How many times, as adults, do we stop and realize, that we are repeating the advice we heard from our mothers when we are speaking to our own children? Mothers are caring, nurturing, and smarter than we give them credit for. And while you may not have noticed, she had been giving you advice about building a website, you just didn’t know it.
"Clean up your room." "Always wear clean underwear." "Finish what you start." "Make to-do lists for yourself" are sage advice that all relate to building a website (oh, as well as life, in general). Think about it: you need to keep your website "clean" so viewers will see the message immediately, and navigate without problems. You need to have your site in "clean underwear" and not let anyone dig up digital "dirt" that will discredit your company.
Make sure your site is ‘finished’ before you take it live. Any typos or incomplete information will also stain your site and brand. And lastly, planning your site is an important step. The "to-do list" or, as many call it, is the creative brief you can work on top of. Let’s see what other advice mom has to give.
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Whether you are a designer or a client, it’s imperative that you know what answers you need (and hence what questions to ask) before you build a website. What are those questions and answers, you ask? What would mom say? "Save this list for your Web-building project, but first, finish your dinner!"
Who are your clients and target audience?
This will help you decide what kind of web presence you will establish e.g. a business site, eCommerce, fun, informational, a blog-centric site, etc.
What do you want your site to do for customers?
Are you trying to convince them to use your service, buy your product(s) or give them information to establish yourself as an expert in your field? You’ll need the right approach to any of these successfully.
What is the best domain name?
What’s a good domain name that lets people recognize the purpose of your business from the URL? "bobswidgetsite.com" lets people know exactly what Bob sells and it’s easy to remember. "thingsmymothertoldme.com" won’t help sell widgets.
What web hosting company will you use?
It’s always best to not go by the monthly fee but to choose one that has full service for clients, such as 24/7 helplines and help chat. Server space is the easy part but when something goes wrong, you want someone to help immediately. Down time for your site is business lost!
Do you want responsive design?
The increased use of mobile phones is something you need to seriously consider.
How are you going to build your website?
Naturally, a professional site should be built by a professional designer. There are several avenues to find a professional if you are not the sort to build one yourself. Despite the many places that say you can build your own sites with their products, remember back to when your mom was yelling at your dad when he tried his hand in building a bathroom from a DIY kit.
"Learn To Make Friends!"
Once you’ve found a designer, the next step is to relay your brand and desires to that person. If you’re a designer, you need to discover what the client is thinking through careful questioning. Both parties must be upfront with each other. Transparency is of utmost importance in this process.
"I’ll know what I like… when I see it," will destroy a project. Design-by-committee will muddy the look and function. As the client, you must know your own mind and brand and get the designer to understand those factors.
As a designer, you must be able to pull these things from the client’s mind. Designers are visual thinkers while clients, more often than not, are verbal. Talking, sketching, and showing examples are the best way to bridge that left-right brain gap and achieve successful results.
Once all of the basic building blocks are established, then it’s time to cross off the little particulars on your list. How much will this cost? How long will it take? The standard arrangement is for a deposit to start the project and then milestone payments (a portion of the entire fee) are set for sections of the project.
Write It Down
All of this is established in a contract ( sometimes called a work order, purchase order, or design engagement) along with when:
- the sketch or wireframe of the site is established
- the site design is approved
- the site is ready for upload
- the site can be uploaded and go live.
Now it’s all down to working together to build a site. The process has to be professional and transparent – most of all, there needs to be trust. As my mother used to say, "trust takes both parties to build, but it can be very fragile and easily broken."
At that point she’d take out one of the dishes my grandmother gave her and she’d drop it on the floor to show how easy it would break. Don’t worry, she hated those dishes and actually kept a few in the kitchen cabinet only on occasions just like this, to illustrate a point on how easily something that looks sturdy on the outside can easily break into pieces if we are not careful.
Trust is built with open and honest communication between both parties. That is what transparency means when working together.
Watch Your Words
Part of "playing nice" is respect for the other party in this project. A client’s needs and concerns should be fully addressed by the designer. You are creating something visual and doing it in a way the client doesn’t understand. It is costing the client money and they are nervous about the outcome.
They will have questions and may suffer silently (or not so silently) about the process and where it stands at any point. Sometimes you just have to hold the client’s hand and assure them everything will be okay and there are no monsters under the bed.
That Goes For You Too
Clients, on the other hand, must respect what the designer is doing for the project. They are professionals and they want to create a site that will do the best job for your business. They have other considerations, too, aside from pleasing you.
A job well done is a testimonial to what the designer can create for other clients. It will be added to their portfolio as a sample of their work. If you are pleased with their work, you will need them to update the site as technology changes and your business grows. They want you to become a regular client for all your digital marketing needs… and there will be plenty as web technology evolves, as it does quite often.
"One Day You’ll Understand What It’s Like To Be A Mother!"
A creative type is in love with their work. It’s their baby, even though it belongs to you, the client. A designer has a vision for you and if they are a knowledgeable professional, they know what it takes to give you a successful website.
Like most children, however, they need a little more understanding and a mother’s gentle hand. You can very quickly upset them with the wrong actions or words. With unsound criticism, you may think you’re helping them with the project, but you are just telling them you have no confidence in their abilities and it shows no respect to them as professionals.
Mother Knows Best
It doesn’t matter if your niece was a creative child or won an art contest in her elementary school. Telling the designer that your niece doesn’t like the site is comparing one child to another. The same goes for your friend, the interior designer who knows absolutely nothing about Web design.
As with raising children, everyone has an opinion they will give you – even when they have no children of their own. Follow their advice and you will be the one stuck with looking for a therapist down the road. Follow their advice for a website and it’s your business that will suffer.
Keep Your Promises
Breaking a promise will create a resentful child. If you break contract terms, miss a milestone payment, or try to renegotiate fees after you’ve made your original agreement, you are telling the designer you are untrustworthy and designers don’t work for people they don’t trust. Resentful children will put you in a nursing home, particularly one that is under criminal investigation for abuse.
So, as mom always told us, play nice, respect others, and always wear clean underwear and you will have the greatest website on the block. And son, drive the other kids out of business, alright? Dear mom had a darker side, too!