5 Steps to Prepare for a Website Project

I often get the impression that clients are a bit surprised when a website project begins with an in-depth Q&A session. I’m the designer, shouldn’t I just go away and come up with some designs on my own? As much I’d love to design every website entirely to my personal tastes, it’s crucial that the final result is what you, the client, want it to be.

The initial “fact-finding” stage of any website project consists of a meeting (either face-to-face, by phone or Skype) with preferably the business owner – since I largely work with small businesses – as well as a marketing person or whoever will be my main liaison on the project.

Vector graphic of content leaping off a web page on a laptop screen

Before the meeting I’ll send you a questionnaire, which will typically ask:

  • About your business: what services you offer, who your customers are, who your main competitors are.
  • What sets your business  apart form your competitors – what makes you unique?
  • Describe an ideal customer: their demographics, their habits, why they come to you.
  • Why do you want a new website?
  • What are your long term plans for your business – how do you see it growing and evolving in the next 5 years?
  • Do you have an idea of what you want your website to look like?

Plus a few more. Then, during the meeting, we’ll go through your answers to the questions (so make notes!) and hopefully get a good discussion going.

It seems labour intensive, but I assure you the more detail we can get in to at this stage, the speedier the rest of the project will be! There’ll be less time wasted on deciding small details and revising the designs.

To get the most of out the meeting, I recommend that all key players within the project do a little research of their own so that you can come to me with fully-formed ideas and insight.

Website Project Recommended Research

1. Know what you want from the finished website

Ideally, you should have a clear idea of what you want from the finished site. What functionality should it have? For example, do you need live chat, social sharing or newsletter integration? Do you plan to run a lot of PPC campaigns and need easy-to-use landing page templates?

2. Review your business

How does your website fit in with your wider business goals? What do you want it to achieve?

3. Review the market

Look around at the sites of your competitors as well as other businesses operating in the same industry but in other countries. What are they doing well? Where are they falling behind? What could you do differently?

4. Examples, examples, examples

It’s a huge help if you can come to the table with at least 3 examples of websites you like the design or structure of. I’ll then ask what it is you like and dislike about these examples because what I’m trying to do is get a sense of your tastes and your expectations for your own website. This isn’t about patching together designs from other websites in to a Frankenstein’s monster, but it is useful to know that you’ve got a huge preference for minimalism, for example, or that you love big bold imagery.

5. Have a clear idea of what content you want to include

It’s hard to design a website when you have no idea of what’s going to be on it. If I’m redesigning your website for you, let me know how the content will differ, if at all, from what’s on your current site. If it’s a brand new build, I’ll typically ask for content for the main pages (Home, About, at least one Product / Service page) at the start of the Design stage, i.e before putting pen to paper, so that the design serves the content and not vice versa. Content is king!

It may feel a little overwhelming but I can assure this preparation will set the project up for success, not to mention save us both time and energy! I’ll be with you every step of the way to offer advice, support and feedback.