DOs & DON’Ts When Updating Your Website

How to approach a website refresh project

It’s been a few years since you launched your website and you know it needs updating. But how do you approach a website update/refresh/rehaul? What are the necessities? Do you start with a web designer or a copywriter? These are questions that I get from clients all the time and I’m happy to answer them! To keep it simple, I’ve got a list of Dos and Don’ts to get you started. 

DO Start by Revisiting Your Messaging

Many, many of my referrals come from web designers who quickly discover their clients need content writing help. (And content writing ought to come BEFORE they start building or updating a website.) Messaging is at the core of ALL content — written and visual. All of your graphics, videos, and copy content leads customers back to your message. Your message answers the big question of HOW you are creating and providing solutions for your ideal customer …

  • WHAT do they need?
  • HOW will your products and/or services help them?
  • Why should they choose your business?

When I work with clients on website launches and updates, we ALWAYS start with the big questions  — What, How, Who, and Why — to develop and fine-tune the messaging. This helps differentiates them from their competitors. Brand messaging informs your unique value proposition (UVP) and reflects your company’s mission, vision, core values, and goals.

Even if your messaging was spot-on a few years ago, it may need tweaking today. Businesses change and expand over time. For instance, these things may have changed over time …

  • Your ideal customer(s)
  • Your products and services
  • How you do business (think about how you and other businesses had to pivot during the pandemic lockdown)
  • Your mission or vision
  • Your UVP

So, no matter what, you’ll want to look at your brand messaging and be sure it STILL serves your ideal customer before you go further in your project.

Tip: If you need clarity on the roles of content writers, graphic designers versus web designers versus web developers, check out this detailed post: Who Does What in Website Creation.

DON’T Write Your Own Copy

I tell my clients all the time (even those who are strong writers) to delegate their website copy. Good copy contains a strategy. I find it missing on almost every website in which the owner has written his or her own copy. The messaging is often left unestablished or only partly defined because they’re simply too close to the topic. (There’s a reason the subject matter expert is NOT the one you want writing the how-to manual!)

Copywriting is more than using clear and concise language (which is something at which you may be skilled.) It requires an objective and comprehensive viewpoint. A brand copywriter understands site and content strategy and will use your messaging to guide your visitors to calls to action — contacting you, purchasing your product or service, etc. This makes it SO MUCH EASIER for your website visitor to not only get the information they seek, but also to take action.

If you write your own copy, you’re likely to convey your insider perspective which differs from the perspective of your ideal customer. I’ve seen it time and time again — many business owners think they’re clearly conveying their unique value proposition (UVP), when actually they’re missing the mark completely. While it can be helpful for a copywriter to know your industry, it’s not always necessary as a good copywriter will dive deep to learn about the business and its customers. They’ll also help you define or refine your messaging allowing them to write content that resonates with your target audience.

Another important thing to consider is that professional — and objective — copywriters produce content much more quickly than you will. They will not get stuck in the weeds or have to fight their own perfectionism around the topic. Having a copywriter do the bulk of the work (you simply provide feedback) leaves you with more time to work on the tasks that only you can do. (And we all know that business owners need all the extra time they can get!) 

But what if you don’t have the budget to hire a copywriter?

I get it, especially if you’re early on in your business. Most small businesses get started on shoe-string budgets. The simple answer is, do what you need to do to get out the door. Get started selling your product or service. But, as your revenue increases, it’s a good idea to revisit outsourcing your website copywriting. Great copywriting can give you a surprisingly good return on your investment.

Tip: Before you hire a copywriter, make sure to read this post:  6 Tips to Hire a Copywriter.

DO Hire a Web Designer/Developer

Even if you are using a templated website, such as Wix, Weebly, or WordPress, it’s still a time-and-money saver to work with someone who knows how to update and/or build websites. The reality is, 99% of the time, a DIY website looks like a DIY website. Experienced web designers/developers have skills to make the website look professional and the experience easy for visitors.

At a minimum, a web designer/developer will:

  • Make sure your lead generator (email capture and “freebie” downloads) work properly. This is important so that your email list is auto-updated when someone signs up for your newsletter or your free giveaway.
  • Collaborate with the copywriter and ensure effective and easy navigation AND that your CTAs are clear and compelling.
  • Present your content in a way that’s engaging and easy to absorb. (For an example, check out the Excellence Unbounded website! Our design partner, MavroCreative, did a phenomenal job taking the robust content we created and placing it in a design that is dynamic and guides the visitor through a site that looks and feels great versus overwhelming.)
  • Customize those freebie templates with your brand so your site doesn’t look like everyone else’s OR your competitor’s!
  • Install custom features like an events calendar, scheduling apps, or a secure shopping cart.
  • Design and build your site and then train you to keep it updated OR they’ll offer a monthly maintenance package so you don’t have to worry about it at all.

It’s ideal to work with your copywriter before you work with the web designer. (I always quote Frank Llyod Wright: Form follows function.) A good website copywriter will be strategic and include a planned site architecture (essentially your sitemap which dictates navigation and pages.) This saves you time (which equals money!) on the designer’s side because the business decisions are made. This leaves the designer to focus on the look and feel of the site and get it built smoothly.

“You get what you pay for” is a prophetic statement when it comes to web design. It’s best to research web designers, read reviews, get referrals, and find out their fee so you can plan for it.

Tip: What to look for in a web designer: 5 Steps to Take Before Hiring a Website Designer.

Don’t Question Everything Your Hired Experts Do

I understand that for many small businesses, a website project, even a refresh, is a major investment. This tends to make many small business owners very twitchy which leads to many questioning every detail along the way. But remember, you researched and hired the right person/team for this project! Now, it’s time to trust their expertise, experience, and industry know-how. That said, ask questions so you can understand the why’s behind decisions, but if you find yourself debating every sentence and every design image placement, something is wrong.

Now, occasionally, something IS wrong. We’re human and sometimes we get started and realize our hired resource isn’t the right fit. If that’s the case, I’d suggest looking at your agreement and figuring out how to gracefully “break up” with that resource. However, if you step back, set ego (and fear and anxiety) aside, and you see that what’s being produced is actually good work, then perhaps it’s time to look at how much you may be complicating the process. If you hired skilled, good resources, then trust them to do right by you, your business, and your website! Which leads me to …

Do Find the Right Team for Your Website Update

Updating your website can feel overwhelming — there are a lot of steps and moving pieces to keep track of! But it can also be FUN and EASY when you pick the right people to help you. My team and I work with clients to develop and hone messaging, create spot-on content, and design and build beautiful and effective websites. And we guide them through the ENTIRE process.

I know that when clients trust me and my team with their website project, they can and do relax … and then soon get excited about the project, rather than stressed. I’ve seen it time and time again. When they hire us, all of a sudden they realize they have a creative marketing department working with them … and that makes a huge difference in both the process and the outcome.

No matter with whom you work, I recommend that you have a contract that outlines the project in some detail — and that reflects what was offered and accepted in the proposal. This ensures that expectations are clear and everyone knows what’s included in the project, the roles each must play, and a timeline to hit. When you hire the right people, you’ll end up with a website that engages your ideal customers, gives them the solutions they’re seeking, and keeps them coming back.

Questions about this process? Check out our website services and reviews.

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