Have a plan
It’s important to have a goal in mind. This should include both what you want the site to look like, as well as what you want the site to achieve.
A great place to being this research is in looking at your existing site (if you have one), and working out what you don’t like about it, what it isn’t achieving and how it could be better.
If you don’t a website (and even if you do), you should look at other websites in your industry that rank well, are popular and have a level of quality that you aspire to.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have the budget, or even the skills to have everything they do, but it’s great to get started with goals like this.
Have a clear idea of what you want
Now that you have looked at your site, and the competition, identified what you like about them, and what you don’t like about your existing solution, it’s time to work out EXACTLY what you are looking for.
If you are unclear on what you want, no one will be able to deliver it for you (and budgets can go out the window).
A good way to do this is simply to write down every page that your site needs, and every feature that you want. If you are not certain how to explain a feature, simply write what it is that you want the site to achieve (in very specific terms).
Being unclear at this point often leads to disaster due to misunderstandings about requirements, goals, and functionality.
Know what styles best represent your business
Do you have an idea of what styles, images, fonts or visuals best represent your business?
Knowing what fits and what doesn’t can make it much easier.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a license to be super picky. Over the years I have had some very specific requests such as “I would like a stock picture with 4 people of these specific ages, wearing these specific colors, holding this specific thing”. When you are super specific, often what you want doesn’t exist and so it needs to be created (which may involve hiring models, a photographer, organizing contracts etc) which is a hassle, and super expensive.
Knowing the style is important, being rigid can equally be a trap.
Start with a template in mind
We don’t think that just buying an off the shelf template and slapping your logo onto it is good enough, but it’s important to start somewhere.
Getting a great template and customizing it is far cheaper (and as the title of this article points out… easier) than starting with a blank sheet of paper and saying the sky is the limit
The template can help to solidify what you want, with what framework it will live.
Focus on doing what you are good at
Not everyone is good at everything, so why spend countless hours on things that you are not good at? If you suck at graphic design… hire someone. If you suck at writing content… hire someone. If you suck at optimizing your site for search… hire someone.
Hiring people for the one or two things that you are not good at will allow you to pour more time into the things that you ARE good at, and that will be great when you complete.
And it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes that means you should do more of your day job, to hire someone to do the entire website job. If you can get it done cheaper by a professional, it would be crazy to do it yourself.
Write your content, and check it thoroughly
As a website designer, I can tell you that one thing that always throws a wrench in the works is when the content changes mid-design process.
The content should be checked thoroughly before it ever goes to the designer for implementation. Providing it means it was checked and is ready to go.
Revising content can dramatically increase time, and costs on a project.
Know where to save money
One stress people have when creating a website is money. And often people find that DIY is more expensive. For example, would you get a license for Photoshop, learn how to use Photoshop, and then spend hours on an image? Or would you get someone on Fiverr to do it for you instead?
I’m not saying that Fiverr is the best place to get a graphic designer, but someone there is likely to be able to do a better job than someone with limited design skills, and be able to do it cheaper (and faster), with less hassle.
Understand your skills, time availability and budget
Budget is the one thing that people think about, but it’s not the only factor when thinking about your website design project.
It’s important sure, but so is your time, your stress levels, and an honest assessment of your skills.
If you were caught by the police doing something wrong, you wouldn’t learn to be a lawyer, you would hire one. If you were sick, you wouldn’t go get a medical degree, you would go to the doctor. And if you needed a tool (called a website) to work tirelessly day and night promoting your business you would be ok spending a few hundred on making it better than you could do yourself.
UNLESS of course, you could do it better! AND you had the time.
Without planning, a clear direction, and help website projects often fail.
I hear and read about lots of stories about how terrible their web designers are (and they certainly are out there), but often, it’s a combination of a lack of direction, late content, and challenges that can’t be easily solved without these key issues being resolved.
I recently had a call from someone (a friend of a friend) who had a web designer and was thinking of moving the project over to me. I suspected the problem after a brief conversation with him. The designer had not been able to complete the project in over 6 months, so I asked the simple questions. “Have you provided all of the content?”. He said, “No, not yet, should I have?”.
This is really the case of get help where you need it. In his case, the project would have earned him far more money by paying someone to write the content for him and launching 6 months earlier. Unfortunately, there are many stories like this, so follow these steps to ensure that your project runs smoothly, on time, and on budget.