Building a new website is a big project.  When a small business owner decides they are ready for a new website their first instinct is often to hire a web developer and get started.  Kudos on being a go-getter but let’s pump the breaks!  Before you take the plunge and hire someone to build your site, there are ten things I recommend you do that are guaranteed to make your web design project go A LOT smoother.

1.  Review your branding – Do you have a logo?  If not, you need one.  If you have one, but it wasn’t professionally created, consider having a high resolution version recreated.  You’ll need a high resolution logo for your website.  Do you have brand guidelines in place?  If not, let’s get some of those too.  Having a solid brand identity prior to starting a website will help guide your website designer in the right direction and create a cohesive look across all your marketing efforts.

2.  Spruce up your key messaging – Make sure your company’s key messaging is in good shape and up to date.  You want to be able to clearly communicate to the person designing your site, and your future website visitors, exactly what your company does and why they should pick you!  Your key messaging should be evaluated at the same time as your branding as it is a part of your company’s overall brand.

3.  Decide on your goals and what you need – Ask yourself why do I need this site?  Is it because you want a presence online?  Is it because you want to sell your products from your site?  Do you need a membership login or any other special features that may fall outside of a standard website design?  You’ll need to be able to tell your web designer about any special requirements upfront so they can give you an accurate proposal.

4.  Decide on a budget – Websites are an investment in your business.  Most experienced web designers will charge any where from $1,500 to $2,000 for a basic website and the price can go up from there depending on the size and complexity of the site.  If someone quotes you much less than that, be cautious.  It is possible that you may not get the high quality product you are hoping for.

5.  Think about copy – If you are planning to write the copy for your website yourself, start thinking about it before you talk with a designer and start writing it.  Many web designers won’t start development until they receive all your copy.  If you are going to have a professional write your copy, which I highly recommend, start compiling your thoughts.  You’ll also need to provide all your key information like contact information, links to social accounts, etc.

6.  Think about imagery – Photos are a big part of every website design project.  If you are planning to use stock photography, you’ll need to budget to purchase it.  You should visit some stock sites and get some ideas of the type of images you’d like to use and save them to show your designer.  If you are using photos of your location or your products you’ll need high resolution, professionally taken photos to make them worth putting on your site.  Again, think of imagery as a marketing investment and don’t try to skimp.  Low-res or just plain old bad imagery will be the first thing that jumps out at your visitors.

7.  Do some browsing – Go online and find samples of websites you like.  Save them and show them to your website designer so they can get an idea of what you’re looking for.  This will also help them provide an accurate quote and deliver a better end product.  Pinterest is actually a great resource for this type of research as you can save samples of things you like there and easily share them with your website designer.

8.  Look at your schedule – A website design project can be a big undertaking.  Even when hiring someone to do the development for you you’ll still need to provide information, feedback and approvals.  So, check your calendar.  Don’t start a website design project during your busiest time of year.  And, be ready to schedule some time each week to help keep the project moving forward.  Many website designers, myself included, charge delay fees to clients that don’t respond in a timely manner.

9.  Interview multiple designers – Shop around before you commit and don’t let price guide your decision.  You should select a designer that you feel most comfortable working with. Communication is a very important component to a successful website design project.  If you have trouble communicating with the designer right out of the gate, your project may be a struggle.  Also, ask to see the designer’s portfolio and make sure their design style is in-line with what you’re looking for.  Since you’ve done your research and saved some ideas to Pinterest , you know what you’re looking for right (wink, wink)?

10.  Listen to your designer – After vetting designers and settling on the one you are comfortable with, you should let them guide you through the website design process.  An experienced designer will have a set process in place that takes you step by step through the project.  If you try to go against that process, I can almost guarantee that you’ll not only make your designer drink a large amount of adult beverages after work each day, but you’ll also  delay your project and create more work for yourself.  Remind yourself you hired this person for a reason!

Once you get ALL this set…call Small Talk!  I’ll be happy to sit down with you and talk about the awesome site you need us to build.  As you’re going through this process, if you’d like another resource that has great information about planning for web design project check out our friends over at Hut Marketing & Design.  I actually “borrowed” the idea for this post from them and like the planning suggestions they’ve mapped out too!