So you’ve decided to embark on a website redesign journey. Pretty ambitious endeavor, no?. You know it has long been needed because your current site is wildly out of date and doesn’t reflect half of what your business is offering. But it’s a pretty big project isn’t it? Considering the average web redesign project takes months to complete and can cost anywhere from $3,000 - $100,000, you’ll want to dedicate a fair amount of energy to it if you want something worthwhile in the end. Why such a wide spectrum? Because building a website involves a complex level of planning.
Although it’s a test of endurance as opposed to speed, there are a number of things you can do throughout the process to make your experience a success. Arguably the most important piece, and the cornerstone of your project is the creative kick-off meeting. This is the initial meeting when the major decision makers of a business; sit down with an agency to hash out the major objectives and expectations of the project. With so many different personalities all coming from different areas of expertise and interests, it can be cumbersome to say the least. But here are a few pro tips for companies to ensure that your project goes as smoothly as possible.
Do Your Research
Nobody knows your business or your competition better than you. So who better to explain to the agency what the message is, your business is trying to bring to the market? Although you might feel fully versed in all aspects of your business, it would still behoove you to do some research before the meeting. Anything you can provide will be helpful. So document who your competition is. What are they doing differently than you and how are you better? What are some industry trends that you notice happening right now? Are there major current events or changes in your industry? Having this information helps your agency strategize your new site so that it is as effective with your audience as possible.
Gather Your Materials
As mentioned before, anything you can provide to the design/development team will be helpful. Some of the absolutely necessary items to gather are:
1) Logos – any type and format you currently use. Ideal formats to have are .ai, .pdf, .png, .psd
2) Imagery – any stock photos or other images in general that you use for any marketing purpose, promotion, etc. will be helpful. If you have photos of your employees, your office or campus, these can add a personal aspect to your site and are much better than using stock photos which can be seen elsewhere throughout the web.
3) Credentials - especially for redesigns, your agency will probably be working in your existing systems and will need access to your CMS, domain registrar, Google AdWords, Dropbox, Google Drive, Payment Processor, etc. Having all of these at the forefront can save time and reduce back and forth once the project starts.
Really anything you currently use for routine marketing purposes will be helpful. The more you can provide to your agency the better.
Find Example Sites
One of the most effective tools you can use to convey your vision to your agency is a list of example websites that you particularly like. You can use them to illustrate the layout, colors, graphic treatments and just about anything else. This is especially helpful for the less abstract thinkers that know what they are looking for, but have a hard time conveying it in words. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I’ll know it when I see it” or “I don’t know exactly, but I know what I don’t like”, this is your golden ticket.
On a side note, this can be helpful with images too. If you don’t like the banner image on your site and have an idea of what you’re looking for, try and provide that to the design team. It’s almost impossible for someone else to pick a photo that you’re thinking of but can’t convey it. If they are using a stock photo account, browse the site and try to find a specific image you can send them.
Create a Wish List
One of the things your team can do prior to even talking to an agency is to come up with a master wish list of what your new website or website redesign will have. Taking time on this is important because you’ll want to think about all aspects. Functionality, User Experience, Features, Conversions, etc are all things you should consider in this wish list. Then go through and identify the top 20% that you cannot live without. These should have the most impact of all items on your list. Separate these out as “must-have” as this will help guide your agency in their creative process moving forward. Roundpeg wrote a great article about website wishlists.
Identify Your Message
Although this item is last, it may be the most important of all. Too often, businesses lose their message over time. Or maybe it’s a newer business and you haven’t quite identified your message in as much detail as you should. Regardless of the situation, the cohesive message you’re trying to convey is the single most important aspect of your website redesign.
One major obstacle when thinking about your message is to think in terms of the company instead of your customer. Times have changed and people have access to countless competitors through the use of the web. Frankly, customers don’t care how long you’ve been in business. They care less about the company itself and more about what the company can do for them. This single aspect CANNOT get lost in your website messaging. If it does, your visitors will quickly move on to the next link in their Google results page. So having this created, reviewed, approved and ready to go during your kick off meeting will ensure your project is headed in the right direction.
Although a web design project can be daunting, the reward is far greater than the time and energy spent to get there. Having open communication throughout the process will ensure that your project stays on track and expectations are aligned between both parties. To get off on the right foot, a little research can go a long way. By preparing these 5 items prior to your initial creative kickoff meeting, your agency will have all the tools necessary to target the heart of the business and bring that through in the website. In addition, you can be assured that your agency knows the heart and soul of your business.