Congratulations on deciding to invest in a professional web presence. For the sake of this blog, let’s assume that you’ve already signed a contract and are meeting your new web designer for the first time. This is not a list on how to vet a designer or decide on a static/CMS site.
Meeting a designer is like going on a first date or a job inteview. You’re both nervous. You both want to come away with a good experience and feel you can trust one another. Most importantly, you want to create a solid foundation on which to grow your investment. This is one of the most important meetings of the web design process. So, what do you need to bring to the table in order to give your designer the best chance at accurately portraying your brand and crafting a solid sales funnel?
Define your company
Defining your company at the beginning the conversation will help your designer process the more detailed information you relay. Can you define your company in a sentence? How about two? Do you remain within or niche or does your company encompass are large host of services? Discuss the overarching services your company provides all the way down to the specific. It helps to list these out, as this is content the designer is likely going to need. Next, explain what you do not do. The better understanding the designer has of your industry, the more accurate suggestions he or she can offer to solve your unique problems. Designers have to deal with a myriad of companies in thousands of industries, and each company can live within a different set of confines. Be sure to clearly define your company.
Convey a Brand
Branding is not just how you define your company and its brand colors. Branding is your reputation and how you’re perceived. Are you the bargain brand or the boutique? Many times branding is organic and companies simply gain reputation through word of mouth and online reviews. You need to know how the local market views your brand. Are you considered liars, kind-hearted or snobbish? Seek reviews out online. Inform your designer of your local reputation and what you’d like it to be. Be realistic. You need to convey who you are as a company to your designer and discuss ways to combat a poor repuatation through content and social media, or bolster a sterling reputation.
If you have been professionally branded in the past, many firms will provide you with a style guide for future branding. This guide contains colors, fonts and other files your designer will need to match your current branding and expand on it. If you have not had a professional identity created, your designer will have free reign on several design decisions.
Define a Target Market
Knowing your customer base is imperative to marketing. No doubt you know yours. Even if you think, “I cater to everyone”, you don’t. Think, who is your typical customer? Small web design elements will change based on how you answer this question. If you’re target market is low tech, icons might be swapped for descriptive text. If you’re catering to the elderly, a text-sizer will be necessary. It is important for your designer to consider the user that is going to be interfacing with the website when constructing the website, as different audiences have different levels of competency and needs. These changes may be subtle, but imperative in some cases.
What are your Competitors Doing?
Who’s your biggest competitor in town? Who’s your biggest in the next town over? What are they doing that you’re envious of and want to encroach on. It could be a service you’d like to break into or a website feature you think will help you get more customers. Many times, your designer will be able to offer even better solutions than the ones your competitors use. Letting your designer know of site features or the direction you’d like your company to grow in will allow your designer better guide you in how to accomplish your goals.
Review Sales Funnel
Benchmarking where you currently are and how you’ll measure future success will help your designer deliver you a return on your investment. Your website is a 24 hour salesman. It’s a digital sales funnel, whose goal is to get you more customers. How many leads does it currently generating? Have you been tracking website leads? How do you, as a company, measure leads? Do you like phone calls or are you an emailer? Will you measure site success in foot traffic or inquiry form submissions? If you have an existing website, what are the most visited pages and services/product with the highest ROI? What keywords do you rank for on search engines? Each of these questions will help your designer know what to feature on the homepage and how to direct visitors through the website. Your designer will be able to aid you in improving your current or non-existant sales funnel, resulting in more leads and sales if he or she knows what is currently successful and currently failing.
Your company brand standards, your current website and your personal preference really guide intial design conversations. Your designer will advise you on current UI elements, such as navigation, ux elements and site designs. He or she will most likely run you through several of their own designs or designs from “Best Of” web design galleries. You should flip through several yourself. Remember, some of the sites on websites such as http://www.awwwards.com and http://www.thebestdesigns.com are 100K sites and may be out scope or inappropriate for your needs. Be sure to remark on colors, typefaces and layouts you prefer. A general idea is what a designer typically needs for a first meeting.
What to bring?
One of the best ways you can help yourself visualize your new website is to provide your designer with an EPS or AI file of your company logo. If you don’t have one, a large PNG or JPG will suffice for proofing.
Hi-Res photos of products, services or your facilities are always needed. Your designer will be able to use these photos as placeholders in your proof, allowing you to get a true feeling for what the final website will look like.
Copy is a beast. Copy is page content for your homepage, about us, services and product pages. Copy is what holds up 90% of websites from going live on time. Typically, designers are not copy writers and you’re probably going to have to write your own or pay for it to be written. It is essential that your content be wholly original and not plagiarized. Great content is key for great search engine placement. Your designer should be able to advise you on keywording as well as other SEO tidbits, but copy is really left up to you. Get content written as soon as possible.
Many of the subjects above require forethought and research. Even though your paying someone to craft a website, you’re going to have to give them the necessary information to make it successful. Without your help, your designer can only design somethinge pretty that you could have purchased from any WordPress or Drupal theme gallery. The input and feedback from your designer, based off of your current successes and failures is what’s going to improve your sales. Please take their suggestions seriously and use them as a sounding board for your ideas and concerns. Your designer wants to create a beautiful, sales generating websites just as much as you do. I cannot advise you on every roadbump that might occur during your web design process, but I hope this gets you off on the right foot.
– Love, 360