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How to get ready for a website project

The questions to ask before embarking on the design or build of your website

Cheryl Crichton Co-Founder Make Marketing Happen Club
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Lots of start-ups and small businesses ask me to help them create a website. Quite often they’ve never embarked on a project like this before, or have no idea where to start.

Getting Ready

The first thing I say is ‘be prepared’. Be prepared to answer the kind of questions you will get asked by a designer or developer. In other words, have a a brief.

Also, understanding a bit about basic web development, and some of the terms and processes involved is always a bonus.

Not got a brief?

You can find lots of examples of creative or technical web briefs online. Alternatively, take a look at my step-by-step guide to writing briefs in the blog I wrote for Watertight Marketing entitled ‘How to write a marketing brief in 10 simple steps‘ » It’s actually more general marketing brief guidance, but can be adapted for web development.

Web project checklist

Ask yourself these questions and use this checklist to make sure you are thinking about everything you need before embarking on any web design or development.

1. Domain name/URL (web address)

  • Have you got one?
  • If not, buy it yourself to maintain admin rights and to avoid being over-charged. Keep in mind that domain name registers often offer good deals for the first year, but expect prices to rise each year thereafter.
  • Consider buying multiple domains to protect your brand, but this is not mandatory. Only buy other (e.g. .com, .co.uk) if you are willing to manage them and pay the additional costs involved.
  • Also keep in mind that the minute you buy a domain name you are paying for it even though your website may be a while off launching yet. i.e. you don’t need the URL (a ‘Uniform Resource Locator’, or more simply put a  web address) before you start designing, only when your website is finalised and ready to go live.

2. Website Hosting (usually annual)

  • If you don’t know what this is, or don’t have it, you will need it. You can shop around yourself or ask your developer for a quote. 
  • Take care to read any Ts&Cs about what happens if there is an outage (i.e. your website goes offline due to an issue with the hosting company). 
  • Also take time to understand the different types of hosting available and the security risks of each.
  • Ask your hosting company about the cost of a security certificate (ensures your website is dafe and secure).
My good friend Christ Turner over at Bright Blue Kite would also add ‘hosting is often thought of as a commodity. It isn’t. Cheap hosting is normally achieved by loading sites onto servers. This negatively affects site performance.

3. Hosted Email (uses your domain name)

  • Do you need this? Businesses look more professional if they have a proper email address rather than Gmail or Yahoo for example.

4. Wireframing and Content

  • Do you know what you want on your site?
  • Have you got a site map?
  • Do you need any integrations?
  • Do you need any particular functionality?
  • Do you want a shop, or to take payment?
  • Do you need any technical wizardry?
  • Do you need it optimised for SEO (and do you understand what metadata is)? 

This is actually a big one. A lot of designers and developers will not start your project unless all this is agreed.

Chris also says that ‘somebody (you, a UX specialist or the website designer) needs to develop wireframes before beginning any design. Wireframing is a skill that will enable you to understand your content needs of your website, and how to structure the content to build effective user journeys’.

He also says ‘make sure your hosting includes an SSL certificate. These used to only be required for e-commerce but now browsers will flag your site as insecure without one, whether your site is transactional or not’.

5. Costs – make sure you have an idea of these:

  • Design, build & testing
  • Content creation (web developers do not normally offer this)
  • Hosting and Inboxes
  • Aftercare/support
  • Training and annual run costs

The list actually goes on as websites are not like designing a printed brochure. There’s lots to think about (not least that little thing called ‘code’) – even for the most simplest of sites. And if you don’t have a logo, brand or any assets or imagery, it would be well worth working with a designer before you start, otherwise you website’s going to be pretty empty.

Patience is a virtue

In all my years woking on websites, they’ve all start with at least a 12 week turn around time. And that’s just the small ones. Larger ones can take months, years and even longer if not planed for properly. So, I always recommend allowing for a decent up-front planning period. Patience is a must –  you must plan.  Sometimes you just need to slow down to speed up. 

And finally, my last word of advice is to make sure before you start any web project that you understand where your website fits in your business plan and marketing strategy, and the measurement and metrics around it. What’s its objective? I’d go as far as saying if you don’t know you shouldn’t yet be working on your website.

You might end up re-doing it. I’ve seen that happen, so feel free to ask me why. 

Get in touch if you need some guidance planning a website, and you might also like my article ‘How long does marketing take?‘ »

 

Thanks to Chris Turner at Bright Blue Kite for additional comments June 2022.

Cheryl Crichton

Helps small businesses stop wasting money on marketing. Watertight Marketing Certified Practitioner, MCIM Chartered Marketer and mentor.

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