At 422 Studios, we encounter a lot of potential partners that realize that they need a new website and they need to get serious about their online presence, but they don’t really have much more than an idea when they come to us looking for help. While this approach is ok, it is not ideal. Projects can tend to drag on when the website owner isn’t prepared. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when the website owner is well prepared, the projects seem to take on a life of their own. Our team gets pumped up to work on the project and the site owners are happy with progress and we end up in the situation that we here at the studio call, “the perfect project”.
What makes a project, “The Perfect Project”.
There are several areas that make up a web development project and each of these areas can be given a certain amount of forethought before engaging in them with a web development company. Making yourself aware of these processes and preparing for them ahead of time will make your design and development team VERY happy and they will no doubt be filled with passion when developing your site rather than filled with frustration and a lack of interest due to a slow process.
While we can’t speak for all studios, we like to start our projects with a nice set of quick, dirty wireframes. These don’t really include any design and sometimes they can actually be done with a pencil. They are always black and white and their purpose is to determine the positioning of the various items on the site’s home page template. This can be menu positioning, the positioning of certain features and functionality, what goes in the footer and so on and so forth.
Having an idea of what you actually want on your home page can help tremendously with the wireframing process. This eliminates our team gussing about what you want to be featured and what you must have on your site’s home page. Wireframing often extends beyond the home page into sub pages, blog pages, services pages and more. Having an idea of your sites “navigational structure” (pages within your menu) is a huge help during the wireframing process.
Design is a really touchy subject around the studio. We always want to create a design for our clients that is modern and clean, has a good usability structure and follows popular design trends. I can’t stress enough that when you are preparing to give design feedback that you should prepare the LEAST for this part. Of the entire process, this is probably the most important area to leave to the pros. We find it very hard to deal with clients that say, “I like soandso.com and I want my site to look exactly like that with my own colors, logo and content.” Upon looking at the site we realize that it looks like it was created by a seventh grader in Microsoft frontpage for their school project. Its sad but true. Sometimes it is best to simply prepare for the design phase by gathering your logo (or your ideas for your logo if you don’t have one), your color schemes and a handful of some references to sites that you like. But ultimately, your going to get the best bang for your buck by allowing the professionals to do their job and provide you’re a design that is modern and unique and comes from the designers artistic mind rather than constricting them to something they can’t even get excited about.
Content is the single most time consuming part of a website project. Some studios, including 422 Studios, offer copywriting services. Sometimes you may not be able to afford copywriting services and you’ll decide to go it alone and create all the content yourself. This isn’t a terrible idea, but it is a very time consuming process. Your copy should be written before as soon as possible. Whether you are thinking about having a new site created or are already in the process, the best time to start writing and planning content, is NOW. Start by creating a bulleted list of your site pages in MS word or Google docs. This will give you a good idea of your navigation and content strategy. Once you have a list of pages and content, begin writing your pages thinking about your business and the usability of the content only. Don’t think about search engines or search engine optimization at this point, that is another point best left to the professionals and you can actually hurt yourself by thinking about SEO rather than the actual importance of your content.
You will never make a web development team happier than when you provide your content to them at the start of a project. It will be shocking to them in the best possible way. We love working on projects where we can focus on design and development and not wait for weeks and weeks for content. The less time we spend twiddling our thumbs, the more passionate about your project we can be.
Once your site is designed and all of your content is in place and all features agreed upon in your contract are completed its time to launch. This is the WORST time possible to let the team know that you are missing things that you perceived as “required” for your project. Make sure from the outset of your project that you outline everything you are concerned about and make sure that all the features and functionality that you need / want are included in writing in a proposal / estimate. Keeping your web development team happy is paramount to the success of your website.
In closing, I realize that a lot of this post is about “keeping the team happy”. And while that sounds like a whiny position to take, it is so important in the overall experience you will have when creating your new web presence. As artists, we designers and developers are emotional creatures. We NEED to be excited and passionate about a project to get the best results and have the most beautiful design or the most amazing functionality. Doing a small amount of pre-work before you get involved with a design and development team goes a tremendously long way in achieving your desired end result: The PERFECT presence that draws traffic and converts that traffic into leads and sales by BEING AWESOME.
We want to help you create this awesome web presence we speak of. If you are looking for a custom web site, we can help. Whether you have a small project or a huge web application, we can handle it. Click here to get a proposal.