So you want a new website! Great decision, you will finally be able to catch up with the rest of the world of internet marketing. By the way, if you still have not made the decision here are 5 reasons why you need a website.
You now have a choice ahead of you: build it yourself, or hire a professional web design company (I can help you with that choice too).
But, no matter which decision you make, there are some things you absolutely must do if your website is going to be a success (i.e. attract free organic traffic and convert customers/ sell products) before getting started with the actual website design… here’s the list of things you should do before hiring a web designer:
1. Brand Statement
Whether you do it yourself or hire someone else, one of the first things you will need when designing your website is to know your brand statement.
How to create a brand statement – This is a very brief few sentences describing what value you offer, who you offer it to, and how you do it uniquely.
Let’s have an example:
I make and design search engine optimised and mobile-friendly, functional websites for entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a local freelancer, I provide this service in a down to earth, non-technical jargon, “I’m part of your team”, sort of away. I become friends with my clients and I genuinely want them to succeed.
This statement is commonly referred to as a “lift pitch”. If you bumped into someone who had never heard of your company, and they asked you what you do – this is the concise way you would tell them.
So why do you need to have this ready before you build your website?
Because this statement underpins everything you do.
Every scroll of your website should be on-brand.
Every photo or heading should be reinforcing what you do, who you do it for, or what makes you unique.
And if you haven’t quite figured that out yet, if your message is going to be wishy-washy and won’t convert customers.
2. Know who your ideal client is
Speaking of converting customers… the next step on the checklist is to define your ideal client.
There are plenty of guides all over the internet which will teach you how to do this, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Quite simply, you need to imagine the absolute perfect customer.
Start with just one person – they can be real if you already have a perfect customer – some people struggle because they are imagining a general group of perfect people, so for now, just imagine one individual.
Now you need to write down everything about them. How old are they, male or female, what hobbies do they have, what other brands do they like, where do they live, where do they hang out, what job do they do, do they have kids and a partner, do they have pets – anything you can think of asking this imaginary person – put it down on a page. Now add a photo!
You can expand this by doing a second imaginary person who is different to the first, but still an ideal client.
And then, do the opposite. Write down a list of things that your ideal customer would not be or do.
Why is this important?
Everything you write on your website, and every photo you put up should be exactly what your ideal customer wants to see. If you imagine showing your website to this person, it is much easier to spot things that might be a turn off for them, and therefore need removing, and how you can convince them to sign up for your product or service.
Knowing the customer also helps when writing the call to action – some words are much more appealing to different people.
If/ when you come to advertising, knowing your ideal client/ target audience and your anti-client can help you decide where and how to advertise.
Facebook ads allow you to target and exclude people by interest. Having this ideal client document not only puts you ahead because you will have already designed your website for them, but you can also call on this document time and time again whenever you need to advertise or create a digital marketing campaign.
What type of business or industry does my site cater towards? You need to be clear about who your target audience is going to be. Are they all adults? Children? Both? Do they live locally or nationally? Will they use their mobile phone as well as computer/laptop? How much experience do they have using computers? These questions should give you an indication of how complex your website needs to be. The more information you can gather beforehand, the easier it will be to create something unique and useful.
3. Brand look and feel
Now you know what you do, who you do it for, and what is unique about the way you do it – it’s time to come up with a logo, a palette of colours and a font that best captures your brand.
This might feel a bit daunting at first, but there are some simple tricks to help get you started.
Look at the other brands your ideal customer is interested in. Now, are there any common themes that stand out?
Let’s say your ideal customer shops for food at M&S. Take a look at their website, their brochures, the branding in the shop. What do you notice? Is the typography bold and simple or fancy and cursive? Are there lots of colours or just a few? Bold or pastel or black and white.
Have a look at the psychology of colours here and then this guide to see many different fonts to choose from.
Another great way to help with your brand look is to choose a photo or image which you feel perfectly fits your brand. You can then put this photo into this tool and you will have a colour pallet automatically generated.
Once you have a rough idea of font and colour, and you have your ideal customers detailed along with your brand statement it is time to think about logos.
4. Logo design
This article here explains how to choose a logo designer and which ones to avoid, but if you choose the right designer they will be able to embody everything you have provided them into the perfect logo which will speak directly to your ideal clients.
You will want to make sure your designer provides you with various file formats.
5. Content – text
Now you need to do some copywriting. Write about your service or products. Generally, websites will have a home page, an about us page, and a contact page at the very least, but you will need to think about any other web page that might be needed for your website.
All these pages need text content. So write it now before you start to design your website.
If you want to be a star student you will imagine the whole user experience and think about what you want to tell your potential customer and in what order – but a good web designer should be able to help you with this.
Decide what you want your potential customers to know – write it all down.
Tools like Grammarly are great at helping you make text readable, but if you are terrible at writing, you can hire a copywriter.
Don’t forget to give them your brand statement and ideal client profile – every piece of text on your website should be backing up your brand statement and talking to your ideal client, this way you will get many more conversions (a conversion is when a potential customer is converted to an actual customer).
If you are building an eCommerce website you will need descriptions of each product and each product category.
The order of this one can be a little tricky. If you are opting for someone to build you a website for a very low price, they will probably expect to knock it up in a day – so, you should have your photos ready.
After having all your text ready, decide what images you feel would enhance your message.
You’ll probably need to choose what image you want your customers to see first when they land on your website – this should be on brand and talk to your ideal customers instantly. Have all your photos ready in jpeg format.
If you are doing your website yourself you’ll need to be able to make the photos the correct dimensions for space you put them, and have alternatives for mobile devices (to make sure you can have a responsive design), resize the images for the web, and name the files with descriptive keywords – there are plenty of guides on the internet to help you.
If you have chosen to opt for a more quality web design service, they might be happy to design the layout of the website with placeholders instead of images. You will then receive a list of all the images you will need to provide. You’ll know the topic of the image, and the dimensions it needs to be.
With this information you can create or gather the perfect photo for each space – this is a much better method than trying to fit a photo in a space that just isn’t right.
Some web designers team up with a photographer who can come and visit your business and capture all the required media and then provide them in the right sizes and dimensions. This will create a much more professional fee for your website.
I offer this service to my customers (local to York). One morning or afternoon of website branding photography for £250. The client ends up with the perfect photos for the website, but then also has plenty of photos ready to use on their social media and other in person or online marketing which all has a similar look and feel.
Go through all your reviews and testimonials and choose the ones which echo your brand statement the most. Gather these together and have them ready to be used on your website.
If you don’t have online reviews already – get some!
Contact past clients and ask them to leave you a google review on your Google my business profile. Don’t have one? Get one! Online presence isn’t only about having a website – more about this here.
Once you have worked through each stage, you will be ready to engage with a web designer, or if you have the technical know-how, start to build your website.
A web designer who knows your brand inside out (by reading your brand statement, knowing your ideal client, and understanding your logo, colours and fonts) will be able to get to work faster and build a much better-converting website than one who has to fill in the gaps themselves.
There is still a lot more work to do if you make your professional website – you’ll need to learn about search engines and how to deal with accessibility and optimise your content, images, landing page, page design, usability, headers and whole website so they can be discovered by search engines – but if you hire an experienced web designer, they will take care of this technical work for you.