for a website designer? Maybe heading to Pinterest for inspiration? Maybe to start writing your about page?
The truth is, you probably have already done some of these things, even before deciding you would invest the time and financial resources into this project now.
Regardless, here’s where I’d start now.
Get realistic about the project’s timeline and what is involved
This is a big project, and it’s going to take up a chunk of your time, mental and emotional energy. Let’s look at a few things that may be involved in this process:
Website Strategy – This involves a lot of pieces and will vary based on if you do it yourself or work with a specialist. This could include goals for the website, user research, user goals and experience, visual strategies, the list goes on. Personally, I wouldn’t touch the visual design without a bit of this and for that reason I include it in some capacity in all of my website projects. I know a lot of other designers do too.
Content Creation – You will need time to create the content to go on the website. You may need new photography, new copy, new brand design. These are all their own beasts. And you have to do this on top of your other daily, weekly, monthly tasks, be realistic.
Finding designer – You’ll have a lot to think about here including your budget and your timeline. Some designers are booked up to a year in advance, and then how long will the process take with the designer, and do you have to pass the designs off to a separate developer or is that done inhouse with the designer? So many questions to ask and things to get organised before booking the right designer.
Design – Different designers and design studios work to different schedules. If you go with a big agency, they will likely be able to get it done quicker, as more people will be working on the project. One trade off with that is that will show up in the bill. If you work with one designer it may be a slower process. Different designers have different processes. There is certainly an appropriate time for a quick turn around on a design project, but you’ve got to know if that’s right for you. I think most of the time, it’s more appropriate to expect it to take time, 1–3 months is a good idea. Allow for time to really think about your feedback, allow for design direction to change if you and the designer think that’s right, allow for you to get sick or your child to get sick or for the designer to get sick. Life happens during this project and nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. If we prepare for that and bake it into our timeline, we’ll feel less stressed to rush through the project as we see the calendar ticking over. What you don’t want to happen is to have spent that time and money, only to end up with a rushed job at the end. I think every designer has an experience of being pushed to hurry and finish, knowing that with s a couple more weeks, it could have been so much better. The truth is, good design takes time. What seems trivial to someone, to a designer is something we spend time thinking about, changing and getting right in a somewhat tedious process.
Development – Design is just one piece of this puzzle, website development is the other. Whether it’s done in house or by a separate developer, once the final designs for the website are approved, the actual development has to be done. This has its own timeline, and is a big task. If you are having a fully custom website built with lots of interactive design, this will take a while. If you’re having a semi-custom Shopify website built, less so. Either way, know the time it takes, account for it, add a bit extra.
Testing – Once it’s nearly ready to go, a bit of quality control is necessary. The designer needs to make sure that it’s been properly translated from the designs to the site, and there will always be little bugs and glitches that need to be sorted out. If it’s a bigger project, you’ll have more testing to do. It needs to have time allotted depending on all of this.
As you can see, a lot is involved in a website project. Plan for it to take time, give it the time it deserves. And add a bit of a buffer in too.
Organise your process. Being organised makes life easier, it will save you time and headaches. A win-win and truthfully a necessity for living well. Consider the following…
Who’s going to be involved – If you have a designer, developer, photographer, copywriter, make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. What are each of their timelines. If you’re project managing this, keep their details, office hours, expectations for feedback response times all in an easy place to locate.. Most likely you’ll have a spreadsheet or two. Pop them in your reading list, on your tool bar, wherever you can easily access them. Make it easy to stay organised.
What’s your timeline – As discussed before, each of the people involved will have a timeline. What’s your timeline? If the copywriter is late, how does this affect the web design element? The web development element? What’s your ideal timeline, and then work out other optional timelines. Don’t bet on the ideal timeline, big projects need room to breath. We tend to get antsy in projects this big as we reach the end, but if you set the expectations with yourself from the beginning, you’ll stress less. If the project meets your ideal timeline, that will be a wonderful surprise! If not, you’ll be fine with other timelines you’ve worked out. No need to panic or stress.
Where are you keeping this process? Perhaps you are a spreadsheet person, I know I am! But what do you need to keep this all straight in your head? Do you need a visual calendar above your desk with timelines blocked out? A Trello board? A notion project? Make sure you have what you need from the beginning mapped out so you can keep things in check.
What will trip you up – Do you get bogged down in minor details that keep you stuck? Do you struggle giving succinct and helpful feedback? Do you get excited at the start of a project and then loose steam? Take time to think about how you may react in this project, and what may trip you up. Where might you get a bit lost? What might you need help with? Would it be useful to watch a quick youtube video on giving feedback to a photographer? A web designer? A copywriter? Set yourself up for success by having an awareness of what may cause tension.
Put structure in place to help you with that, and give you what you need – If you know you trail off midway through projects, put check in dates in your calendar. Block out a half a Friday or an evening in your calendar at certain points to make sure you’re providing feedback or checking in on things or organising your trello board. Give yourself boundaries and expectations that will help you to succeed in this process based on the insights you have about your working style. Do you need to take less client work on? Do you need to go away to a cabin in the woods for a week to write all your content? Do you work better with lots of breathing room so you don’t get anxious around deadlines? This process should be enjoyable, give yourself what you need!
Put a time and financial budget in place
How much time each week/day are you going to put into this, this affects your overall timeline and what designer you work with. Sometimes you’ll love a designer, but they won’t have spaces open. Just like with a financial budget, you want to be honest with yourself on what time you have to give from the beginning.
What financial resources are you putting towards this? Be clear on your goals in order to make this decision wisely. Start by making a list of every expense you can think of, tally this up and add a bit more. Everything costs more than we think it will, and takes longer than we think it will. Do you need to invest financially in a brand strategy from an expert before the website? If you are doing this yourself, do you need to pay for a design programme for a few months? Will you have a monthly service fee from your designer/developer. Write it all down and see where you are at. If it’s too far over your budget, from there, with a very clear head, you can cut back and get down to what will make the biggest impact with what you can afford. Perhaps you need to pick a single designer instead of an agency, it means it may take longer, but cost less. Save yourself the headache and frustration, expect these things, be prepared.
Overall, my advice is, plan, organise, plan and organise again! There’s so much to think about, and once the project starts, there are so many moving pieces. So get your ducks in a row before the project starts, so that you can better enjoy and relax into the project!