Whether you’re building a brand new site, or updating an existing one, your designer will ask you many questions to ensure the final product meets your needs and the needs of your visitors. The guide below will help prepare you for the types of questions that will arise, and hopefully help make the process as smooth as possible.
Review Your Existing Site
If you’ve got an existing site, it’s good to start off with building a list of what you like and don’t like about the existing site. Try and see it through your customer or visitors eyes. This is massively helpful to your web designer to make sure you both see eye to eye.
- Think about what actions you want them to take to convert them into customers or clients.
- It can literally be a list of pros and cons.
- Navigate your existing site on both a desktop and mobile device.
- Ask others in your company to do the same thing and compile the results.
Often times a website redesign comes as a result of a change in branding – a new logo, colors, typefaces. If you’ve got any branding documentation, pass this onto your designer to help make sure everything on your new website jives with any printed materials.
- If you have existing branding documentation and high resolution logos, zip them up and send to your designer.
- If you are starting from scratch, it often helps to make a list of websites you’ve seen that you like, along with what you like about them.
- Communicate how much leeway they have with your branding. Some brands are extremely strict, where others can be more like guidelines. Either way, it helps the designer know what they can and cannot do.
Navigation & Page Hierarchy
Coming up with your navigation and page hierarchy is usually one of the first things you’ll want to do.
- Create a simple word document with a bulleted list. Come up with the pages you want in your navigation.
- Indent child pages, or those you want to dropdown from the main navigation.
- Look at how your competition lays out their navigation.
- Avoid creating too many pages that are going to have very little content.
- Fewer Pages with More Information is better than many pages with just a couple paragraphs on them.
In my experience, the biggest bottleneck in building a new website is gathering content. Especially in larger organizations where information has to be gathered from multiple people in different departments.
- Create a dropbox or google drive account to house all of your assets and give your designer access.
- Create a word document to represent each page.
- Create a folder for images, and label them meaningfully. e.g. about-us-page-header.jpg is better than IMG2045.jpg
- A simple spreadsheet is an easy way to display where the content goes, if it’s available, and if it’s been placed into the site.
- A project management tool like Asana is an even better method for tracking the progress of the overall project.
Advanced Functionality & Integrations
The biggest variable in the cost of your project is going to be any advanced functionality. Every website is going to have several static pages, a contact form, and typically blog posts. Think about any advanced functionality you need.
- Are you selling anything directly online, products, services, tickets to an event?
- Do you need to integrate your website with any third party services or APIs to transfer data? e.g. pulling daily inventory files for your store.
- Do you need a specialized staff directory or a members-only section of your site that requires a login?
- Simple links to third party websites typically aren’t a big deal. e.g. your doctors office has a link to a website where patients can access their health records.
- Have a conversation with your designer about anything that isn’t static on the website to avoid issues halfway through the project.
Create an RFQ
If you plan to get quotes from multiple agencies or designers, it’s going to save you a ton of time to build out a Request for Quote (RFQ) document that you can then simply attach to an email and fire off to multiple agencies and designers to get multiple quotes and compare your options.
Here’s a great guide on how to build a robust RFQ.
Think about Hosting & Domains
Typically, your new site will be built out on a staging server the designer or agency owns, and can then be deployed to a production server they own, or copied to your server. Nothing really needs to be changed until the end with your domain name and hosting, but it’s always smart to go ahead and start planning ahead of time.
- Where is your domain registered? Is it registered to your company or did a previous web designer or agency register it on your behalf?
- I always recommend that clients register their own domains. If you end up in a tiff with your designer or agency and they have registered your domain for you, they can hold your site hostage, or even take it offline. Create an account at namecheap and ask your new designer to help transfer the domain to your account so you have full control over it.
- As far as web hosting, about 80% of my clients rely on me for hosting, and the remaining 20% provide their own. Clients typically don’t want to have to worry about managing their own hosting account, it’s easier to write one check for everything to the designer and have that part of project.
- If you want to provide your own hosting, make sure you express that desire to your designer early in the process to ensure the hosting will work with the Content Management System (CMS) the designer plans to use.
- Ask about SSL Certificates as well. All websites need them, and certain hosts like GoDaddy offer relatively cheap hosting, but charge as much as $75/year for an SSL Certificate you might get for free elsewhere.