Website Planning

I used to ask new clients to answer a two-page worksheet before making a website. Just to know where to start. Most of them find it tedious and too much work. I learned later that a better way to understand what the client wants is just to listen to them. The trick of the trade, and I wrote this down and pinned it where I can see it everyday: B4 anything else, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

So here are the usual questions I ask my clients that you might want to answer yourself before you hire a web designer.

Website Planning

Why do you want a website? What do you want it to do for you?

Give the most important purpose a 1, and the next most important a 2.

Is it to gain a favorable impression of the company or organization? Maybe to develop a qualified list of prospects? Do you want it to sell products directly? Or just maybe to encourage potential customers to contact you by phone or mail to consummate a sale? Or maybe you just want to make available product information and price lists to distributors and strengthen brand identification.

Whatever your reasons, keep in mind that your website will make information available to your customer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, globally and locally. It is the best marketing strategy to let the world know who you are and what you do.

Who do you want to see your website?

Maybe you invented a cure for the zombie apocalypse and you want zombies to buy the cure from you? But wait, zombies can’t read …

It is best to know your audience. Do they shop online? Can they google? Or at the very least, can they ask someone to help them type your companyname.com on a web browser?

But that’s not all. Your website must grab the attention of your client. Corporate clients will want clean, crisp and to the point websites. Mommies buying baby clothes will be attracted to light pastel colors that will remind them of their newborn. People who want to eat would want their mouths to water when they see what you can cook.

Know your client.

How often will you edit content?

I ask this first usually. It will help me determine what kind of website you will need.

If you just want an informational website that advertises your company and you don’t need to change content all that much – maybe a bit of edit once a year or every two years. If so, a static website would be good for you. It’s cheaper and will need very little maintenance. Static sites are websites that stay the same every time you open them in your web browser. They are not any less powerful than other websites but they are much more cheaper. And if you just need web presence, you can have that without spending more than you need to.

However, if you need a website that changes content, let’s say, once a month, every other week or even everyday, then you will need a website with a Content Management System or CMS. They are also called Interactive or Dynamic websites because they allow you to log-in and change / interact with your content when you need to. They are more expensive than static websites but they can be easily maintained and will allow you to update your information any time.

Do you already have a concept in mind?

Most clients don’t know what to expect when asking for a web design. A lot of them will rely on the designer to help them out.

But there are a quiet few who come in already brimming with ideas and the web designer’s job becomes processing these ideas to see what would work, what would not.

If you don’t know what you want. try to do the following:

  • Check out the competition. Do they have a website? If they do, what does their website offer their clients? But more importantly, what can you offer that they can’t?
  • Check out other websites that appeal to you. Note the things you like and dislike about them.
  • Collect images that you think will appeal to your target audience. It maybe a different website, an ad, a color palette. Or your logo.
  • Are there any existing websites that you would like to use as a guideline for your new website? This will help us to understand the style and image you would like to project.

Do you have a domain name and a web host?

Errrr … what is a domain name and webhost? A common question.

Domain Name – a name that identifies an address or computer on the internet. This name appear as a component of a web site’s URL or simply put, your website’s location in the world wide web. (ex. www.dudsonline.com)

Web Hosting  or Webhost – is the service that makes a web site available to others on the internet 24/7. Basically when you rent web space, you are renting disk space on someone’s computer which is connected full time to the internet so people can get to see your website anywhere in the world, any time of day.

The cost of a new website will be:

Initial Website Design + Web hosting + Domain Name

If you already have the last two, then you have your work cut-out for you.

Do you have content ready?

Have you organized the information you want your clients to read or see in your website? Most clients do not have this ready so the web project will drag until the client has decided what content to make available in the website.

It is very helpful if you could include a copy of your company’s letterhead, brochures, catalog, etc. so we can see how you present your company image. Do you have any art, illustrations, animations or photographs that will support your text?  Can we have all notes and written documents that have been written about this project? Will copy be supplied to us or will we need to take care of this?

Does you company already have a logo? A tagline? Do you have your pages planned? If not, do we have flexibility with how navigation is setup?

It is best to start planning your content early and prepare them before you hire a web designer. It is also helpful if you have the text and images in softcopy so your web designer can focus on the more important things, like designing your website without worrying about content.

When do you need it?

I freelance part-time and keep a full-time job. I accept only one website project a month so I have a strict scheduling policy that my clients usually mess up anyway by not delivering the required content on time. Or when they make changes or demands that were not included in the initial planning.

It is best to let your web designer know your deadline. But it’s a two-way street. The web designer will need the client to deliver what he needs so the designer can deliver what the client needs.