So you’re ready to launch your new business and will be hiring someone to begin building a new website. Or maybe you’re already in business and your site hasn’t been updated since 1999. While the process for building a site for each of these scenarios includes mostly the same steps, there are a few things you might want to take care of first.
When I embarked on the process of building a house, one of the first builders we spoke with immediately started showing us all of the standard and upgrade options for things like flooring, cabinets, and plumbing fixtures. We were excited!
But something didn’t sit right and we approached another builder who really kept us on track with regards to getting through the first steps, which aren’t really that exciting. These are steps such as obtaining financing, knowing your property setbacks, being clear on final budget, selecting a plan, and so on. After all, if those those aren’t done first, you might not be able to build a house at all.
When it comes to building a new website, it’s kind of the same thing: there’s some up front work that needs to be done first. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to some designers and agencies and start getting a rough idea on price and process. But at the end of the day, we need to know what we’re building before we can give an accurate price. Sure we can peruse competitor sites and research your industry, but we’re going to need you to sign off on everything when it’s all said and done. If you really want it to be all you had hoped it could be (and then some), here are some things you can do so that you’ll a) start with an accurate estimate and b) speed up the time it will take to complete.
1. Figure out the primary needs of your site
Often, when it comes to websites there’s a large percentage of the population that simply want a website because they think they need one. And they probably do. But often, people aren’t aware of what kind of purposes a website can serve. At it’s most basic, it’s information about your company. But your company website can also do the following:
- Sell products or services (passively or a little more aggressively)
- Collect prospective customer information
- Act as an appointment setter
- Provide answers to frequently asked questions
- Manage job postings and incoming applications
- Display videos
- Feature an event calendar
- Showcase a directory
- Urge visitors to take some sort of specific action
- Provide custom quote or pricing information
As you can see, once you start thinking of your site as a tool, there’s a lot of options you can take advantage of. And it’s quite okay if you really only need your site to serve as a place for information – it’s just good to know what the possibilities are.
Once you decide to work with a web designer, chances are they will help you figure out your needs. But if you have a sense of what you want from the start, you’ll speed up the process.
2. Check out your competition (locally and outside your area)
Sometimes, it’s hard to create inside a vacuum. Taking a look at what others are doing in your industry, both locally and beyond can quickly give you a better sense of what you might need. Just be aware, depending on your industry, the standard might be way ahead of the curve, right in the middle of it, or way behind it.
If everyone in your industry seems to have an older website, you can really gain a leg up by simply having a more current, user friendly website that’s well designed. If on the other hand, there’s a lot of complex functionality going on in the sites you explore, you’ll know you have your work cut out for you! (Or, we do, at least.)
Just make sure you research a fair amount of similar companies before making any decisions on website features. You can break up features into a few categories:
- Absolutely need. This is something that’s a no-brainer. You gotta have it.
- Could take or leave it. This is something that might be nice to have but won’t matter much at this time.
- No need. Lastly, this is something that you really don’t need. Example: contact forms. They’re ubiquitous. Personally, I like them. But if no one at your organization will be on top of monitoring messages sent through a contact form, then all you need to provide is a phone number and address.
3. Decide on a date you want the site live
If you’re starting from scratch and not creating any of the content yourself, it’ll probably take at least a month to complete your site. And possibly longer. This is an average. Depending on the functionality your site requires, it could be much longer. And of course, if it’s a really simple site, it might be quicker.
You can work with your designer to come up with a realistic deadline. You’ll still probably need to remain flexible as there can be unknowns that crop up, but for the most part, an experienced designer should be able to meet the deadline set at the beginning.
4. Have a sense of budget
Building a new website these days is not cheap. For each piece of functionality that you add, the price will increase. Additionally, each page that requires content will increase the price. There are ways to keep the cost as low as possible and some agencies offer monthly pricing plans to offset the large initial cost. Just make sure you get the site you need. Most of the time it is not difficult to add functionality at a later time.
5. Get a few proposals
No need to go crazy here. Three should do. But, just as you want to explore costs and contractors for building a house, you’ll want to explore working with a few different designers. Here are some things to look for:
- Experience. If previous work isn’t featured on the designer or agency’s website, ask to see some previous website work.
- Web Designer or Web Developer? There are a lot of people out there building websites and these terms are used loosely. I’ve seen plenty of well-built sites that looked terrible as well as beautiful sites that were a mess on the backend. Ideally, you want someone that can handle both of these tasks. A web developer, when it comes to websites doesn’t need to be someone like Bill Gates. After all, sites these days are mostly built on a pre-existing CMS, like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, or Squarespace. Still, there is a level of development that has nothing to do with the visual aspect of your site. When it comes to the visuals, you need someone with an eye for detail.
- Work-for-hire or marketing partner? Be conscious of if who you’re working with is someone that has the potential to be of future use. Sure, you could just hire someone and then when the site is done, go on your way. But these days, you’re going to need hosting, regular site maintenance and updates, and who knows what else. Building a new website for someone forces the web designer (or developer) to gain close knowledge of your company. Here at Soapbox, as as designer, developer, photographer, and marketer, we’re able to handle and excel at a wide range of services. And we’re better at those services when we have intimate knowledge of what the company does.
I hope this has been helpful, if only just a little. We want the process of building a new website to be simple and smooth not only for you, but for us, too!