So you know you need a new website. What next?
You research your contemporaries/competitor’s websites. You dream of an online presence that really reflects what you do, what you offer, and who you are. You browse through countless websites selling premium themes. You wonder where to start. Purchase a domain name? Get hosting? Start sketching out ideas in your moleskin? Contact a web designer?
Before you get overwhelmed with a huge list of unknowns and where-to-starts, it’s a great idea to get specific on what you do, who you do it for, and how you want to present yourself online.
How do you accomplish that?
Start with the basics.
Get it all down on paper, in Evernote, your Moleskine, your iPhone’s notes, or Google docs; whatever format gets your creative juices flowing. No matter what method you use to take and organize your notes, start answering the questions below and you’ll be surprised with the results when you’re finished.
1. What do you do and who do you do it for?
What is it that your company does? How do you make money? What is your role in the company? Who is your target market? Think of this as an elevator pitch; how would you describe what you do to someone in an elevator. Make it short, succinct, and specific.
For example: I create and manage head-turning websites for competent, creative folks like you.
2. Why do you need a website?
This may seem like a funny question, but it’s important to know the reason WHY (other than “You MUST have a website if you’re in business. Period.”) you need a website. Describe the results that you want to achieve with your website.
For example: “I need a website in order to connect and engage with my market, serve valuable content, showcase my skills, and sell my services!”
3. What is your brand’s position in the market?
Do you identify as a luxury brand? A premium brand? An accessible brand? Think TOMS vs. Manolo Blahnik. Both sell footwear, and both occupy very different positions in the market.
4. Who are your competitors/contemporaries?
Who are your contemporaries/competitors and how do you differential yourself from them? What are they doing with their websites that works? What doesn’t work?
Important note: don’t get stuck in comparison-ville or the even more dreary imposter-complex-town. Although it’s a good idea to check out what others are doing in your market, don’t hang out there too long. You have a unique set of skills and an offer that’s like no other offer. Why? Because of the key ingredient: YOU!!
5. What is your USP?
This point piggy-backs right off of my last important note. Some call it your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), others call it your UAP (Unique Awesomeness Proposition). Whatever you call it, it’s that thing that makes you unique. It’s sets you and your offerings apart from everyone else out there. What problem do you solve for your people and how do you solve it differently than other folks?
6. What are your requirements and how do they fit in your profit plan?
Purposefully think about the components that you will need in a website and how they fit into your overall business plan. Think back to your business goals when you make a list of your website requirements.
For example: If you are selling a product like custom monogrammed toe socks, do you need a product gallery and a shopping cart? How will an email marketing system help grow your business? Do you need testimonials? How about a blog? Is that image slider really going to connect and engage with your audience in a meaningful way?
If anything on your list of requirements for your website does not specifically enhance or work toward your business goals and profit plan, remove it from your list!
When do you need your new website to be live for folks to use it? Keep in mind that a full web design project can take around six weeks or more, depending on your needs. Most design projects will start with a discovery, move into design, then development, then testing, and finally launch!
8. What is your budget?
Realistically, how much money can you spend on a website? It is important to know what you budget is so that you can set your expectations appropriately. You have two choices:
Get it all done for you by a professional: A full branding, custom WordPress theme design, and development package from the ground up can cost you anywhere between $2,500 – $20,000+ depending on who you work with and what options you are looking for.
If you have a more modest budget, you can do it yourself! Domain names cost around $12/year, hosting around $120/year, and “Premium” WordPress themes cost an average of $65 each. If you do decide to design your website on your own, there are many things to consider. Enlisting the help of a professional to provide support in planning can be invaluable!
9. Let’s talk about feelings.
Describe the feelings that your new website should evoke. When your ideal customer arrives on your site, how do you want them to feel?
For example: Energized, comfortable, confident, relieved, inspired, safe, understood, at peace, desire, focused, heard, driven to action, connected, amazed, joyful, liberated, anticipatory… you get the drift!
10. What’s your site’s aesthetic?
Let’s talk look and feel – describe your website’s aesthetics and desired look. Use adjectives. Go wild. Dream big. Free-write words then go back and read them. Imagine what that looks like, how it feels, cross words off that don’t resonate with you. Highlight ones that do. Use crayons, pastels, highlighters, art pens, anything that feels right and inspires you!
For example: Fresh, stylish, funky, cutting edge, sexy, bold, light, earthy, minimal, subdued, honest, industrial, friendly, accessible, luxurious, close, intimate, unique, outrageous, professional, exciting, etc.
You’ve finished the list. What do you do next?
Congratulations! You’ve written your very own creative brief! Now pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a refreshing drink, and relax. You’ve started the first steps in getting more clear about what you need in a website, for whom, and why.
When you’ve had a moment to reflect on your good work, contact a web designer. You’ll be more than ready for your first meeting!