What To Do Before Designing Your Website
Are you ready to have your website designed?
Bravo! You're taking big leaps in your business and having a website is definitely one of the first tasks to feeling "official". Or maybe you're just ready for a site revamp. Either way, here's a quick breakdown and checklist of items you'll need to do before you hire someone (or even us!) to start designing your website.
We send this list to all of our potential clients that inquire about designs with us. Why? Because if this list of items is done before we start designing the process goes really quickly. We've found that the biggest lag in projects comes from a mess of emails back and forth trying to gather all the necessities.
Here's the list you need to conquer before starting.
Take a deep breath.
Time to suck in some air and let it all out because there are a lot of little ducks you need to get in a row before you/we/a friend starts designing your website. Ready. Set. Breathe.
Create a plan of attack.
Think this through. Don't rush. You want to love this website and idea for a long time. The work you put in up front will maximize what you get out of this entire process in the end. Just by reading this very blog post you're thinking through your plan. High five!
Do your research.
Shop around. Weird that we are telling you that? Probably. But you aren't being smart if you don't shop around and see what all is out there. Look up people local and online. Make sure you find someone that is a really good fit for your style, budget and end goal.
Figure out what exactly you need - not just want you want. You might realize after a little investigating that all you really need is an online brochure vs. a full blown membership website. Or that you need to be able to sell product online but you don't really need a blog.
If you're just starting out, part of your research is coming up with a name for the brand. It's important to make sure nothing else like this name exists. Go out and do a quick Google search to make sure names aren't already taken or trademarked. There is also something called a Trademark Search that you can complete here.
Create a Pinterest board.
This is an easy way to figure out what you like and don't like in a very visual way. Do not pin fonts and other branding. Make sure to pin decor, interiors, color palettes, fashion, etc. Pin images that reflect the style and the feeling of your brand.
For example, if you are looking to create a high end brand pin high end and luxurious images. What are the colors that make something look high end.? Answer: Black and white. These are the kinds of thoughts that should be going through your head as your pinning and giving visual life to your idea.
Pay special attention to textures and patterns. If you're wanting a luxurious brand you're probably not pinning rustic barns or super colorful kids rooms. Do pin patterns that evokes mood and corresponds with your color palette.
Every time you pin something stop and ask yourself - "does this really reflect my brand or do I just like the image?"
Once you have 20-30 different pins on the board go back and review it. You might need to clean it up a bit. Figure out what is working and what is not. The more time you spend thinking through your Pinterest board the more "in-tune" you'll become with your brand and what you really want.
Buy a domain.
This might come later on down the line, but it's never too early to start looking up what domains are available. You can usually snag a domain on GoDaddy for pretty darn cheap. If you purchase a Squarespace Business account they also offer a free custom domain with the package - deal!
Setup your domain email.
Wait, what is a domain email? This is an email that has your domain in it. For example - firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two different ways to setup this kind of email account.
1. Setup a free (for one year) domain email through Squarespace. This is nice because Squarespace will walk you through all of the setup and get one email address up and running for you.
2. Setup your domain email through G-Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). This isn't free but it is easy to setup multiple emails. Google charges you around $5 per month, per user.
Note - if you sign up for your domain email through Squarespace you have a sign-in now with G-Suite. You can access this dashboard by going to G-Suite, clicking Sign-In, entering your domain, clicking Go and then entering your domain email password. This will give you access to the Admin Console where you can add, delete and manage email accounts on your domain.
Setup your social media platforms.
Whatever your business name is make sure that all of your social media handles are as consistent as possible through all the different platforms. Go through and setup all your accounts.
Which platforms should you be on? We recommend starting on just two platforms. Pick two you can be really good at instead of 7 of them that you will just be mediocre at keeping up with.
Start creating your brand voice.
This might be one of the most overlooked items on this list. Peeps building brands and websites forget how important their voice is and more importantly how essential consistency is with their voice.
Your voice includes keywords you use consistently on your website and social media. It includes the person you want to speak in - will you use "I" or will you use "we"? It also includes how formally or informally you want to write and communicate. We like to keep it pretty casual and relatable (possibly a little sarcastic) around here therefore our brand voice is very casual.
Check out this blog post we wrote all about Creating A Clear Brand Voice - there is a little resource to help you figure out what your brand sounds like.
Write your website copy.
This is usually the biggest hold up in the web design process. Writing website copy is HARD and it's always a work in progress. It takes time and there really aren't any shortcuts you can take on this one. We've seen some people pay BIG bucks for website copy but the reality is you know your brand the best.
Note - to use the content collector provided above you'll need to open it in Google Docs by clicking on the link and then going to File and down to Make A Copy. This will give you your own copy of the document to type on.
We recommend you write your own copy but you have others proofread and make suggestions for you - even if that is a professional or simply just your mom.
Invest in images.
Your website is made of up three crucial parts. Your design (layout + branding), your copy and your images. We always recommend hiring a professional to help you shoot your website images. Our favorite person in Kansas City is Lauren Pusateri.
However, when you're starting out your budget might be small and you may not have $500+ to spend on photography. We recommend sifting through some not-so-stock-looking stock image sites. Our favorite is Stocksy. Images can run $15-$100 each. But, 10 photos at $15 each is still cheaper than a photography session.
Setup a Squarespace account.
This is a pretty easy and quick task. You'll want to go to Squarespace.com and choose a website template. If you're building your own site, spend some time going through the templates to make sure you find a good fit. Some of our favorites are Five, Pacific, Fulton and Nueva.
If you're having us build your site for you, any template will do and we will adjust that for you once we start designing.
Purchase a Squarespace plan.
Plans run as low as $16 a month on Squarespace. This will be your hosting. Unlike WordPress, you don't have to purchase separate hosting for your site. Which is just one more reason we love Squarespace so much. If you're looking to build an online store or sell product of some kind through your website, you'll want to setup an E-Commerce plan which runs around $26 a month.
Organize all your content.
This is the part that is insanely helpful when we (or anyone!) starts building your site.
When you send your content to a designer be super organized.
We've seen too many content disasters where clients send 13 separate emails of content and then send a few more emails with revisions and then another email with images. It all gets incredibly confusing. We send clients this Google Doc (same as the Website Content Collector above) to help them organize their content and ask that they place their Dropbox link of images in the document as well. Even if you have an existing site with content already on it we ask you still fill out the Google Doc (nothing wrong with a little copy and paste) because 99% of the time you'll want to update what your website says even if you're re-launching.
This sounds like a time suck but it ends up being a huge time saver! This will help your design process move so. much. faster.
Brand your big idea.
This is our specialty! We love creating brand style guides, logos and color palettes for brands like yours. No matter who creates your brand make sure you know what you're getting for the price you are paying. Do you get full access to PSD or AI files? How will the files be delivered to you? What all do you get once the process is complete? These are important questions for you to get answered prior to committing to working with a designer.