Building a website can be a daunting task, but if you think of it as a chance to reevaluate your business and sharpen your image, you’ll learn a lot about your brand, and might even have fun doing it.
As you get started, this list of questions should help get you on the right track.
- What do you want your website to accomplish?
This is the most important question to answer before you embark on this journey.
Think of the “big picture.” What are the top three things you need or want from your website? (Hint: You can use this list to help you find the answer!)
Are you a brick-and-mortar store that needs to provide information on your location and what you have in stock? Or, do you need to enable customers to quickly browse, shop, and purchase from your site? Are your customers seeking inspiring content? And, would they like to sign up for an e-newsletter for more content?
Get all your needs down on paper and prioritize them. Then, you can use this list when evaluating website providers, designers, and developers.
- How much can you afford to spend?
Consider your budget and evaluate all costs before taking the leap. Be sure to work closely with all team members to hammer out a reasonable list of expenses. It might happen that your budget makes a lot of your decisions for you.
If you are working on a tight budget, your top needs list will help you determine what should be prioritized. Will you need a simple landing page, or a full site? If you’re tech savvy and don’t need customization, a single landing page built on a template could run you less than $100/year. If you need to design and develop a full web app with custom backend features, you’re likely going to be paying over $100/hour for a project that might take hundreds of hours.
- How much time do you have?
As a general rule, the shorter the lead-time for building a website, the higher the cost. So if your website is more complicated—i.e. if it contains many different pages advertising a large range of products and services—you’ll want to make sure to set up a reasonable launch schedule to avoid unnecessarily high fees.
That said, building a website doesn’t have to take forever. Let’s say you only have a couple of weeks: You can opt for a prebuilt template from WordPress or another platform. Simple, elegant blogs can be set up quickly, and you can even include a few custom elements, too.
If you need to time your website launch with a specific date or event, make sure you communicate that up front. You may need to sacrifice some functionality in return for speed.
- Do you have a clear brand?
Your website should clearly reflect your brand so that customers recognize and remember you. This clarity is key to building your brand for long-term success. Things like your logo, header images, menu styles, color palettes, typography, images, and content all contribute to your brand image, and should be consistent.
If you haven’t previously worked with a visual designer on your brand, do some basic scouring of the web for good examples of consistent brands from which you can find inspiration. You’ll see how websites look and feel different across the web because of a company’s color, font, and visual choices. Be sure to clarify your company’s look and feel in your own mind to help guide your website design choices. If you need help, 99designs offers services in the form of design contests that can help you explore different brand “look and feels”, starting with your logo.
- What content do I need?
Delays in content creation can push website launches way back. Your web designer or developer won’t write your copy, select your portfolio photos, or put together your video testimonials. Make a list early on of all the content you’ll need to gather (or generate), and a strict schedule of deadlines and tasks. This, too, should be consistent with your brand and your target audience’s needs. For example, if you sell children’s clothing your content should speak to mom, dad, and probably Grandma. And, your photography should reflect images of smiling children looking beautiful in your clothing line.
- What do you love — and hate?
Make note of all the trends and visuals and layouts you’d like to explore and avoid, and have examples of websites you love on hand (and explanations for why you love them). Try a search like “web design” on Pinterest to get you started. A clear set of do’s and don’ts will make the design process much easier, and laying out your preferences ahead of time could save you tons of unnecessary headaches down the road.