You need a website. Or you have a website, but you need a better one. Either way, if you divvy up your efforts into these four steps, you’ll be on track to have an effective and affordable site.
- Selecting your partners
- Mapping out the site
- Obtaining assets
- Producing the site
Finding a talented but affordable designer and writer is an important first step. Whether you hire a design firm, or choose freelancers, these experienced professionals will partner with you, helping to refine your website plan and strategy. If you wait to choose your partners later in the process, they will likely become “order takers” who simply do exactly what you tell them, instead of creative professionals who help you make your website something more than you could imagine by yourself.
Reach out to your colleagues and friends for recommendations, post an ad on Craigslist under “gigs,” or, if you’re open to freelancers in other areas, you can search for talent on freelance websites like iFreelance. For any potential partner, do your due diligence and get references for specific projects and review their samples.
Once your team is in place, planning can start. Schedule a kick-off meeting to create your plan. Before design and writing can begin, you have to determine what you want on your website. And before you determine what you want on your website, you need to ask yourself a few important questions. What will visitors to your site be looking for? How do you differentiate yourself from your competition? Do you have a blog? Will you connect your site to your Facebook and Twitter accounts? There are plenty of tips on website must-haves and navigation planning to help you stay focused.
A part of this discussion should include technical decisions, including which platform the site will be developed for and search engine optimization. These will inform how the site is designed and how the writer creates the content.
Your designer will have recommendations for photography, and affordable royalty-free sites like iStock are great resources for small budgets. You can search for images based on specific topics (flowers, buildings), or you can put in abstract terms (freedom, success) and for more representational imagery. If you haven’t yet created a logo for your app, you can download royalty-free icons to make it yourself, or ask your web designer to help you construct it.
It’s important to decide who is going to manage your image downloads. If you anticipate having a long relationship with your design partner, you may choose to have them house your image library. But if this is a one-time effort, be sure to open your own account on the image site and have the designer download via your account so that you have a permanent record of what images were purchased, under what licensing agreement.
Now’s the time to pass the baton to your design and writing partners. Your writer will use the plans from step two to develop a script and your designer will create comps for you to review and approve. The development, testing, and deployment of your site can take a few weeks.
Managing your site after launch
Your site it up! Now all you have to do is nurture it. It’s easy to neglect your website when you’re busy attending to other parts of your business; an update schedule is a great way to keep your site fresh and relevant. Whether you’re sharing news or promoting new offers, make sure you have the time set aside to update your site yourself, or the budget set aside to hire your design and writing partners to update it for you.
There are lots of decisions to be made when kicking off a new website. Check out these pros and cons of doing your website yourself and other technical decisions.