Every business is unique and every website needs to be too.
That could be a bespoke website like the one I worked on for Mia Bazo, or one built on a CMS like the WordPress sites I’ve created for clients ranging from the Fitzwilliam Museum to Carbon Orange.
Sometimes a client may have no idea where to begin. I particularly love these kind of collaborative projects where together we work through what the pain points are to develop a plan of action so (quickly switching pronouns) you get what you need.
How I work…
There are lots of steps to making websites.
Here they are in words:
1. What is it?
I generally start by asking lots of questions to understand as much as I can about a client’s business, what the pain points are and how we want people to interact with the site.
For small businesses and sole traders in particular it can be really hard to figure out how best to market yourself. I know. I’ve spent ages working on this site! So I really try and delve into what a business is about and how best we can draw out the important messages to make the site as valuable and hard working as possible.
2. What's in it?
Being specific on the amount and type of content from the outset is pretty crucial with websites. Without knowing that – and thoughts on how the site might grow in future – establishing a structure, the number of pages required and the best way to build it is just guesswork.
It’s also quite important to be realistic about the time you have to create new content. There’s something rather sad about seeing a website with a blog that only has two entries that were put in years ago. So if your time is tight, let’s not add things you won’t be able to update.
I’m happy to advise, suggest, review competitors or existing content. Whilst generally you – the expert in your business – are best placed to create the content (unless we’re bringing in a copy writer), I do also tend to take a fresh pair of eyes approach and work into copy if I think it could be clearer or punchier.
Once the content has been established we can get a basic structure together. That might be just as a list. If the site is quite big I usually create ‘wireframes’ (page layouts made up of lots of blocks, essentially) to ensure the user’s experience makes sense before actual design work starts.
3. How are we building it and where are we putting it?
Working this out is about drilling into a lot of detail. For instance, do you need to update the site in-house? What functionality does it need to have? What functionality might be added in the future? How important is Search Engine Optimisation? These questions all have a bearing on how the site can and should be built. And then of course there’s budget. I take clients through these kind of areas to work out the smartest way to ensure you get what need without paying more than you should.
The ‘where’ is generally as simple as “do you already have webspace and a web address or do we need to create those for you”. I’ll often help clients get webspace accounts set up. I am a firm believer in people having their own accounts and holding onto all their own access details. Everyone should have the flexibility to work with whoever they want whenever they want.
4. What does it look like?
Websites need to reflect your brand. You may already have one, you may only have the start of one, we may be starting from scratch (logo included), or the site may be a mini one that needs to feel part of your brand but have a unique personality. I design sites that work in all those scenarios.
It’s not just about fonts and colours. There’s usually photography, video and illustration to think about, plus icons, background textures, legibility issues…
Typically I present two or three options, then work into the chosen one till we have something we’re all happy with. I’m a perfectionist so this can take a while!
5. Build it
I make a lot of sites on WordPress. It’s simple enough for clients to handle updates whilst also being highly customisable and quite powerful. I’ve worked on Hubspot sites when clients need full CRM integration. I also use systems like Squarespace and Leadpages and Wix if the site’s quite simple (sometimes it’s pointless to reinvent the wheel) and budget is a consideration.
I also code by hand on brochureware sites and collaborate with developers on more complex projects.
6. Don't forget the 404
7. Test test test (then launch)
There are so many ways sites can be viewed now. Does it look great on mobile? And tablet? If not, fix it! Then check it on as many set ups as possible.
I generally recommend ‘soft launches’ – i.e. having the site live for a week or two before we make a big fanfare about it. That allows time to spot any last minute glitches or irksome typos so everyone feels fully comfortable launching the site into the world.
Is that it?
No. Once projects are finished, I am always on hand if you need me. That might mean providing additional training, coming in to fix something that’s got accidentally broken, adding some new functionality, performing a ‘health check’ to make sure everything is secure and up to date, or just being there for a general business chat.
What to avoid
There are some common traps websites can fall into. I’ve made a series of animations that highlight the key ones. If you’d like a few tips come and take a look >
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