It’s that time of the year when my clients are considering giving their websites an update or a complete redesign. For many businesses the summer time is the perfect time to take on such a project. The reason why most businesses should update their website is to make it easier for their users to engage with their content and to purchase their products or services. There are an infinite number of ways you can approach updating or redesigning a website. If your business is large enough to have an in-house IT project manager or your own web developer, then that’s great. According to the SBA, 70% of the 32 million Small Businesses are operated and owned by a single person. This means most of these business owners are outsourcing their web development needs. Many will go to marketplaces like Upwork, Shopify or Fiverr.
If you don’t already know, there’s a difference between web design and web development. Both function differently, and both should typically be done separately and treated as individual parts of your website design process. While I don’t believe in unicorns or the infamous “jack of all trades,” I do believe that you can find a good designer AND a good developer, who may or may not be on the same team, who will work well together on your project. Combine those two parts with great content and you’re all set for the website you need to help your business succeed. The cohesiveness between all three parts is vital to the overall functionality and style of your website — one really can’t exist without the other.
Design vs. Development
The first part of creating a website is the design. This is what your site will look like, how it will function, what images you’ll want, etc. You can find many design templates, where you simply change the colors and content and your developer sets it to go live when ready. If you already have a website up, your first step will be to figure out what works, what doesn’t, what changes you need and which parts of your current website you want to keep. You’ll want to look at your competitor’s websites and take note of what you love, hate, or feel indifferent toward. This is the discovery part of your process. You can choose to perform this due diligence yourself, but if it’s within your budget, you may prefer to have the designer and developer (who may both be working in one agency) do the discovery for your business. Don’t forget to find out what they will be charging you for discovery and revisions. If you’re doing this part yourself, then you’ll want to start by creating a map of your website to pass along to the designer, who will be able to build a wireframe.
Every agency, design shop and designer approaches the wireframing from a different angle. They may use mockup tools like Balsamiq, Invisionapp, Mockingbird, UXPin, Visio and others to get you a prototype. You should expect to pay for this service. Think of it like building a house. You pay the architect to create the basic design. If you choose to hire them to create the blueprint, then you’ll have to pay for the plans too. If the architect happens to work with a builder, who in this case would be the developer, you may or may not choose that builder to build the house. A web designer may work closely with a particular developer, and you can use your own discretion to choose if you’ll also work with that developer.
Don’t forget to consider if your business will need a back-end for customers to log in, make payments, etc. This is not included in a regular website design, and will involve additional costs, planning and more.
It’s also important to keep in mind that web design takes time. I would say that the biggest complaint I hear from businesses is that the web designer or agency hired to design/develop their website took twice as long as what they agreed to complete the website. This can be very frustrating and can change your experience completely, leaving you unsatisfied due to the timeline. Before moving forward with your new website, here are 12 questions you should ask the designer or agency you hire to be clear on timelines and more:
The Next Steps
Once you’re clear on what you can expect from your designer, you can start thinking about your website development. The designer will create static images and wireframing, while the developer will put those designs in motion, creating the code, working forms and more for your site. Your website development will bring your design to life, and a good developer is key, as there is always some back and forth to fix and revise your site. You’ll want to work with someone who is responsive and understands clearly what you’re trying to achieve with your website. If you’re looking to sell products on your site, this will add a whole new level to the need for a great web developer.
Lastly, your website design and development will absolutely not work smoothly without the right content. Your content is a key component because it is telling your customers and potential customers who your business is and why they should hire you or choose your company for their product or service needs. Your website’s content is doing the job of delivering the message for your business. When writing your content, you should answer the following:
Well-written content will do the job of helping customers understand who you are, why you do what you do, and why you are the best choice for them.
Website design and development, along with great content, can help your business achieve the sales goals you’ve set. Asking all the right questions will help you choose the right web designer and developer to create your unique space on the web.
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