Telling a web designer that you want a website is like telling a builder you want a house. Like anything of value that you want to last, it needs thinking through first.
At Rare Form, we always have a workshop upfront to identify a client’s needs. We’ve learned a lot from those workshops.
So if you’re thinking about a website for your business, this might help. Here is a Why, Who, What and Where of approaching a new website project:
Why do you want a new website?
Clue - the answer should not be only “Because everyone else has one”. This will get you the mum’s response about jumping off bridges. Whilst it is true that in this day and age a business without a website is about as peculiar as a teenager without a smartphone, if your only reason for having a website is because it seems like the thing to do then you may well be wasting your money. So before we even think about designing, coding or building a new website, we always ask the client what they’re trying to achieve.
Occasionally it is as simple as an existing site needs updating, either because it needs to do much more than the original design can accomplish, or it was built in what is now an obsolete system, or even that it looks woefully out of date
In many cases, the intention is simply to have a presence on the web that shows who you are, what you do, and with the means to contact you. This is what we call a brochure site, it does pretty much the same job now as a company brochure did in the 20th century - it communicates who you are and what you can do, serving as both a marketing tool for you and a validation tool for anyone who wants to check you out.
In other cases, you may require the site to actually do something. Perhaps this will be selling products, in which case e-commerce functionality is needed. Or maybe you need a booking system for your guest house or a fare calculator for your taxi firm. These specific website jobs need to be carefully considered. Not just in terms of how they work or look, but also how they will actually benefit you. For instance, is having e-commerce on your site actually likely to result in more sales for your business or are your customers the kind who love talking about details or asking questions before they buy, and more likely to purchase in person or over the phone? Would your booking system need to interface with a calendar database to make actual bookings, or would a system that generates a request for a booking on a certain date be good enough solution?
Whether you are looking for a brand-new website or an update of your existing site, the question of purpose is always the first thing to consider.
Who will be visiting your site?
Once you have a clear understanding of why you want the website, the next most important thing to consider is who is going to be using it. Having a good picture of your target audience will enable your web designer to tailor the user experience to them. The more a user feels comfortable on the site, the more likely they are to engage with it.
If you're not sure of your target audience, it helps to identify what it is that makes you special. What is it that makes you stand out in your particular marketplace? Even if you are one of many businesses offering the same or similar goods/services, there should still be at least one thing that sets you apart from your competition.
If you can recognise what marketers would call your USP (unique selling point), then you can start to pin down what kind of person is going to be interested in what you have to offer.
What do you want your visitors to do?
There should always be an intended outcome for your users. Think about what it is. Want them to call you? Book a visit? Buy something? Watch your promo film?
We design websites specifically around that action, so we can convert as many visitors as possible – turning them from browsers into customers.
So ask yourself what your intended outcome is. Knowing what you expect of your audience makes a good-looking website into a valuable one.
Where is the content coming from?
This is where you come in, and where you can really express yourself as a business. Your designer can style and structure a site to appeal to your intended audience and give a good user experience, but you’re the expert on your own business. So ask yourself: What do you want to say, and how do you want to say it?
Writing copy for the web is a specific skill - people read webpages differently. It’s worth investing in specialist copywriting services.
They can translate your knowledge into language that will engage your audience. Sharper copy keeps visitors on your site for longer.
Images & Video
There are two options: stock and bespoke. Stock images and video are existing media found in online libraries like iStock or Storyblocks – they can be useful, and very cheap.
If you have specific and unique image needs – let’s say you’re an artist promoting your work - then your site will need bespoke visuals. In rarer instances stock may be the only option - for example, if you need an image of the earth from space it isn’t likely you’ll be able to get anyone to photograph that for you.
Bespoke is always a better option if when can. The more specific your visuals are to you, the better your site will look.
Take a look at our site for the dental surgery 33 Beaumont Street. They commissioned bespoke photography and video of the practice and its staff. It makes the site truly unique to them.
However, commissioning bespoke photography or video for an entire site may not be within your budget, and so a mix of stock and bespoke is invariably a good all-round option.
So what do you want?
Deciding to commission a new website is a big decision. And like almost any other big decision, much more needs to be taken into account than simply "do I want it or not?". Considering what your answers might be to the questions above will give you a much clearer idea of what you want from your website, and ultimately help you tell your web designer in much greater detail what it is you want.