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Fulcrum
10-28-2014, 07:47 PM
To start planning a website.

Before I go wasting a lot of time and running in circles, I would like to know what our resident web designers like to see before starting a project. To give you some ideas as to the nature of my business, if some of you haven't figured it out yet, I primarily sharpen and service (80-90% of work) and manufacture of new blades (remaining 10-20%). I have no current branding practices nor any logos.

Going into the planning stage, I'm thinking that the website would be used primarily for general information and basic new product sales. I don't think it needs to be fully e-commerce capable right out of the gate, but I'll let the pros correct me if my thinking is wrong. I'm a firm believer in keeping things simple. Targeted customers range from small Mennonite sawmills (odds are this group won't be using the internet) to large sawmills and pallet mills.

I would also like to include a 3rd party saw design software (if original author approves) if possible. This is not critical when getting started but I figure that it's a good to know.

I should also mention that my graphic design and general site management/marketing abilities are currently non-existent.

vangogh
10-28-2014, 10:50 PM
Your subject line made me wonder what was coming and I couldn't resist clicking into the thread. Guess that means it was quality copywriting.

I take it you're asking what web designers/developers ideally want from potential clients in order to understand the project and estimate time and cost and things like that. The main things I always hope a client has done before contacting me is thought about the site. Why do they want it? What goals do they have for the site? How are you expecting the site to help your business? Questions like that.

I want to know things like who are your customers. What can you tell me about them? I want to know your business' story. Why should someone buy from you instead of someone else? What does your product/service offer that others in you industry don't? How do you convince customers to buy from you?

A biggie is a willingness to communicate. I think the whole process is smoother when there's feedback from the client. I see designing a site as collaborative process When someone isn't willing to communicate early on it probably means they won't offer much feedback.

Some ideas about the design are good know. I usually ask people to send me a few sites they like and a few they don't along with reasons why for both. It helps me gain an understanding of the client's aesthetic taste. Finally content. If at all possible I'd like clients to have all the content ready for me when they first get in touch. At the very least I need to know what's planned for the content. What are you going to write about? Will there be more than writing? Audio? Video? Will some pages need forms or other functionality?

Having said all that I've helped people through all of the above. It's why communication is so important.

Ideally you would have branding and a logo in place. They're different specialities than designing or developing websites and you can't expect someone you hire to create a website is also going to create a great logo. You should have some ideas of what your brand is and what you want it to be. I wouldn't leave that to the person or persons who build your site.

Definitely bring up the 3rd party software. Anyone would need to have a look at it to know what it means for the site. It could mean choosing or not choosing a particular CMS for example.

One other thing that's good to know is what are you plans once the site launches. Do you plan on updating it? If so how? Will you want to make updates yourself or will you hire someone ongoing? Depending on your content updating plans there could be different solutions for building the site.

Fulcrum
10-28-2014, 11:31 PM
Thank you Vangogh. Using the title as part of the post's subject was a little trick I picked up in a few other forums.

I appreciate your response and will keep all that in mind. To be perfectly honest, most of what you said about the "story" of the company I haven't thought much about. Usually I have to prove that I know what I'm doing as my background has very little to do with the current business, so I'm guess I'm going to have to figure that one out. I'm also hesitant to effectively broadcast what I do different as I've got a few local competitors that would love to know what I'm doing that they're not.

I do agree that designing is a collaborative process - regardless of industry. This is why I'm asking those who deal in this before spending a lot of time deciding what I would like to see.

Looks like I'm going to need to take a crash course in branding for B2B sales.

Brian Altenhofel
10-28-2014, 11:54 PM
vangogh pretty much nailed it.

I would add that developers take different approaches to projects. Some will want a scope that is set in stone (typically with a fixed bid), while others will want a prioritized list of milestones (usually billed either hourly or per milestone). Typically in the latter camp you'll have a working and usable website after the first milestone is met with each additional milestone seamlessly integrated into the existing site. While it's nice to know about every feature you want up front, a properly built website won't require major changes to add new features. If in the middle of the project you decide you want a feature that wasn't previously discussed, it can be inserted into the milestone list at the appropriate point. The limiting factor then is the agreed-upon budget.

Also, decide if you want to control the hiring of designer(s), developer(s), copywriter(s), etc, or if you want to let someone sub it out. Most of the time, when someone comes to me wanting design work along with the dev work, I sub out the design work. This is another area where communication is very important. Some prefer all communication to be proxied through them, some prefer to introduce and be CC'd on everything.

And you definitely need to determine who is going to manage the site, and that's not just the content. The content management system will require updates at times, and security updates will need to be applied in a timely manner. Some people prefer to just call the developer and pay each time something comes up. Some prefer to buy X hours in advance. Some prefer management subscriptions. Some developers even offer managed hosting where's it's their responsibility to manage the system and yours to manage (or delegate) the content.

Brian Altenhofel
10-28-2014, 11:56 PM
I'm also hesitant to effectively broadcast what I do different as I've got a few local competitors that would love to know what I'm doing that they're not.

A good copywriter can present it in such a way to not give away your trade secret.

Blessed
10-29-2014, 12:09 PM
Looks like I'm going to need to take a crash course in branding for B2B sales.

Branding is important, it's very important - but it's not near as complicated as some people make it - just remember that when you're doing your research! All the hoopla about branding can get overwhelming.

When I was the senior designer at the print shop we had an engineering company who used a New York ad agency to update their logo. They paid a lot of money for the new logo and the agency did a great job of selling the logo to the important people in the company. The new logo was less than 25% different than the old logo - new font, charcoal gray instead of black and an orange box. That orange box was immortalized in an extremely long "Brand Identity Guidelines" book - it was supposed to symbolize all sorts of things for the company. It was aesthetically pleasing, but otherwise... it was a money-wasting, time-consuming piece of bad design. The designers didn't take into consideration the use of the logo. There were printing nightmares, ad specialties imprint nightmares, and a lot of time wasted and a few deadlines missed over that orange box.

The take-away from that story is to keep in mind is where your branding is going to be used - do you want it screen printed on tee shirts, embroidered on Polo's, engraved on ink pens, simply on your website, printed on notepads you're going to drop-off at customers places of business, etc... Tell your designer all the ways you think you want to use that logo and if you have a full-color logo ask them to also create a simple black & white one at the same time - that way you'll have it if you ever need it without having to pay extra.


I do agree that designing is a collaborative process - regardless of industry. This is why I'm asking those who deal in this before spending a lot of time deciding what I would like to see.
Definitely.

Harold Mansfield
10-29-2014, 02:45 PM
VG pretty much nailed it.
My first question to people is "What do you want your website to do?". Sell products or services? Just provide information? Generate leads? Entice people to contact you for service or schedule appointments?

That's usually the first step and then I can help them figure out the rest.

A big consideration that will determine cost and time is how much information and materials do you already have? Do you have a direction?
Do you already have branding? Logo? Company colors? Tagline/Slogan? etc.
If not, it needs to be created.

Do you have good quality images of your product or service? If not, then we have to either have some taken or buy some.
If you don't have any page content written or aren't able to write it, then someone else has to do it, that adds to the cost.
If you are writing it, how long will it take you to get it to me?

What other "extras" are you expecting?

Social Media accounts/ integration?
Do you plan on blogging?
Gallery or portfolio of your work?
Do you need ecommerce capability or a way for people to pay for something?
Client log in, account tracking, or any kind of membership capability?


And then I ask for examples of websites in their industry or related industries that they like and why.

The most important thing is that people have a clear understanding of what they want before I can give them a price. If not, as the project is going they'll start remembering things they forget to tell me when I gave them a price and time to completion, and each of those additional things will add to the cost and time frame.

A good designer can guide you through determining what you need, but you have to have some idea of what you want for them to get you there.

Fulcrum
10-29-2014, 05:21 PM
Thanks everyone for their responses. I'll be adding this thought process to the list of things that go through my head during the day. You've all given me a lot to mull over and I'm sure I'll have more questions, but you've all given me a good place to start and I can actually see an end to this tunnel (before I've even really started).

David@ZeroZen
10-30-2014, 12:29 PM
The things we like to know from a potential client:

1. What is your business?
2. Who is your market right now?
3. Are you trying to reach any new markets?
4. Do you have an existing site? Knowing what you know about your existing site and online presence, what would the "perfect" site include?
5. Do you have a brand established or is this open?
6. How are you currently marketing your business? Do you have a email campaign or at least email list?
7. What types of visual things interest you? Things that make you smile.

Of course you answered a lot of this in your business intro, but this is how we do things. It helps us understand our client's business, market, the woes of their current site, identity (or lack of), how they market their business, visual goodness.

After this we do a few more things to hone in further.

Hope this helps!