September 6, 2017 Jonny
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A good website is one of your start-up’s most valuable marketing assets. It anchors your content, sells your product, shows off your work, communicates your messages and it’s your brand’s home.

Let’s call it the mothership.

Having an effective website in place is a great starting point for any brand – but if you’re unsure about how to achieve this web-tastic ideal, stick with us.

If you want to self-build and craft a killer website with your own bare hands, then there are plenty of platforms out there that are simple enough to use, if you’ve got the time.

Self-Build your Website!

You don’t need to become the next coding whizz-kid to build your website.

Self-build platforms have programmed their own website building software, most of them let you choose designs and templates, write your copy and sort out your visuals, with a few bits and bobs in between.

When you keep things simple, it can be a drag & drop situation.

All of the core elements of getting a website running will be taken care of; like domain names and website hosting.

Website builders have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.

For example, WordPress is one of the best platforms out there – it’s really flexible and you can do almost anything with it, but, it can be quite difficult for complete beginners. You might have to do a bit of research for more complex tasks.

It can be worth hiring a freelancer or an agency who are pro with all things WordPress if you want to do something more advanced that you cant do yourself.

Fun fact: WordPress powers 27% of the internet.

Keeping it simple

If you want something quick, stylish and basic, Squarespace is worth a look. It doesn’t have as much flexibility as WordPress, but it’s much easier to use and you don’t have to know any code to get your website sorted in a short amount of time.

Helping you Sell online

If you want to set up an e-commerce site then you’d be wise to choose a platform that’s geared up for easy selling. Shopify is a great option, as they have a comprehensive app store, so you can enhance your customer’s user experience and encourage them to head towards your checkout in various ways.

You can easily integrate your offline and online store and it has the capability to help you sell a wide range of products.

Full disclosure (We’re a Shopify Partner)

Alternatives

There are plenty of other good options out there, we’ve just listed out three that we’ve personally tried!

Use an Agency

Let an Agency do the hard work for you

Self-building your own website is all well and good, but if you’re not a startup, or you don’t have an abundance of time, it may be best to hire a web design agency to do the graft for you.

There are all kinds of factors you can unintentionally overlook because, well, let’s face it, that’s probably not what you do day in, day out.

Designing brilliant websites is an agency’s bread and butter, and they know how to put together websites that capture your ethos and brand story, whilst delivering results.

A few things that an agency like us *cough cough* can take care of:

  • Meticulous research and planning of your potential website – bouncing ideas off each other and mapping out every aspect of your site.
  • Your website needs to be designed well, and fully responsive, so it’s optimized for mobiles, tablets, desktops and televisions. Basically, it has to look great on all of these platforms so you can maximise customer visits to your site, and not be penalised by Google’s search criteria.
  • Agencies have got mad skills in typography, colour, copywriting, design theory and usability. Throw it all together and they’ll create compelling, beautiful websites.
  • There’s lots of stuff behind the scenes that are important too like SEO, PPC, CRO. You might now be saying OMG, but don’t worry – a decent agency will sort out the technical stuff that encourages people to head towards your website.

If you do decide to use an agency, or just want to cement your idea. It’s good practice to put together a brief.

How to write a creative brief for a website

One thing to remember is that the process of getting a new site made is not a short process, but the following information will kick you off in the right stead.

What exactly is it that you do?
Take the time to write a short(ish) description of what your business does. What sets you apart from your competitors, and what’s special about your approach to work?

What do you want your site to achieve?
What’s your primary goal for the site? Sales, quote requests, sign-ups etc. Also, think about your secondary goals too. For example, social media interaction, newsletter opt-in, Increasing brand awareness etc.

Do you have a website already?
If so, write a little bit about it. When did you make it? Do you find it easy to use? Does it use a Content Management System? What do you like and dislike about it? How many inbound leads are you getting from it? Are you getting the results you want? What would you like to keep?

What makes you stand out?
As you know, potential customers look at lots of potential suppliers. What makes you stand out from your competition? Great customer service, unique packages, best products around etc.

What do your users want? How about the team?
Think of how the site might benefit your customers or prospects. Take the time to consult your team and bring them into the planning process. How could a website free up your team’s time, allowing them to focus on other more vital tasks? A basic example might be that you have a help desk online, reducing the amount of time you spend on the phone answering generic questions.

Sites that you like? (and don’t like!)
Why do you like them? Which of these have clever functionality? What sites have design features that you like? Any sites that have a tone of voice that appeal?

Who exactly are your customers and what difficulties do they face?
If you’re unsure, imagine you could combine all your customers into one perfect customer. What would they be like?

Timings.
When do you need this project to be completed? Presenting accurate timings will result in a far smoother project.

Success.
How will you judge whether the new site has been a success? For example, this might be an increase in enquiries, newsletter signup, sales, or visits.

The Future.
How do you see the site progressing in the years to come? If you have a vision for the future, then write about it. A good agency will make suggestions on how this might be achieved, but they can also consider this in their initial designs.

Budget.
Budget is always a tough one, we would suggest offering a price bracket, this allows an agency or freelancer to tailor their recommendations to your expectations. If you don’t have a set budget, then perhaps specify a price bracket that you are comfortable with

What is your selection process?
If you’re not already, we always recommend reaching out to multiple agencies to get a rounded perspective of your options.

I hope the above helps you kick off your web design project with some great information under your belt. I’m sure your future team will appreciate it!

So, what happens next?

Once you’ve signed up with an agency, or freelancer they’ll start getting to work. It’s not the same for all agencies, but here’s a rough outline of what to expect.

Getting to know you

Graphic of a brain

The very first step is to get to know you, we pride ourselves on having good relationships with all of our clients. We’re going to be working together for a while, so it’s good to be comfortable with each other, open and honest. All good agencies will start here.

Understanding

Coffee Cup

They’ll want to know all about your industry and business to truly understand what it is you do. We like to know the history, the team and all the little quirks businesses have. The better our understanding from the start, the better we’ll be able to do our job.

Objectives

Icon of person and three boxes

The next step is to discuss your objectives, an agency will want to know what it is you want your website to do for you (in steps the new brief you’ve written).

The value of a website is almost zero unless it’s working for you and your business.

Research

Icon of town hall

Based on your objectives they’ll go ahead and conduct some research. Looking at your target audience. Who are these people? What do they expect from a company like yours? What’s the common demographic?

Some time researching your competitors will almost certainly happen. Who is your competition? Are they doing something your not? What are their weaknesses?

Planning

Picture of jigsawBy this point, there will be a foundation to work on, with previous research providing a clear path moving forward.

You should expect to receive a clear scope, detailing what will be happening, and when it will be done.

Concepts

Wireframe

This stage allows designers to throw lots of ideas into the mix -Pinterest boards, wireframes, sketches and other visuals.

This stage speeds up the design process and produces a more efficient workflow. It allows us an agency to show you what they want to do and make sure you’re on the same page before they’ve even loaded up any design tools.

Designing

Paper Aeroplane

This is where the fun begins! Information gathered from the previous stages will be used to put something together that’s sure to get you excited.

The design process allows an agency to really flex their creativity, a good team will spend hours upon hours playing with pixels to make something truly special.

Once they’ve have put some designs together, they’ll send them over to you for your feedback.

At this stage it’s really important that you work together, they should welcome your input.

Development

Diamond

Following the previous steps means that the development process can run as smoothly as possible.

Hopefully, the agency you choose will be using the latest web technologies and techniques to ensure your website works across all devices out there and is as fast as can be.

They’ll rigorously test the website across all major devices, browsers and previous versions of those browsers to ensure it works correctly for as many people as possible.

Launching

Rocket Ship

As with most website launches, it’s good to do them early in the morning to ensure they can be monitored throughout the day, if any issues occur, they can be fixed.

At this stage, it’s nice to show colleagues, friends and family. In the meantime, you might want to put together a press release or mail-out ready to send out the next day once you’re sure everything is pixel perfect. At the same time, you’ll want to make sure and tracking, and/or Google Analytics is setup set up you can track who is visiting the website!

Improving

Laptop with graph

Once your site is live it’s time to start tracking how your visitors use the site, looking at what’s working well and what’s perhaps not working as well as expected.

Gathering useful data from visitors is crucial in understanding how to refine the website to suit your visitors’ needs.

This is an on-going process of refinement, the truth is – a great website always evolves.

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