Have I told you lately how important it is to have business buddies? The kind of friends who just get it without explanation.
It’s what keeps me from huddling in the corner mumbling to myself on overwhelming days.
Every Tuesday, my very best biz bestie, Mayi Carles, and I hop on Google Hangouts to chat, update each other on what’s going on in our businesses and lives and provide each other with loving nudges in the right direction.
Yesterday we talked about my website redesign and how it’s going.
During our chat, I realized that I’ve never really done a website design. When I launched Blacksburg Belle in the very beginning, I just designed a blog header (which was pretty horrendous).
When I worked with the designer of my current design, she asked me a few questions about what I liked and what I wanted for the color palette. Then, she did everything else. She put together two or three options, and I choose the one I liked best. I didn’t participate in the design process at all. And, I didn’t redo any photos or rewrite any copy for the new website.
This time, things are different.
I’m working with Amanda (from Amanda Creek Creative) to design my website. I’m creating all the watercolors and photos for the website and she’s putting them together so that they look amazing on the page. I’ve done some of the heavy lifting this time and it feels completely different.
Plus, I’m redoing everything—from the photos to the copy to the email opt-in. Every single detail is being changed, because it needs a reboot.
If you’re a creative entrepreneur, you’ll probably want to be semi-involved in the process of designing your website whether that means creating illustrations for it or deciding on the color palette or designing a background pattern. You might write all of your own copy. Or work with a copywriter to make sure all the copy sounds like you.
The point being that if you’re considering a website redesign, you’ll probably be taking on a bunch of extra work.
Now that I’m about two-thirds of the way through the design process, I know I could’ve been better prepared. Because I hadn’t really been through it before, I didn’t know what to expect or how much time all of this stuff really takes.
I miscalculated how long it would take me to: 1) paint all of the watercolors 2) take all new photos 3) rewrite the copy 4) update the blog images with the right fonts and 5) collect updated testimonials.
For those of you who are considering hiring a website designer, I thought it might be helpful to know what I probably should’ve done before hiring mine.
(Thankfully, Amanda is patient with me and understands how long it really takes to do these things even if I had no clue.)
The first five items on this list are things that I recommend you finish before hiring a designer. The last five are items that will make it so much easier on you and your designer if you’ve at least started them.
1. Decide on your website goals and priorities.
What do you want to achieve with your website? What are your top priorities?
Are you a product-based business wanting to add a shop to your website so that you don’t lose customers to other sellers on Etsy anymore? Are you trying to land more speaking opportunities and want to highlight a video of you speaking at a conference? Do you want to prioritize a new opt-in to get more ideal customers onto your email list?
If you know this going into the hiring process, it’ll give your web designer a better idea of what needs to be done and help with planning the layout. She’ll also be able to tell you whether or not she’s a good fit for your project.
2. Create a Pinterest mood board.
If you want your website to match the fuzzy vision in your head, you’ve got to give your designer good direction. Unfortunately, designers aren’t magical wizards that can read your mind.
Get on Pinterest and pin things that match: 1) the color palette you’re drawn to 2) websites that have elements you really love and 3) any other inspiration that matches your branding or the feeling you’re trying to create with your site.
3. Decide what you want done.
To find the right web designer and get a clear estimate, you need to know what you want done. Do you want the works—a total website redesign with all the fixings? Do you want to keep your existing design but want to add a membership program to your site? Do you just want a new header and social media buttons?
This can change a little as you start the project. For instance, I’ve added on pages that I didn’t think about in the beginning but we’re sticking pretty close to the plan. If you don’t know what you want a website designer to help you with, you’re going to really struggle to hire the right person.
4. Determine your budget.
If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know how important it is to have a budget. It’s easy to fall in love with pastel-colored peony floral arrangements that cost double what you wanted to spend or the perfect off-the-shoulder lace dress that drains your decor budget.
If you start contacting website designers without knowing your budget, you might end up falling head over heels for something waaaaaay out of your comfort zone. Then what?
Keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend going with the cheapest option to save a little bit of money. This is your online home after all, but you should have an idea of what you can spend.
5. Figure out the purpose of each page.
It’s easy to get lost within a website redesign. To make sure you don’t get to the end and wonder how the heck you ended up with the final design, stay on track by knowing the purpose of each page on your new website.
For example, I’m designing a new FAQ page and the purpose is to answer the questions I get the most often about my brand and myself. That way, my virtual assistant and I can point people in that direction when they ask those common questions. My website designer kept this page pretty simple, because we want it to be easy for readers to find what they’re looking for. We both could’ve gotten carried away with adding this and that to it, but that would’ve taken away from it’s purpose.
6. Write the copy for each page.
You don’t need to have this done before hiring a website designer (none of the following items need to be completely finished), but you have to finish the copy before the launch. Let’s say that you’re planning on launching in three months from hiring your designer. Are you going to be able to get all the copy done within that timeframe?
The more you have done before you start, the better. Once your website designer has the copy for each page (especially the homepage), it’s much easier to create the design around it.
7. Put your copy into Google Docs.
Once you finish the copy for one of your pages, load it into a Google doc so that you can easily share that document with the designer that you hire.
8. Get new headshots and take any photos you want to use on your new site.
If you’re using visuals (illustrations, product photos, headshots, etc.) that you’ve already got, then you can skip this step. But, you should keep in mind that the visuals are often the things that give your site a new fresh look.
You don’t have to redo all of it (like I am), but if you haven’t taken new photos of yourself for two years, it could definitely help to give your website a new look.
Before you jump into this step, keep in mind that if you’re taking new photos, you want them to match your new branding and if you have no idea what that’s going to look like, you may need to wait until you start working with your designer.
Also, I did four different photo shoots for my new design. In the first shoot, I didn’t take enough photos with space on either side of me. Because my designer is using my photos to create most of the design, we needed some with me on one side so she could insert text on the other side. As soon as she saw the photos from the first shoot, she sent me an email to let me know that we needed more photos with space on one side of me.
If I had taken all of my photos before hiring Amanda, I would’ve had to redo some of them.
You could probably take new product photos or create new illustrations (if you’re an artist) without consulting your website designer, but just keep in mind that they might need something that you haven’t considered.
9. Set up a Dropbox account and add your images to it.
In order to easily share your visuals with your website designer, set up a Dropbox account and a folder for the visuals. That way you don’t have to send email after email with high-quality visuals (that are often large files). Some of them could get lost in the shuffle. If they are all in one place, it makes it much easier on your website designer.
Dropbox is also a great place to put a backup of your website before your designer starts working on your site. Just in case!
10. Collect testimonials from past customers.
You absolutely want to include testimonials on your new site. Remember that your customers are busy like you, so try to give them a bit of time to reply to you. I suggest setting a deadline, because people also tend to procrastinate. Let them know when you need them by and give them a bit of direction.
For example, you might ask them to describe how they would introduce your brand to a friend or why they love reading your blog or what they enjoy most about your products. The more direction you give, the more likely you’ll get testimonials that focus on what you want them to focus on.
I hope that helps you if you’re planning a website redesign.
Even if you’re six months or a year out from contacting web designers for quotes, start prepping now. Take it from me—it takes a lot longer than you think to finish all of these things.
If you’ve worked with a website designer or are a website designer, please leave any other tips in the comments below. What should creative entrepreneurs who haven’t been through this process do to prepare? Did I leave anything out?