We’ve worked with a lot of people – creative types, business types, weird types and wonderful types. What we’ve found is that whatever the project, there are always common threads; things that people overlook. That’s why we asked Preston based author and writing mentor at The Writing Smithy, Jenn Ashworth, to write us a blog post about what to expect when commissioning a website.
If you’ve decided that you need a website, for most people the next step is going to be finding a web designer. That’s probably the reason why you’re reading this blog, isn’t it? I knew what I wanted was an expert – someone creative, who’d also let me be creative, someone who knew much more about search engine optimisation, social media, online networking and web presence than I did, but who could explain it to me in ways that were relevant to my goals and in words that I’d understand. What is really important though, especially with this kind of work, is the relationship you’re going to have with your web designer. The easier and clearer the communication is, the more likely it is you’re going to be pleased with the finished product.
Here are a few things I learned along the way – perhaps you’ll find them useful too.
Know (and show) what you like: I made a list of links to website that I particularly liked, as well as the ones I didn’t like. It gave Tom an idea of my tastes as well as what was usual within my field of work. Everyone wants their website to stand out, to be unique and to give a real, true flavour of their personal brand or product. But it also has to speak to your clients or customers – they need to know what it is they are looking at. By looking, with Tom, through some successful and unsuccessful examples of author websites, we both managed to refine our ideas and come up with a plan for mine that would not only look the way I wanted it to, but also do the job of reaching my readers.
Thinking ahead: I knew that in the future I’d want fairly major updates to the website (that is, whenever I wrote a new book) and I let Tom know this at the beginning. It was important to me to develop a friendly working relationship with someone I knew I’d be calling on again in the near future, and communicating my plans to Tom at the start helped him to ‘future proof’ my web design.
Copy and content: I’m a writer – of course I was going to write my own copy. I worked on it in advance, and got it, and all the images I wanted on the website, to Tom’s office as early in the process as I possibly could do. Of course there were tweaks that needed to be made at various points in the process, but I like to think that giving Tom everything he needed right at the start made it easier for him to manage his own workload. And a happy web-designer makes a happy client. If you’re not writing your own copy, don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes for a professional to get it bob-on right, and make their job easier by giving them as much information as they ask for, as soon as you can after they ask for it.
Finally – I was open to ideas and though I knew what I wanted, I was willing to change my mind. I had a fairly fixed idea of what I wanted my website to look like, but after taking advice from Tom, decided to ditch the dream of a fancy flash intro page. I might like them, but it turns out lots of my readers really didn’t. There’s no point hiring an expert to do a job if you’re not willing to take suggestions or allow them any space to be creative. So let go of the reins a little.
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