Although it often seems like it, websites do not materialize out of thin air. Having a new website built for your company is an exciting step in business development, but there is a lot of coordination that goes on behind the scenes that many people aren't aware of. These are a few things that you can do to make the process run more smoothly before you even hire a website designer.
1. Confirm One Main Contact
This is all about communication—if there are too many cooks in the kitchen it can be a disaster and your website designer and developer get caught in the cross fire and it can slow down a project considerably.
For a solopreneur, the main point of contact person is pretty obvious, but at a larger company...not so much. Usually a good primary contact is someone within the company that is focused on marketing or business development. It's also a bonus if this person is patient and good at juggling multiple opinions from executives so final decisions can be made and passed on to the designer/developer so they can work more efficiently.
2. Establish (or plan to establish) a Brand Identity
The best websites have a brand identity established or include this in the scope of work.
Why? Because the client and the designer/developer are speaking the same language from the get go. The goals are clear, we know the audience and we know where the priorities of the company and audience overlap. Developing a brand identity is one of the most exciting and interesting parts of the entire process!
3. Get the inspiration searching out of your system
Adding a "simple effect" halfway through a project usually isn't as simple as you think.
I'm not saying that you can't have that cool parallax effect you saw or image fade in, but the earlier we know about these things the better. As with any design, you can usually have whatever you want—it just takes more time and money in some instances. The goal is to minimize the amount of surprises during the design and development process. We designers/developers make things look easy, but we're not wizards or magicians—we don't click one button to make cool things happen. Sometimes one effect or action will require building entire sections of your website because there are a lot of moving parts.
I recommend looking at as many websites as you can (within and outside your industry) to see what speaks to your company best, then pass those notes on to your designer/developer during your first meeting so they can figure out the best plan of attack.
4. Address Legal
It's not the most fun part, but it's often the most important.
5. Consider Photography
Good imagery can take your website to the next level.
Web designers and developers need to know how much focus will be on photography because this directly influences they layout of all your webpages.
Depending on your industry you many need headshots for your 'About' or 'Team' page, food photography of your specialty dishes or photos of your entire product line. There can be a huge range in scope—you may need a photographer for a few hours or a photographer, studio and stylists for a few days. The key is figuring out what you would like to showcase on your website and also social media then working from there. Often website designers/developers have a few photographers they can recommend to you.
6. Consider Copywriting
Website copy reinforces your brand and helps define your audience.
Don't underestimate the power of good copy on your website. When I mean good, I mean copy that speaks to your audience—is your audience casual or formal? Do they prefer long copy or bullet points? Do you have compelling copy that will help you sell a product?
Many business owners are good writers, but if it's not your favorite thing to do or you just don't have the time to dedicate to it, consider hiring a professional or asking your website designer/developer for recommendations.
7. Realistically Schedule
Potential clients always ask me how long a website takes to build...
Depending on the size, the actual build can take as little as a few days, but it usually ends up taking a few weeks or more months because there are reviews, revisions and general correspondence between the client and designer. When I send files for approval it's usually a few days until I receive a response because my client is handing their own customers or clients and often can't drop everything to review my email. Keep in mind that if designers/developers get put on the back-burner that can slow down your project considerably.
In addition, if you are working with photographers and copywriters, they need time to complete their work as well to pass on to your website designer/developer.