We all know website are important to our businesses — they are often the first exposure a potential customer will have with you and your business. I’ve been talking a lot about websites recently, devoting my last two blog posts to websites. (“A Hard-Working Website: aka Website Fundamentals” and “Your About Page: It’s Not All About YOU.”) Today’s post will talk about one of the biggest areas of confusion for many business owners: When it comes time to build a new website, who does what when it comes to website creation?
In an ideal world, one with flush marketing budgets, you’d make use of all of these resources as needed. But the reality is, most entrepreneurs, small- to mid-sized businesses, and non-profits have much tighter marketing budgets than their larger counterparts requiring them to be resourceful and efficient when it comes to choosing who is going to help create (write, design, and build) their new website.
Websites include content (copy and graphics) and the actual design and build of the website, its pages, and its functionality. So, let’s dive in …
If You Need Visual Branding
Visual Branding refers to your logo, colors, and font choices, primarily. If you don’t yet have a logo, or you want to refresh it, or if you are rebranding, then you need to approach your website project by addressing your visual branding first.
BUT, you only start with a graphic designer first if your brand messaging (mission, vision, core values, objectives, unique value proposition (UVP), client profile, etc.) is solidly in place. If this isn’t the case, you must start with a content writer and/or brand strategist who will help you get this in place, otherwise, you may waste time and money creating a visual brand that doesn’t actually accurately represent your business.
The Content Writer / Brand Strategist
There are many copywriters out there. I’m certainly not the only one providing these services, but not all copywriters are the same, just as not all designers, car mechanics, doctors, etc, are the same. You have to find the one who provides what you need, understands you and your business, and can help you reach your of creating a new website.
If you need help developing or refining your messaging (often necessary at growth points), start researching various copywriter/content writer options. Get on the phone with them. Ask questions. Read their testimonials (and potentially get in touch with those folks and get their feedback, too.) Pay attention to what questions the writers are asking you. If they never ask you about the state of those messaging elements, that could be a clue that they’re not going to dive that deep. To create GREAT content for your site, they need to understand everything that drives your business, from your mission to your UVP.
Make sure you review their portfolios and read the testimonials. This gives you a peek into the type of content they can produce. Do they have happy clients in myriad industries or do they stick with a niche? Do you like how the writing reads and flows? Do you find it compelling? What do their testimonials say about them? Narrow your choices down and then start connecting and schedule some calls so you can find out more, including discovering if your personalities will mesh well. Establishing a comfortable rapport goes a long way toward making a website creation project a lot less stressful … and dare I say, more fun and satisfying?!
The Graphic Designer/Brand Designer
The Graphic Designer is the one who will create your actual logo and develop the colors and font choices you’ll use. Graphic designers LOVE working with clients who have done their “homework” (aka established their brand messaging.) Developing a visual brand is much easier when a clear path to how you want to represent your business is available.
When it comes to choosing the right designer, research! Look at portfolios. Decide which few designers have portfolios that appeal to you. Then set up calls to talk with them. As with the brand messaging, pay attention to the questions they’re asking, or not. Do they listen? Do you have rapport? Is this someone you can trust to do the job? Because the last thing you want to do to a creative, skilled designer is to not trust them and micromanage the process. When you hire the designer, you’re saying you trust their skills and professionalism to deliver what you need.
Most designers will offer one to three versions of a logo to start and from there, together you hone in on finding the perfect version of your logo and visual brand.
You Just Need a New/Updated Website
If you already have a brand established and you’re happy with it, then you’re simply looking at working on the website itself. This will usually involve hiring a Copywriter (or Content Writer) and a Web Designer and/or Web Developer.
The Content Writer (a.k.a. Copywriter)
This is my world. I dive deep to learn about my clients’ businesses, goals, and customers so that I can architect their site effectively and then write the kick-butt copy they need for great website creation.
But whether it’s me or another writer, anyone with whom you work needs to ask a LOT of questions. Make sure they understand what you want to accomplish with the website and your business.
The questions you need to ask prospective writers:
- How does your process work? What’s included?
- Do you create the website strategy and architecture?
- What can I expect from you?
- What do you need from me?
- What are the milestones in the project and how many copy drafts are included?
- What’s the overall projected timeline?
- Do you charge a flat rate? Are there hourly charges?
- Will we have a contract or service agreement for the project?
It’s ideal to work with the writer before and/or concurrently with the web designer. If you hire a writer who includes a strategic, planned architecture (essentially your sitemap which dictates navigation and pages) you save time on the designer’s side because the business decisions are made and the designer can focus on the look and feel of the site and get it built smoothly.
The Web Designer
A website designer is someone who can build your site on one or more platforms (ie: WordPress.) Keep in mind that many web designers are also graphic designers which means they’re more than capable of not only building your site but ensuring it’s visually attractive and compelling, but this isn’t 100% true, so make sure you ask the question and look at their background training and experience. If your brand is well established, this is less of a concern because the web designer will simply pick up the colors and feel from your visual brand (logo, colors, fonts.) But if you don’t have a well established visual brand, you’ll want to turn to a web/graphic design combo, or find a graphic designer first to help you make these decisions.
Web designers generally are perfect for most website creation projects. That said, you want to review the designer’s portfolio and make sure their style will work for you. Additionally, take the time to read their testimonials and perhaps even contact one or two of them and ask what the experience was like working with them.
And, of course, make sure you have some type of service agreement or contract that clearly lays out what the project is, what’s included, when it’ll be delivered, what the process is, and the cost and payment structure.
The Web Developer
All of the above said, if you need a robust database-driven shopping cart or happen to have a complex business model that requires something truly custom, you may need to find someone who is more of a developer as they tend to have more computer science training and are better equipped to handle truly technical coding.
Again, look at the web developers’ portfolio and determine if you like what they do. Ask about the visuals — did they create them or were they following an established brand or was there someone acting as creative director providing guidance for the look and feel of the site?
There are web developers who also design, but they’re not as common as graphic designers who now design websites. I’ve worked with web designers who subcontract web developers when they do have a complex site that requires more technical skill or vice versa, so, the option may be available either way.
Let’s not forget the person who helps our sites get found on the Internet! Although professional website content writers and designers ought to have the basics of SEO (search engine optimization), most will not be experts because it’s an ever-changing target. As browsers change how they work, so does the rules of SEO. As digital marketing trends change, so does SEO. If you have a business that wants customers finding you online, then investing in professional SEO help is a good idea.
The Right Website Creation Team
The bottom line is, most professionals won’t take a website creation job if it’s not the right fit. They’d rather work in their strengths than work on something that will leave the client or themselves frustrated, so ask questions! You’ll learn if additional resources are needed or not, and whether or not you need to be responsible to find them, or if the writer, graphic designer, web designer, or web developer can help you do that. Many, many of my referrals come from web designers who quickly discover that their client needs content writing help before they can build the site.
With the right team of resources, you’ll end up with a website you’ll both love and know works hard for you.
Interested in exploring creating a new website or updating your current one? Schedule a discovery call with me and let’s see if I can be both a resource and a fit for your project!