Let’s start off by telling the truth: Creating new content is the hardest part of a web design project and often times presents an ever-present possibility for getting bogged down.
It’s hard for the web developer since we can’t design a website without being deeply familiar with the client at every level of their business. You know, things like who is their ideal client, what services or products do they offer and what level of content they require. We need to know all of this at the front end before we can even think about designing a competent website.
What is a competent website?
A competent website, by virtue of its compelling message, visually enticing layout, and powerful call-to-action, attracts the right people to it with the ultimate goal in mind – to bring in new business.
Building websites that work requires that the designer have competency in areas such as understanding business-to-business strategy, proficiency in storytelling, design, content marketing, and technology. WHEW!
You don’t need to be an expert, per se, but you do have to know where your skills end and where another professional’s begin (copywriting, photography, niche marketing). If you expect your clients to give you every single thing you’ll need at the onset, all wrapped up in a bow, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Clients, too, need to know where their skills end and where another professional’s begin. Again, we’re referring to copywriting, photography and niche marketing. Sometimes it can be hard finding the right professional to do the job so check out my post on How to Find a Good Web Designer.
Remember, before you can sit down to the business of web design, you’ll need to have all of the necessary content ducks in a row.
Now that we’ve laid out the truth, let’s get on with the business of dealing with it.
But, first, let’s start with an analogy.
We’ve all heard of empty nesters who decide to move to a new home after their kids have grown up and moved out. Maybe their old house needs lots of repairs or, maybe they just want a brand new start. Finally, they’re going after their dream home. Maybe it includes a palatial master bedroom, a double garage to use as a workroom, or that pool they’ve always wanted.
Off they go, searching for their ideal, new dwelling. Hurray! They’ve found it! Immediately, they find themselves dealing with a whole slew of decisions. “You knooow”, she says, “we really need to get rid of your grandmother’s dinged-up mahogany furniture and buy new furniture that suits the modern architecture of the house.”
“Okaaay,” he says. “And, by the way, you know your Aunt Mildred’s handmade rug from India that you’ve had since we got married? It smells like cat pee and I don’t want that coming with us, either.”
The to-do list lengthens as they discover, along with the need for new furniture, they’ll have to paint, get new carpeting, order custom window coverings, and consider their landscape design.
As you can see, the quest for the shiny new home, even though it is thrilling and desired, immediately becomes a major undertaking. As the empty nesters shift their orientation in life, everything about their new home and its contents shifts as well.
Clients undergo a similar process when they decide upon a new website. Their business has expanded or evolved. Their client base has changed. They know that they need a refresh, that their current site is outdated, that their content is inadequate. They’re excited at the prospect of an overhaul. However, they may not have realized the breadth and depth of the decisions that they’ll have to make in order to realize that overhaul. Like the empty nesters, they must put in the time to rethink how they currently operate as a business; from there, they must consider how to replace what no longer supports their interests and what areas need a re-do.
Just as the empty nesters’ move isn’t just about picking a new neighborhood, a website redesign is not simply a matter of upgrading to a better platform or better design. As you embark on your own site’s redesign, you must take the time to rethink your own business strategy and messaging. Doing this in advance will help produce purposeful content and dynamic design.
You’ll need to take a hard look at defining where you are currently in the market. You don’t want to automatically carry all your metaphorical “old furniture and smelly rugs” into your new online presence. You want to ditch what you don’t need and start fresh with what matches best with the way you do business now. New Furniture, for you, means NEW CONTENT.
You, as a web designer, will not be able to move on to the design phase of a project if your client hasn’t told you who is their ideal client, what products or services they offer and prepare all of the relevant content for the pages. Without this information, it’s impossible to design a competent website.
A business owner can get stymied along this process because, in order to determine their new content and images, they often must examine their entire business model. They may have to redefine what it is that they do and who it is that they do it for. “But”, you say, “shouldn’t they already know this?” It’s not that simple.
Businesses change over time. The market may morph and the products and services adjust to what people need. So, this is the time (for you, first) to make sure that your new site is an accurate reflection of you and your own business, by doing all of this work for yourself.
A good web designer knows that most clients don’t, won’t or can’t give us everything we need in order to start their site. It’s not the web designer’s job to define your client’s business plan. However, we do have to be prepared, by knowing what is needed at the onset, so that if necessary, we can hook them up with resources that can help them get their assets together for the site build.
Once you’ve done all this for yourself, jumping over all the hurdles, surveying all the nooks and crannies, wracking your brain to perfect the details, it’ll be much easier to do it for others.
And, while we’re on the subject of details, you likely know the old saying, “The devil is in the details.” Truth told, I never understood that connection between Beelzebub and details, so I prefer to say, “The MASTERY is in the details.” Indeed, it is here, in this vast territory of sculpting and perfecting, and while navigating the oftentimes tedious and painstaking waters of seemingly-endless minutiae, where the true design masters are created.