Its an interesting discipline building websites, particularly from a clients’ point of view, especially if they are not aware of the nuances of building a site. Hopefully these pointers below will help a client to get the website that not only they want, but that they need. The list isn’t exhaustive but might help a little bit.
Decide from the outset what your maximum budget is. This is your point of reference and everything becomes relative to this. You might want a real high end website with e commerce, content management system, animations and social media integration……but if your budget is £500 you will have to compromise on some things. It will save you the shock and save a developer time if you’re both up front about expectations from the outs.
What do you ultimately want the website to achieve? Is it merely an online presence so people can get your details? Do you want to show your product range off? Will people be able to buy your product or service through your website? Will it be constantly changing or remain quite static? Will it have your social media and blogging connected? Without answering some fundamental questions, your going to run into problems further down the line – a good website is always reverse engineered.
Write a good brief. You don’t have to be a teccy to write a decent brief which will pay off in the long run. If you don’t, a developer will start to lead on the functionality of the site, which isn’t always a bad thing, but if you want to be ultimately happy with it, you have to take some of this responsibility. You don’t have to understand the difference between jQuery and Flash, but you can explain what you’d like it to do, how many pages, how many tabs or icons per page, is there any imagery or video’s, etc. This will enable a developer to figure out the tools they will need to use and the time it will take them to build it, mitigating as much as possible against an ever spiraling bill and the need to sit down quickly!
Know how involved to become with the design. Designing user interfaces and general design work is an art, try and resist the urge to become a designer overnight – if you were really good at it, you’d be doing for a living, but as you’re not, you probably aren’t! Give the designer as much of your corporate material as possible so they can keep within your style guidelines, take photo’s of your premises, product or working environment so they can get a feel for the vibe of your business – this stuff all helps. Some colour don’t go well together, sometimes less on a page is more, sometimes no white creates more impact than every shade of the rainbow. If you have contracted a good designer they will know what works best and hopefully exceed your expectations. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t have an opinion, far from it, just remember that you wouldn’t go for an operation and tell the surgeon what size scalpel to use! Shape the design, don’t become a Creative Director – trust their ability and your brief and they will usually deliver.
Sometimes one head is better than two. It is incredible how many times someone says “I have a friend who is a graphic designer who i’d like you to speak to” – at this point your website is doomed to be a catastrophic failure in every sense. Why? Because you have just introduced competition to the project. Designers will always have unique styles and interpretations and like to leave their mark, this conflict in opinions and approach will slow the entire project down and be detrimental to the outcome. You made a decision to hire someone to do it, stick with that choice and it will go far more smoothly.
Be honest at every stage. If you see something you really don’t like, raise it immediately. If you wait until the end of the project and there are little bits that you don’t like, they often take an age to resolve because they have been replicated throughout the whole site. A good company will send pages for approval at each stage so that you are happy and they can focus all their attention on the next bit.
Don’t get a Bentley to do the school run. By this I mean if you need a Content Management System (CMS) to do some pretty standard things, don’t have one built from scratch, get one off the shelf like WordPress. They will do everything you need them to do and it will be a tenth of the price – this goes for a e commerce package too like Magento. A good developer will recommend this option to you from the outset based on your brief and will be able to factor time into tweaking it to better suit your needs.
Respect your own signature. Within the contract there should be some milestones, such as contract agreement stage, wireframe, design and deployment. If you have signed off an element of the project and then change your mind, that’s your problem, not the web company’s. You should expect to be charged for additional amends after sign off and you should be willing to pay. More broadly, most web companies will be happy to make reasonable adjustments, but if it changes significantly from your brief you should expect to have the original contract torn up and sign a new one. That is why getting it right from the beginning protects all parties and manages expectations.
The cardinal sin. Never, ever, ever, ever commit the cardinal sin of saying “if you do this website for me for free, there will be loads of work for you afterwards” / “If you do it really cheap i’ll put a link to your website and it’ll get you a load of business” / “can you knock me up a quick website and i’ll owe you”. A good company will give you a good proposal and behave in a very professional way. If you are a good client you’ll offer a good brief and behave in a professional way. If you think that the price is a bit steep, get a comparison or ask the company to break it down for you, but respect the cost. If a company makes your new website a pleasure and works with you at every stage, odds are they’re a great business and you’ll have a great result at the end of it – and no one minds paying for that.
These are just ten pointers to think about, there will no doubt be developers and designers out there that might add to this list or disagree, so we’d invite your comments on the blog. There’s a ton of companies out there that also sell really cheap websites because you kind of build them yourself – you chose a colour scheme, select a template, insert your text and drag & drop images and you know what……for some people these are GREAT and I would recommend that people use them (i’ll get shot for that!). Don’t spend thousands on an all singing all dancing website if you don’t need one, but don’t do your business an injustice by having a crap one – a website is an investment not a cost, why? Because it is now the front door to your business and the first place they’ll go to decide whether you’re the type of company they want to do business with.