This is the first in a series of episodes where I’m going to be taking you through what it looks like to work with a website designer and what a good, strategic, and beautiful website can do for your business.
Today we’re going to start with how to work with a website designer. I’m going to be walking you through the process of website design, what you need to have prepared in advance, some tips, and the answers to some frequently asked questions that I get from clients.
- Why I love website design
- The importance of a strategic and beautiful website
- The process of website design that I use with clients
- What the consult call involves and why it’s important
- The types of questions I ask to create a website that fits each business
- Why a mood board is important in website design
- What’s included in a website vision guide
- The importance of a sitemap and how it helps you create content
- How designers use wire framing and what you should get
- How I partner with clients in the design process
- The importance of testing your website before you launch
- Launching your website
- Ongoing support, website backups, and tutorials
- Content your website designer needs from you
- Website design tips from a designer
Welcome to Episode 13 of Process to Profitability. This is the first in a series of episodes where I'm going to be taking you through what it looks like to work with the website designer and what a good strategic and beautiful website can do for your business. Today we're going to start with how to work with a website designer - I'm going to be walking you through the process of website design, what you need to have prepared in advance, some tips and frequently asked questions that I get from clients.
But first, I wanted to start today by talking a little bit about why I love website design so much.
As many of you may know, I design websites for creative entrepreneurs and small business owners who really want to grow their businesses. And I love doing this on the Squarespace platform (which we're going to talk about in more detail in future episodes). So, this episode is going to be an overview of working with a website designer, but in light of Squarespace.
The reason I love website design is because your website is your online space. It's the place that people are going to find you online, get in touch with you, and hopefully hire you. It is the place where you can represent who you are, your expertise, you can share content, and you can really make it your online home more than any other platform. Your website is the thing that you own. A lot of people talk about owning an email list. But in order to get people to even sign up for that e-mail list you have to get them to your website, you have to get them interested, and you do that by really showing off who you are, what you do and who you help on your website.
The process of website design with a designer like me is not really that complicated - but there are a lot of moving parts involved. I'm going to talk through that in an overview format, but I'm also going to go into depth about some of the steps that I take behind the scenes that you might not see from a client point of view. These are things that should be happening during a project with the website designer so that you know you're getting the most for your money - a strategic website design that is going to give you what you need for your business.
My process starts when a potential client reaches out to me and we schedule a call. This consult call is a free call that walks through their current website. We talk about some of the goals that they have for their business and things that they need for their website. I like to get a big overview of what do they need to include but then get into some of the detail so that I know exactly what I'm going to be looking for in a project so that I can create a timeline for them and really make sure that we're not missing anything along the way.
After that consult call - if someone decides to work with me - I like to send out a series of questionnaires. And these are not just questionnaires about the website functionality they need or their design preferences, but it's about their business. I want to get to know my clients - who they are, who they work with, and what they're trying to sell.
Because every website has a goal and if you are an online business, your ultimate goal of your website is to sell something.
There are so many different ways to do that depending on what it is that you sell, who you target, and how you work with people. It's going to look very different for a product based business than for a coach who has to do interview calls of somebody. I have to get an idea of all of that before we get started. I also need to get an idea of my client's brand and what's going to make sense for a website – from choosing a template to starting a design that supports their brand - so that I can make the website both beautiful and strategic.
If my client comes to me with their brand completed, then I will start with that - I look it over, dig into it, and take whatever information they have and ultimately use it in their website design.
But if they don't have a current brand, then I like to start with a mood board. The reason I do this, even in website design projects, is because I think that mood boards give a really great representation of how your business is going to be represented visually, the feeling we're trying to show, and the images that we're trying to gather. It’s a great starting point because it puts all of that in one place, it's visual, and it serves as a reference point for the entire project.
Once we know where we’re starting visually, we get started on the good stuff of the website - the content.
Behind the scenes, I create a Website Vision Guide. This is a PDF that gives an overview of the website, starting with the main goal. It gets into some of the details about what they need as far as e-commerce, email lists, opt in pages, and all of those special things that might not apply to every business.
Some of the specific things that are included in the Website Vision Guide are any parts of the business that are unique that I need to know about, such as the main purpose of the website and a short description of the brand and any required functionalities (what you need on your website in order to function for your clients) and some additional requirements that clients may forget.
And then I leave room for future functionality - things you might want to update in the future or you might want to add - I love to know that in advance so that I can set your website up in a way that it can grow with you as your business grows and as you try new things.
Also included in the Website Vision Guide is a site map. For me this doesn't actually look like a map necessarily, buta list of all the pages that are going to be on their website - front and back - and things they might not think of, such as the pop ups. This gives us a great starting place for gathering content. These include the main pages, home, about, blogs, services, a subscribe page, any sort of resources page, contact page, and shop pages.
Each of the pages for the website will also include a brief description what it might look like. The reason I do it this way is because it helps my clients know what type of content they need to create for those pages. If they have a really good idea of what goes on their home page, for example, they're going to be able to write content that is a lot more relevant than if I simply said “I need something for a home page, come up with just one line of text that I can add.”
We want this whole process to be strategic because I want the website design to support the content that you're sharing and the copy that's on your website.
By giving clients all of this upfront, they know what content they need for their website before we start the design process. They're not sitting there questioning what it is that they're going to have to give me, they're not trying to figure that out at the last minute or making changes all along the way.
I like to work with the content completed before we start the design so we both know what will be included.
After the content section in the Website Vision Guide, there's a next step section. This just lets clients know that this is the vision we're using for the website and if they think it fits what they’re looking for, we're going to go ahead with the project. If not, they let me know and we make some edits. We want this to guide the way that the website is designed- the strategy, functionality, and design.
Once the Website Vision Guide is approved and the client has had a chance to look over the content we're going to be including, I send a Content To-Do List - a PDF checklist that gives you more information about what pages we need and what to include on them. (I also like to include links to really helpful blog posts or podcasts that help you write those pages in case you're not hiring a copywriter. If you are interested in hiring a copywriter I'm always happy to recommend somebody that I know works really well with small businesses and can get things done so that your website isn't delayed by the content.)
A note - creating the content for your website is the hardest part. It is the most time consuming, it's the thing you're going to go back and edit over and over and over again. And while you want to have the best possible content up front for when your website launches, I also really encourage you to go back and update your website as needed.
That’s why Squarespace is a great platform – you can update your own website without having to wait for a designer.
While I’m waiting for my client to create and gather their content, I start wire framing. This is where design starts – I draw out what the main pages of the website are going to look like. Since I work in Squarespace, I often do this on the website - I choose a template, set it up, add sample images, and then I fill it in with some just standard text – so that it gives my clients a really good idea of what their finished page is going to look like.
It shows where the images are, where the text is, and where the buttons are - and how everything works together.
There are some designers who wire frame in Photoshop or other programs so that what you receive in the first design stage is a PDF or a static page that you could print out and draw on. But I like to do this in Squarespace because it gives you the chance to click around, play with things, and see how it really works for your website visitors.
If you never get to see how a website functions - if you never get to hit the buttons until the very end - you're not going to be quite sure what it is that your visitors will experience until your websiteis already designed.
I wireframe in Squarespace by designing a few of the pages: usually the home page, one of the content pages, one of the shop pages, and the contact form. I get that set up with your content or with some generic content (depending on if I've received things from you yet or not). And then I send it over to the client so they can test everything and see the design in action.
This makes it really easy for me because I am already doing some of the backend development - I am making sure all the links go to the right places ahead of time - and then when you give me your copy for your website and your images I'm just adding them and plugging them in and then I'm checking them.
Once you have approved the wire frame of the design, I will take that and make any changes we've talked about and flush it out to create the live site. This means that I'm going to add the content that you gave me, the images, the copy, the buttons. I'm going to make sure it connects to everything it needs to connect to and that it works as a functioning website. And then I'm going to design the other pages based on the designs you've already approved.
I don't design every page to look totally different, there are basic building blocks for every website that you're going to use, so that your website is consistent, so that visitors understand that each time they go to a page this thing is going to be in this location and this other part might be a different location, and the content might change, the images might change, and the layout will vary somewhat depending on what you need, but it's not going to look like a totally different website every time you click on a new page.
And I want to touch on the feedback part here because I think this is where the website design process can get a little tricky. A lot of website designers are used to working on their own - they get your information, they get the design, they will send you things here and there along the way - but they're going to be the ones that are really doing the work.
That's not how I like to work.
I love, and I work best when, getting feedback from somebody. So, I will create your wire frame for your website, I will let you see it, I will let you click around in it, and then I want you to give me feedback and then I'm going to make those changes and you will get an e-mail saying that they're made.
And we're going to go back and forth. Sometimes we might jump on a Skype call so that I can screen share and we can try moving things around to different places so that the process goes faster and I'm getting real time feedback as to how you're feeling about your website, and you are getting to see design and process. It actually makes a lot more sense about why I'm choosing to make the decisions the way that I am because you're actually part of the design.
So, once I've gotten your feedback on the wire frame and those pages that we've designed, I'm going to create everything that there is. I am going to go through and make sure all the buttons and links to the right pages in the links are up. I'm going to import any blog content that you have. I’m going to add the images in the right places and make sure that they're cropped so that they look good.
And then I'm going to go through - this is a really important step that a lot of people miss especially if they are not website designers - and I'm going to test everything. So, I actually test everything in a variety of ways. I will do a test on each page: I will test all of the links and buttons. Then I also test it on the desktop in a couple of different browsers, I test mobile, I test tablet version, and I make sure to run through a test checkout process if you have something that people are purchasing on your website. I’m checking all of the confirmation pages, making sure that when someone signs up for your e-mail list, it actually goes to where it's supposed to go.
All of that is really important because those are the things that make your website actually function, you want those parts of your website to work so that you know that when visitors come to your website and see everything they're getting exactly what they expect - when they click that button that says learn more about me, they're actually going to the about page and not to a broken link.
And once I have tested everything I'm going to send it over to you to test everything. I want you to go through and click all the things and figure out what it is that might be missing or might not work. Because I have been staring at your website for a really long time and I don't want to miss anything and a lot of times it's great to have multiple pairs of eyes on a project before we launch.
Once all that testing is done, I like to go in and add SEO some keywords, get you all set up for that so that you have a really good basis for your search engine optimization, for getting found on Google, and making sure all of that is connected, so that you have a strategic functional website that’s also beautiful.
At this point in the project your design is done, your content is in place, SEO is started, everything is working correctly, and it’s time to schedule your launch.
And this is the most exciting - and sometimes the most scary - part of a website design. Because this is when you are putting that brand new website out into the world and you are showing people what you've created and you're hoping that it resonates with your dream client. (And if you've got a good website designer and great content, it's going to.) Here your job is just to help get it in front of the right people.
Before launch, I send my clients a Website Launch that walks through the process of launching - what's going to happen on the backend, what does it mean when your website goes down or we have to transfer hosting or domains, and what do you have to do. (A hint, you don't really have to do very much here expect be patient while I make sure that everything works the way it's supposed to.)
I like to first do a soft launch where we make sure that everything is up and running and I can test everything one more time after the website is live.
Then you can start promoting the heck out of it, show everyone in the world, and shout it from the rooftops that your new website is live and ready for visitors to just start coming to hire you or purchase your product.
But my website design process doesn't end there.
This part varies by designer - I include a couple of hourspost-launch support that you can use any time in the next year for updates and offer all of my clients retainer packages. I do this because even though your website looks great when you launch it, there are going to be things you want to change or a service you want to add in the future. So you have those hours in the bank to come back to me and say “this is what I need your help with” and I will get it on my schedule. Once those hours are used up you always have the option of coming back to me for other things as we have arranged in advance.
The other thing that I do with my website design, which is a little bit different because I work with Squarespace, is I backup your website. What you're going to get is a shared Google Drive folder that has copies of everything you need - all the customizations that I have created, all of the code that I have added to your website, the style file, and the content file - so that if you have it for the future.s
I'm also share give you an entire library of tutorials for how to use your website, how to make updates, and I always find that it's helpful to make customized videos fit your website because everybody's works a little bit differently and I want you to be empowered to make changes when you need to.
So that's basically the website design process - it sounds like a lot and it can take a long time – but it’s worth it because your website is your online home. You want it to look and function the best it possibly can.
And that's why hiring a website designer can be so useful if you're not sure that you want to handle that yourself - we already know how to make sure those functions happen and when we're familiar with the platform we’re designing on, we can go a lot faster than someone who isn't familiar with it.
It's not that you couldn't figure it out, it's just that your time is probably better spent working on a different part of your business.
So now that we've talked through the website design process I want to talk about the things that you need to have before you get started on your website design project. If you don't have these in place I'm going to make sure you're aware of them, but it might delay the start of your project which might delay your launch.
- Your Content. That's your home page, that's your about page, that's all the words on your website. I am not a copywriter so I can't write those things for you, you can hire someone, or you can do yourself, whatever works for you. But you need to have that ready for me so that all I have to do is upload it, make sure there are no red squiggly lines from spell check, and format it so that it looks great.
- Your Images. You don't necessarily need to have them sized for your website because you don't know what it's going to look like yet, but you want to make sure that you have the images you need. You're going to need header images, images for any of your products, head shots for yourself. Whether you have a custom photo shoot for that, or if you are purchasing images from a stock photo site, you're going to want to have all of that in place or at least have a really good idea of what you're looking for if you need your website designer to help you. If you have all of your images together already, that saves us some time, but if I need to search for images it will take some more time because I want to find what’s best for your brand and your website and then I can resize them to fit the design that we need it to fit.
The biggest thing with images is you want to make sure they're high quality so that we can crop them and resize them as needed, you want to make sure that they fit your brand, and you want to make sure that you are then legally allowed to use them on your website. That means you can't just go to Google and right click and download an image and use it. You don't own the rights for that image. You either need to work with the photographer to get images and have a release for them, or you need it to go to a stock website that you are paying for and that you know you have rights to use that on your website and you need to know however you need to represent it on your website if you need to give credit or not so you can let me know for when those go live
- Your Tools. The other thing I love to know about are any tools that you use in your business that you want to connect to your website. So that might be your email service provider like MailChimp or ConvertKit, it might be a scheduling tool like Acuity, it might be a client management system, whatever it is that you want connected to your website for whatever purpose I need to know what those are and I'm eventually going to need to get the login information so that I can make sure it's all connected and working correctly.
If you come to me and you're not sure exactly which tool you should be using, but you know what you want your website to do, then I can probably suggest things and we can go from there. But either way we want to make sure that your website functions the best way possible for your business to make sure that everything runs smoothly and is as easy for you to handle as possible.
Alright, so we have gone through a lot of content already. But, I want to go through some fun tips for your website design. And some of these are going to apply to you and some might not depending on what you offer, but these are really good tips that you can apply today and that you should know for a future website design project.
- Your portfolio is key. But you don't want to show off every project or every event you ever done. Make sure that your portfolio is showing off the best of the best and the things that you want to do more of. You want it to attract your dream clients and repel people that are not going to be a good fit for you.
- Research your designer before working together. When you are getting ready to start a website design project you are going to find a lot of designers out there, especially if you put a call out in a Facebook group. So, instead of doing that go to some of your favorite websites, look at the bottom and see who it was designed by or ask a friend who they've used who they can recommend to you, that you can trust to get back to you, to work closely with you and to give you the website that you need.
Then make sure you jump on a call with them. Even if you love their design from what you've seen online, you want to make sure that you're a good fit because you're going to be talking to that person, you're going to be giving them a lot of insight into your business and so you want to work with somebody you can trust, somebody you like, somebody that you're going to get along with for the length of this project.
- Make sure you have planned enough time for your website design. Every designer is different and some are going to have wait lists but I would leave at least two to three months from the time you start a website design project until launch so that you are not trying to rush and get everything done. You may want to tack on some additional time to this if you are writing your own content or working with a copywriter so that everything can be in place and run as smoothly as possible.
- Know how involved you want to be in the design process. I have found that a lot of my clients have trouble with designers in general and it's so unfortunate because designers have this bad reputation of disappearing once they've got your money. And I promise most of us are not like that, but it seems to be a trend that designers will get your money, get your additional ideas, they'll go away, they'll disappear, and they get so caught up in what they're doing that they forget to get back to you. So, if you want to avoid that make sure you have a designer who is going to involve you in the design process as much as you want to be involved. And if you don't want to be involved at all, that's ok. Just make sure that they have some sort of procedure for keeping you up to date on what you're supposed to be doing and their progress and a way for you to let them know any feedback that you have, or things that you're struggling with in a way that you can get in contact quickly and have a very easy time communicating so that the rest of the project can go smoothly and be the focus of what you're doing together.
- If you don’t know, ask. And if you are looking for tools for your website, if you're trying to figure out what it is that you want to use on your website, don't be afraid to ask your designer - they are probably very familiar with the tools that are available and integrate well with your website, and if they aren't they're probably going to do some research and dig in anyway to make sure it's all set up correctly, so tell them what you need and ask them for their suggestions.
Now before we finish up I want to cover a couple of the frequently asked questions that I get from clients and potential clients. So lets cover that now.
- When will my project launch? We all want things to launch as quickly as possible when we're excited about them. But a good website design is probably going to take two to three months so make sure you allow time for that and time for feedback during that process.
- What is the ongoing cost of a website? Now website design could cost a lot upfront but there are also ongoing fees that are going to be associated with it that you're not necessarily going to pay to your designer. Those fees are going to include a fee for your domain, which is usually yearly. It can be fifteen/twenty five dollars and that's basically so that you have your U.R.L. You're also going to have a hosting fee and that means that wherever your website is hosted you have to pay them a monthly or a yearly fee for it to be live. On Squarespace this is done either monthly or yearly and it's done through Squarespace, but on Wordpress websites you're actually going to pay for a host who will then host and will put Wordpress on that hosting so that that's what people see. Your website designer can help you figure out what the best options are for you but that can range anywhere from twelve dollars a month up to thirty five or forty or more, depending on what is that you need, how much speed, how much space, and who it is that you're using.
- What are you as the client responsible for? Website designs are a commitment in time and money. Your designer is going to build your website to fit your business but you're going to be a part of that process. That means you're going to get deadlines and things that you have to do in order for the project to move along and so you want to make sure you know what that is, when it's due, and you keep on top of it.
- Can you help me with SEO? I can help you implement SEO, I can help you set up your keywords, I can get that all on your web page and I know some of the basics from digging into your business. But if you really want to get into keyword strategy you can try and find somebody who's really an expert at that and I am going to have an interview on that coming up in the future on this show so that you can learn a little bit about more a little bit more about it for your own business.
- Am I able to update my web site once it’s done? I think this is a big fear of a lot of people because they have had a website in the past that has been really unwieldy that they've been afraid to touch because they don't want to mess anything up. I want you to be empowered to update your own website when you need to. And so I have chosen Squarespace as a platform because it's really easy once you figure it out, it's hard to break it, and I create customized tutorials for your website so that you can follow along in video format to make sure you know what you're doing. There's also a tutorial library that I offer to all of my clients that goes over some of the basics like how to add a page or add a blog post those are things that everybody is going to need to know and so you can watch and follow along and learn how to do it yourself.
I hope that this episode really unravelled some of the mystery behind what website design involves and what you can expect, but if you have any questions about the process, what's involved, what you need to know, just reach out to me, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget that I have put together that five things you need to update on your website guide so that you can start making changes to your website that gets you hired and get your business set up for success.
5 Website Updates to Get Legit
IN THIS GUIDE, YOU WILL LEARN:
- 5 things you can update on your website right now to get legit
- Resources for each item
- An easy action step based on your current website