Time and time again I hear the same story, and it goes something like this. “We were working with another web design company for months, and we got nowhere. We are not happy with our current web designer.” Many times it is also followed up with something like this. “We already paid the other company half of our budget, so we don’t have a lot to work with.”
It is unfortunate that this happens to the client and web development companies. Web development is such an intense project for both parties, miscommunication and misguided intentions is a recipe for disaster. Below are a few golden rules that we live by, and keep our clients and us on the same page throughout the process.
Planning, Planning and more Planning
Planning is one of the most overlooked pieces of a web design project. You must know where you are, where your competitors are, where you are going, and what you plan to do when you get there. Before we even think about the design, we know who our competitors are, what keywords they are using, how traffic gets to their site, what keywords we plan to use, how competitive those keywords are, how we plan to lay out our link structure, how we plan to optimize our site using the keywords we discovered, where we are going with our content and how we expect to make our website better than our competitors.
Disorganized projects always end in disaster. We as the web design company and the client must know the process, what to expect and how it is all going to be orchestrated. Put together a project overview or a project brief. Build a timeline and assign a task to each person involved, both designers and clients. Each person has their responsibilities and deadlines before the design even begins and the entire road is paved.
Finally, The Design
By the time we finally get to the design, we have all the tools for a significant development phase. We have all of our colors picked out, we know what we are up against, we know how we are going to make our site better, and we execute. This is an exciting milestone, but also an important milestone. This is where the web designer gets to put the graphics take on all the data and planning. Sometimes the design doesn’t always come out as the client had imagined. This is sometimes where feelings get in the way, and projects go wrong. Good web designers make their case on the design aspects of the site, and the client makes their case on the vision they have. After all, it is the clients’ company, and that has to be respected. When everyone puts their ideas together, magical things start to happen. All you have to do is listen, and I think that is where the breakdown sometimes occurs.
When the site is complete, that is when the work starts! A website is not a ‘Field of Dream’ like some are mislead to believe. It’s more like a dirty nickel on the ground, mostly unnoticed and those that do see it pass it by. You need a plan to own a successful site. Owning a successful website means driving traffic to the site, then capturing information or making the sell once the user visits the site. Developing the site with comprehensive on-page SEO, formulating and executing an inbound marketing strategy and contributing to the world of social networking will set a website up for tremendous success. A balance of paid advertising will generate quicker results and may be phased out as the other efforts gain momentum. A web development company should be able to develop an online marketing strategy as part of their web development process.
Revisit, Refine and Improve
As users visit your site, they will leave important information behind even if they do not purchase or make contact. A significant and often overlooked step is tracking. Small changes make a significant impact on users. You or your web development company should be able to regularly monitor trends and how these small updates affect your website statistics. For example, you might have noticed how search bars are getting larger on sites like Amazon and Google. Amazon decided to make its search bar more prominent on the page. The results were that users were using the search bar more frequently, which made it easier for users to find products quickly. An increase in sales was directly related to this change.
Ask your web development company in the beginning if they monitor your website or offer a package for monitoring and updating.
A web design and development project is a long road that will have sharp turns and bumps along the way. If you are prepared for the trip, everyone involved is going to have a much more pleasurable experience, and the end product is going to reflect it. I would like to hear any tips or feedback from other web design companies, as well as clients and customers. If you have worked with a web design company, and something stood out, what was it that made the experience so exceptional.