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A “Top Ten To Do” List for Clients Needing Website Design

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(The title of this blog post is a good example of the shamelessness with which I will compromise my literary standards, in order to grab the attention of a search engine crawler. The whole idea of reaching for the “top ten list” cliche flies in the face of the originality I profess to value as a writer, but all the blogging gurus out there tell me that “top ten” lists grab the attention of blog readers. So here goes…)

We work with lot of small business clients or clients just starting a new enterprise who need to get their businesses on the internet for the first time. It has been our experience that there is a predictable chain of events which usually unfolds, whereby a client comes to realize that having a new site designed involves considerably more “homework” on their part than they might have first imagined. Thankfully, a lot of this homework really just involves doing some thinking and jotting down the results of same. In the interest of helping folks who are undergoing this process for the first time, we decided to put together a list of things all clients should think about, as they begin to engage the services of a design firm. Incidentally, a lot of the items on this list are relevant to all manner of marketing communications projects, not just a website…

  1. Know Your Value Proposition. When we sit down with a client for the first time, we ask the same question a website visitor will ask the first time they visit your site. Namely, “what do you guys do and why should I hire you, rather than your competition.”  Those two critical pieces of information are always what are on a web visitors mind when they visit the site of a product maker or service provider and, if you can’t answer them immediately your web site has already failed at its most critical task.
  2. Know Your Mission Statement. Politicians have been telling us values are important for decades. Turns out they actually are. We don’t necessarily advocate that our clients create a distinct page for their mission statement but — somplace front and center — we try and make sure that a summation of the core values of their business are prominently featured. (The side columns of a home page are a great place to feature the Mission Statement…)
  3. Get Some Brand Identity, If You Don’t Have Some Already. For as long as we have been designing websites, we have had clients come to us with a web job for which they lack any graphic identity. If your company doesn’t have a logo and/or a visual mark, make sure you have one designed. Or have us design one for you. Identity design encompasses a wide range of tasks in and of itself so, be aware, this is an entirely different task from simply designing a new web site. And, with that task, will come additional time and billable services. (Arrgh! I’m sure you didn’t want to hear that one…)
  4. Think About Your New Website’s URL. This is another much-underappreciated decision clients need to make. The choice and research involved in choosing a URL for your new site can be pretty time consuming and it’s usually something the client cares a lot about. Of course, Splat can suggest and research URLs, but the business owner or marketing executive can speed things along by putting some thought towards names they think might be appropriate.
  5. Think About & Begin to Map Content Out In Your Mind. We produce complete site maps for our clients but it will save us time and inquiry if you can just map out in your head what the approximate level of content and categories of your site are likely to be. Thankfully, this thinking often happens when we’re pricing the job for you anyway.
  6. Think About Visual Content & Photography Needs. This is another big one. While some sites can be built with stock, let’s face it: sites built using entirely stock photography look, well, like they were built entirely with stock photography! They have a generic look that makes your business look just like all the other businesses out there who do what you do. Photography is a great differentiator and, with good art direction, also can lead to a visually engaging site. Plus, there are just some businesses that have to have custom photography shot. Product manufacturers or real estate developers, for example. And, of course, you might want to have staff pictures shot, which leads us to…
  7. Have Staff Biographies At the Ready. Of course we have writers, but the reality is our writer doesn’t know where your CFO got his MBA from or all those other details which actually give your staff credibility and, again, differentiate you from all the other guys who do what you do…
  8. Gather Pricing & Product Information. If you’re selling new construction real estate, renting apartments or manufacturing products for sale, we’ll need to know all the essential product and pricing information. And of course, we’ll need the photography, which you already took care of in item 6!
  9. Think About Social Media & Whether You Plan On Blogging. Whether or not Social Media is worthy of the hype it’s getting or not, everybody’s doing it. Everybody’s doing it and talking about the fact that everyone else is doing it, too… People are spending more time talking about Social Media on Social Media sites than they’re actually spending time being social on Social Media sites! The bottom line is: before you begin moving forward with your website design, figure out what Social Media platforms your company will be engaged in. Make sure we know to put those links on your site, or add a twitter feed, etc. And, if you really plan on blogging, make sure we know that so we can design it into your site…
  10. Consider Your SEO/SEM Strategy. Increasingly, this last item dovetails with item 9. Social media sites and blogging are all part of a larger SEO strategy of getting people to notice your company on the web and, ultimately, buy your product. But, separate and apart from Social Media, you should engage us to prepare the site appropriately for the search engines and consider whether other types of ongoing SEO consulting services or paid search engine marketing or advertising makes sense.

So, there it is. Our shameless “Top Ten” list for the week. We hope it’s helpful and, maybe, will save some future client some time or frustration in the future…

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