The Client’s Pre-Web Design Checklist: 3 Steps to Responsive Website Glory

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Today’s guest post comes from Paul Grieselhuber of LoudNoises

You’ve decided it’s time for a new website, and you know that making it responsive will ensure that all visitors have a great experience, regardless of what device they are using.

Awesome! Creating a new website can be an inspiring experience for many businesses, as it gives them the opportunity to take a fresh look at the way they present their brand to the world.

But, there are several important factors that you as the business owner should to be planning for as you approach this hugely impactful project.

Your web designer / developer will handle all layout and technical challenges, but if you miss out on these few key steps ahead of time, you’ll be setting up yourself (and your web designer) for lots of headaches.

To help you navigate the road ahead, I’ve put together the guide below to help business owners prepare for having a new website built.

Let’s be clear – your website is the engine of your business

For most companies, the first experience anyone will have with your business is your website. While I’m sure this is not news to you, many business owners fail to recognize the importance and value of this first touch point.

If your website is not enjoyable and easy to use, don’t expect to earn money online.

Work with someone who can create cohesiveness between the benefits your users are looking for and the actions you want them to take.

By taking the steps below, you’ll set up your new website (and as a result, your business) for success:

1. Be clear on what you want your new website to accomplish before you call a designer

By the time you even speak with a web design team, you should be crystal clear on what business goals you have for your site, what level of improvement in these metrics represents success, and in what way additional users could provide value for your business.

This is critical for a number of reasons

The first thing your web designer is going to ask you is “What do you want to accomplish with your new site?” You should have a clear answer.

“A new website,” is not a clear answer.

A better answer is “The way our business makes money is the following (elaborate). Currently our website is failing us in the following ways (list them). This is how we provide value to users… We want you to help us communicate this value and drive more of [this specific action], with ABC and XYZ as secondary and tertiary actions.”

A clear understanding of what you hope to gain from the project will guide the conversation around scope and budget, so that your design team can provide you the best outcome given your resources. Everyone wins.

Many times during the project you will ask yourself (and your designer) “could we do this cool thing I just thought of?” Almost certainly the answer from any competent team will come back “Yes, this can be done, but is it of additional value to you?”

If it does, awesome! Move forward with it. But keep in mind, your goal is not to create a website with the most bells and whistles ever – it’s to develop the best performing site for your business.

2. The right experience at the right time

Your desktop and mobile users are probably the same people, or at the very least there will be significant overlap. Their needs vary based on what device they are currently using.

Now that you know what you want from your website, it’s time to think about what to expect from users of different device types. This will vary widely based on what your business offers, and your audience. A few examples:

Local services business

Desktop users: Users may have just heard of you, and are learning about who you are and what services you offer. Their first impression of you should provide them with this answer, proof of the value you provide, and a way to engage further.

Many local business offer services with low barriers to entry (i.e. retail or craftsmanship  vs. heavy manufacturing and distribution), so a call-to-action to place an order, or to schedule an appointment should be front and center on the homepage for a desktop user.

Mobile device users: More often that not, mobile device users at the website of a local business either want to: call the business, or visit the business’ brick-and-mortar location.

Make these the most prominent options on your mobile site. Things like appointment scheduling are secondary for these users.

Depending on your audience’s level of sophistication with mobile payment options and your price point, orders may still be a primary conversion goal for mobile users.

Ecommerce business:

Desktop users: Show these users your full site, in all of its beautiful, well organized, highly-converting glory.

Mobile users: Users on-the-go are far less likely to sit and navigate your entire products catalog. Think about what can be accomplished on your site within just a few clicks.

Consider including the following:

  • A few featured items or a current special offer

  • Top items from a narrow set of categories

  • Easy access to order status or customer service

  • For product pages, display product images and key features at a glance (vs. detailed spec sheets)

Software-as-a-Service business:

Desktop users: Generally these sites have an explainer video and a number of large screenshots, which are great for desktop users. If your product is excellent, just putting these screenshots on the page with some typography that is consistent with your brand and some strong copy will go a long way towards getting your point across.

Mobile users: Your screenshots and video are probably still pretty important here, so the idea is to get rid of non-essential (i.e. decorative) imagery, and use responsive images to keep page load times down.

3. Decide on content

Will you be creating your content or will your web designer? This includes: media (imagery, video and audio) and page copy, as well as the number of templates / pages you’ll need, and their respective organization.

In my experience, it is a night-and-day difference in how well a project proceeds if content (and who is responsible for creating it) is decided upon before lifting pixel one. Non-designers tend to think it doesn’t matter if you provide screenshots to your design team at the last minute.

It does. It so does.

It’s important to be realistic about content creation. If you don’t already have existing assets and are a busy person, be honest with yourself – you aren’t going to have time to create top-notch content in time to keep the project on schedule.

If your web design team will be responsible for creating content, be sure to detail this in your creative brief.

Conclusion: Nothing “Plops”

Your web designer is building a highly-sophisticated piece of art and technology for your business, with enormous complexity that comes together to feel simple and seamless. Understand that nothing takes 5 minutes and “just plop some code in there” isn’t a thing (code doesn’t plop).

By taking the steps above, you are setting yourself up for success when planning a new website for your business.

In the comments below, tell me what strategies you, as either a business owner or a designer, have used that lead to successful web design projects.

Do you have any tips on what to avoid from projects that didn’t go so well?

Paul is the founder of LoudNoises, a web design firm specializing in high-end custom development solutions. He plays guitar, travels mucho, loves languages (both the spoken and the geek kind). Get at him on Twitter at @PaulIsLoud.

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