How does a web site happen?
I’m a Big Picture person, so it’s helpful to me to have a bird’s eye view of anything new in my life before I dive into it.
In my working life, I’m often approached by people wanting to have something done on the web, and who are like me, wanting to see the thousand-foot view first, then nibble on the details. I’d say fully 50% are people who have either a) never done a project like theirs before, and so have NO idea what to expect, or b) have done it before and had a bad experience, or at least one that left them feeling bad. So most are apprehensive because they don’t know how the process will go. What can I expect? How long will it take? What are my responsibilities in all of this? How arduous will it be? How much does it cost? What if I make a mistake and at the end I get a huge bill for something?
I nod and smile at their emails. I get it.
Things have changed from when I first started doing web work about 18 years ago. Then, I was in charge of information technology for an organization that wanted to build its first web site. There were very few people who knew very much about the medium then, and since we worked for advertising agencies, we hired one of them to design a web site for us. They asked very few questions, and didn’t return phone calls, but reportedly held a lot of “team meetings” and brainstorming sessions we weren’t invited to. They came back with a site that made my eyes hurt: garish colors, cartoon icons, a menu that didn’t match what we wanted to put out there, and so much more. It would have made our sleek, professional association look like a children’s toy manufacturer.
And then came the invoice for $5000.00.
I still have bad dreams about that experience. And like all good nightmares, it drives me to run my business in such a way that I never, ever do that to anyone else.
I can’t speak for all digital marketing companies; I only know how WE do things. But I wanted to share what I feel is the process that should be followed by everyone who does what I do:
THE MIND MELD
Marketing yourself on the web is like a complicated machine. There are lots of decisions to be made about what goes where, what its purpose is, and how it needs to work once built. No one outside your brain can know what your goals & dreams are, who your audience is, what will motivate the people you want to reach, and where you want to go with your life & business. So this first phase involves questions . . . sometimes lots of questions . . . in order to clarify what you’re creating, and synch up your brains so you both have the same vision. Beware the professional who does not ask enough questions.
In this step, you take all of the answers above and co-create a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be. At the bare minimum, this articulates all of your goals and expectations, as well as a detailed vision of the people you’re trying to reach (and what you offer when you reach them) the site’s structure, interactive features, desired timeline, and cost range. This may take some back-and-forth to get right. Take that time. When it IS right, you enter into a contract to bring it all to life.
The web designer takes everything she (now) knows, along with agreements about things like color and structure, and sits down at the drawing table to create some possible designs – the beautiful container into which you want to pour your words and pictures. See this as the beautiful, functional space into which you’ll welcome your audience to talk with them. Typically, the designer produces two or more different ways of putting all of the pieces together into something the works well, and emails the drawings to you to review. You choose, or adjust and then choose, approving the final one you like best.
So now the final flat drawing can be brought to life, as it’s programmed into an actual interactive space on the web. It starts with just a framework, with yawning empty spaces where your unique materials will go. You again have a chance to look this over, and make sure it’s what you signed up for. Then comes . . .
THE BRICKS, MORTAR, PAINT AND PAPER
With guidance, you provide source materials like your logo, the navigational structure (“menu”) you want, specific photos and imagery you want to use, text, etc. You may already have things written, or you may need to write them. You may have photos you want to use, or you may need to be pointed to places where you can pick out what you like. No matter the exact path, with these building blocks in hand, the designer can create complete pages, menus, useful mechanisms, signups/contact forms/calls to action . . . everything your site or social media presence needs in order to come to life, and to open for business.
THE EMPOWERING ORIENTATION
Step back and look at your shiny new web space, lovely but still closed to the public. A good designer will give you a tour of it, and identify what’s needed in terms of the proper care and feeding of your site. Any specific training you or your staff will need to move forward happens now. Web sites are never “done,” but are constantly evolving as your work evolves. Your web designer should make sure you know how to make that happen.
When everything is polished and you’re ready to throw open the doors to the public, the designer will do the behind-the-scenes work to get your domain name yourwebsitehere.com to “point” to the beautiful new creation, get your email working and delivered, submit you to the search engines, etc.
. . .
This may seem like a lot, and of course it is. But — at the risk of sounding like a bit of a cheerleader — it can be a priceless exercise, as you immerse yourself in your vision, your “tribe,” and your unique work for a few days or weeks, gaining a tremendous amount of clarity in the process.
So that’s our favorite bird’s eye view. We welcome questions about any aspect of the process that might worry you, or anything that feels the least bit murky or stressful. We love what we do, and love to use our skillset to help people doing good things. Give us a shout at 720-507-1893, skype mterrian, or drop us an email and say hello.
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