What to expect when you are expecting a website (part 1)

I have built plenty of websites in the past. I mean A LOT of
websites and at this point, they total easily over 100.  I have built
sites that sell, sites that teach, sites about events, intranet sites
to improve business efficiency, but not all have been successful.
Some of the most successful sites that I have built, the client
had clear expectations and goals for the site.  There is nothing I
hate to hear anymore than; “Well so and so told me I needed a
website”.  What I would like to hear is; “I need a website to sell
something” or “I want to bring in more customers”.  I am going to
pull back the curtain and walk you though the step of setting up
one of the most basic type of websites; the service website.

The service website is a website where a product or service
is advertised.  This can include dentists, restaurants, lawyers,
an individual or a company that wants to get their products or
services advertised online, but do not want to sell them online.
This is the most basic type of website. It has the advantage of
being easy to setup and easy to maintain.

Let’s go over the steps to build this basic website.

First, you have to define your message.  Your website must fit
into your overall marketing strategy or message.  An example
of that is a dentist named Karen. She wants to specialize in
children’s dentistry. She decorates her office in soft warm colors,
wears scrubs with bears on them and plays Disney videos in her
office.  Her lawyer suggest she gets a website to advertise her
business.  He puts her in contact with his web developer, and
she starts the conversation with; “I want a website just like my
lawyers.”  Do you think her web developer is going to be able to
develop a website that fits her “children’s dentistry” marketing

strategy?  Would a web site designed for a lawyer work well for a
children’s dentist?  While this is a bit of exaggeration I do have a
number of clients that come to me wanting a website but having
no idea of what the message is they want to convey.

Define your message. Think about what you want to say and
how you want to say it.  This can start with the colors or pictures
you want to use, but try to know what non-verbal communication
you want to say with your website. Remember most social
psychologists will tell you that nonverbal communication makes
up about two-thirds of all communication.  On a website, non-
verbal communication is conveyed by color, layout and pictures.

Pick your colors, have some pictures and look for websites you
like to get ideas for your website.  Gather these into one place
so you are ready to give them to your web developer.  This gets
him or her started on the right track.  Remember there are some
things to be aware of when it comes to colors and pictures.

Not all colors are “web-safe”. If your developer tells you that
your colors are not web-safe, what they are saying is that not
all computer/tablets/smart phones will reproduce that color the
same.  A good web developer will suggest substitute colors that
are web-safe.

You cannot just take any picture and put it on your website.
Some pictures belong to someone else and using a picture
without permission is not only rude, it is VERY illegal.  Make
sure to record the source of the picture so your web developer
knows where to go to in order to ask for permission to use those
pictures.  The best pictures are ones you own, since you don’t

have to ask for permission to use them.  A good web developer
will have a huge selection of art that they have access to that
you can purchase.  The pictures set the non-verbal message,
and there are a multitude of picture libraries you and your web
designer can purchase from.

Now the web designer can take those assets, colors, pictures
and ideas about your website and in a few days he or she will
bring back one or more graphic designs for you to see.  This is
what the artist was able to create from the ideas you gave them
to convey the non-verbal message of your website.

You’ll notice at this point that your website still has no real verbal
message. There may be some text and the designer may have
filled in with fake Latin, but the idea is to get the “look and feel”
agreed upon. Not to nail down the details.

This is your opportunity to tweak the nonverbal look and feel
of the site, and depending on the developer you may get a
couple of rounds of editing to get a clean look that conveys your
message.  There may be three or four sample template pages
that are designed this way.  All of your pages will have to fit into
one of these visual templates.

After the visual templates are done, the web developer will chop
the visual design into a theme. This theme will become the “skin”
of the new website. After this skin is applied, this will be the
first time you can view the new site in a web browser. It may
still have Latin in it but at this point it is a real website without
content.

Now it is time to work on the written message of your website.
Many web designers will call the written message, copy or
content. This is also the time when the navigation or menus of
your site will be implemented.

Your written message and navigation or menus work together.
You could write all of content into one long page, but that makes
it difficult for people to find exactly what they are looking for.
More importantly search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing
will have trouble directing people to the pages that are specific
to what is being searched for. This optimization for the search
engines is known as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. For
the best chance of people finding you on Google or Bing you
need to break your message up into topic specific pages of 400
words or less.

Providing content is critical for you website.  It is the reason why
people come to your site.  Your web designer can help but you
know better than anyone what it is you want to say.  So you
must provide the content.  You web designer may “optimize” the
content for SEO but you are the key to your message.

We will be following up more on content development in a later
post.

In the next installment we will delve into our next topic,
conversions.  Conversions are when your customers/clients call,
email or send you a “form fill”.  So stay tune for next installment
of “What to expect when you are expecting”.

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