You're looking at your current website and you know it can be better. It's old and out of date. It won't let you do what you want it to do and you wonder if it's actually hurting your business but a new website just isn't in the budget - or is it?
You know that you don't want to go too cheap when it comes to website development because you know by now that you get what you pay for. Going too cheap with website design will just end you up with a website that still isn't quite there and might even create more problems. There's no reason to end up there. To get quality, you're going to have to pay for quality but you don't want to overspend.
Does that sound like your situation?
What if you could work with a firm like Webstix but also save money on your website project so that you get a great website that actually gives you a return on your investment? I think you can have that if you really want to. I'll give you some tips that will actually save you money on a new website so that when you do come to a firm like Webstix, the project will cost you less.
Basically, it comes down to this: the more preparation you can do ahead of time, that's less time you will be paying a website development company to do that work. If they do less work, it should cost you less (some website firms won't smartly see the value in what you've done, unfortunately, but Webstix will). What I'll list here are the things you should concentrate on so that you're using your time wisely. Also, I should mention that we do get clients that do want to pay us to do all this work for them and we'll gladly provide full service to them - that's why we're here.
Please note that we don't upcharge our clients if they do not have these things done. We're just saying that projects that walk in the door with these things already done generally will cost less and launch sooner because there are less unknowns and there's less to guess. Also, getting a new website up sooner does save you money since the new website will be giving you a return on your investment in less time.
A what? A site map is basically an outline. You can use Word (or other word processor) to make one if you want. It does not have to be overly complicated. The first level is your main pages. Levels underneath are sub-pages.
Here's an example of a typical site map for a small business:
With this site map, what we would see in the main navigation of the website would be: Home, About Us, Products, Service, FAQs and Contact Us. The other pages might appear as pop-downs but they don't have to. What the site map does is establish where each page lives.
Navigation Map (10 minutes)
When you do the website navigation, you can even link to the same page in two different places. Here's an example of the website navigation using a copy of the site map from above:
What we simply did here was copy the site map but we also thought that people might look for information about the staff in the Contact Us menu, so we created a link there (there's just one change and I've put it in bold to show you). When people click on that link, they will go to the Our Staff page that's under the About Us section of the website. By having a site map and navigation map, we know where each page lives so that there's only one version of each page and we know how the navigation should look.
Going through the site map process is worth it. This is also the place to begin before you even start thinking about how the website will look. Knowing what it will contain is like drawing up the blueprints - it just has to be done. It's foundational. You'll think a lot about your website and your business as you go through this process. Ask others at your company what should be included.
Important: More items can be added later but if there are enough of those things to add later, then you might find that you should have created a whole, main section to house those items. Since the design is based on how many main navigational items there are, it might be more difficult to add another main section later. It can be done but doing it right from the start and really thinking through your maps is definitely a time saver and money saver.
Now it's time to go surfing! (wow, that flashed me back to the mid-90s when I wrote that) Make a list of other websites that you like. They don't even have to be in your industry. Find the ones you really like and then make notes about each one. People have even told us they liked certain elements from the Packers website. 🙂
The list for each site might look like this:
That's about it. Do that for 5-10 websites that you like (again, the more - the better). This will help the web designer know what you like and what you're looking for.
Also, after doing this, feel free to go and adjust your site map and/or navigation map with ideas that you've found from these websites that you just looked at (5 minutes).
Now that you know what content your website will have and what other websites you like, it's time to wire frame it! What's that? Well, it's basically a sketch of where things should go. Here are some things you'll want to think about:
How do you do it? However you want. Some people might fire up PowerPoint, while others will take out a clean sheet of paper and a Sharpie and draw it out. Don't over-complicate this process. It doesn't have to be pixel perfect. Make sure it's clear and understandable in whichever format you choose.
Here's an example wireframe I just sketched out quickly on paper:
How many versions did you go through? A few? That's fine. Get it to where you like it. You will hand it over to us and there will be a review process, so don't worry about getting it perfect. We just need an idea of what you're imagining.
We won't lie - this is usually the toughest part of the project... the copy (text) for the website. Most people don't like writing. If that's you, then get some help. Good copy makes a huge difference. Maybe you know someone who is a good writer. We even have copywriters for hire. What helps anyone writing text for you is some bullet points for each page about what the main points should be and you should be able to handle that much at least.
Open up Word. What you want to do is create a new document for each page of the website. For example, create a document called "About Us.doc" and either put in the copy or your bullet points for that page. Create a new page for the "Our Staff" page and so on. Maybe on your first pass, you're just creating each document and putting in bullet points. On your second pass, you might take that list of points and write text about them. In the end, you'll have a group of files that will be used for the content of your website.
Next, gather up images. Look through the pictures you have and see which ones should be on the website. Include pictures of your facility, key personnel, your products and so on. Put them all in a folder. Include more than you think the website will need so that our designers can pick and choose the ones they feel will work the best on your website when they do the layout of your pages. It might even help to make sub-folders if you have a bunch of pictures that you think you want in the About Us section of the site.
Remember, the more work you do - the more research, the more planning, the more organizing - that's less time you're paying a website design firm to do and that is what is going to save you money!
Will your website have a shopping cart? If so, you're going to want to organize all that information as well. Create folders for those images. Put the information for the products into a spreadsheet. Each row is a product. Include columns for each item like:
Organize your materials that you have. Just make it all make sense to a stranger. Put it all on a CD/flash drive or maybe also include printed sheets. Again, the more organization you do, the more time and money you will save.
Make sure you haven't missed anything. Look through this article again to double check. This article might not even list everything that's needed, so if you can think of anything else you think is important, then include it.
As you can see, this is going to take some time but just know that the more you're doing, the more money you're saving! When we get clients that walk in the door with a website that's all ready to go with the items listed here, those project move at light speed! We like it. Our clients like it. Everyone is happy and the new website is done quickly. There are little to no surprises with a well planned out website, so costs do stay low for sure and the project is usually better off.
We can't say that you'll save $x if you do everything above but know that there will be savings. You don't have to do it all at once either. Maybe get one thing done every day Break it up. Working on a website might not be anything you've ever done before, so don't burn yourself out. Take it in small chunks and you'll get it done - it's not impossible.
If you've read this and it's something you're going to do, then drop us a line. Send us an email (contact us) or give us a call. Tell us you're working on a project. Maybe even schedule a meeting with us a few weeks in advance. This will help you set a deadline so that you get things done. We look forward to working with you!