Recipe for a tasty website

Some things should be easy. After all how hard can they be? You have an idea for a website, you find a reputable agency and presto. You should have a website, right? Right? It’s surprising how often I get asked about creating quick websites!

The idea that any type of great collateral is really that easy makes me twitch. Sometimes you hear about an epic campaign that took almost no time to put together, and sometimes it’s even true. The reality is that even if you have a web guy in-house, 99.99% of the time it takes a lot of effort (and time). Unless of course you aren’t trying to deliver something awesome (and just want to hit the publish button).

If you’re under pressure from teams that are unaware of the magnitude of a web project, it might be a good idea to have a project scoping meeting. It’ll give you the opportunity to gain clarity and what your stakeholders want, and more importantly to illustrate to them what’s going to be involved to actually launch the project – you could even bring a short list of resources their teams are going to have to provide (that usually puts things into perspective).

Below you’ll find a quick list of things you’re going to need to put together your website. I’ll release a powerpoint template that you can use in your own meetings shortly.

Even if you’re just going to use a great looking WordPress Theme (and some of the theme demo’s can look incredible), don’t forget everything else that you’ll need:

  1. A domain name; This isn’t actually as important as many people think. There are so many new domain extensions being made available, that it’s becoming much easier to design creative domain names. Just remember to stick to the basic guidelines and you should be ok (ignore point #3 in this guide).
  2. Ideas; Most people have an idea of what they actually want, hopefully you’ll even have a reference website (or three) that you can show your agency for inspiration
  3. Page map; this is a great way to start laying out what’s actually going to be on the website, and an excellent starting point for detailing what you’re going to need. This along with your design will have a huge impact on the usability of your website.
  4. Designs & templates; whilst your agency (or wordpress theme) might deliver theme, be cognisant of what’s involved in selecting your design and having it built/modified to suit your purposes.
  5. Graphics; if you don’t already have plenty of great product images, you’re going to need to take some or buy some from a stock art repository. The web is a very visual place, good images go a long way. Don’t forget things like head-shots from individual members & team photos. Getty has recently announced that some of it’s content is free for non-commercial use, which might help if you’re just writing a blog – and don’t mind the big Getty logo that’s going to appear underneath.
  6. Copy; scratching out a few lines won’t cut it. You need good text for good readers, as well as good SEO. Look at competitive websites and gauge how much and what type of text you’re going to need. Be ready to repeatedly revise your copy to accommodate changing page lengths, SEO requirements, and changes in design.
  7. Pricing; if you have something to sell, get your pricing and other special offer details ready. If you’re selling online, make sure your payment gateway or shopping system is setup and in place. These can have long leads times themselves.
  8. Download-ables; If you’re providing whitepapers, guides, how-to videos, or any other type of material for your user to download – you’ll need to start getting this ready. Your content is where most of your energy is going to go. If you need to produce intro videos, brochures or any type of content, be ready to invest the appropriate amount of time and to get adequate support from your internal teams. Some content may have a longer lead time than the website itself.
  9. Go Live Criteria; lots of projects suffer from feature creep, web projects aren’t any different. Set a specific “go-live-minimum”, at which point you’ll publish the site. It allows you to focus your efforts on partially launching the site, and breaks your project into a minimum of two distinct phases.
  10. A lot of patience; things never go as expected, so keep plenty of this to hand.

For ball park numbers, it took me two days to redeploy a new theme onto my website. That includes rewriting some of the content to match the updated layout, sourcing alternative images – and figuring out how to actually get the theme to do what I wanted. For a corporate website where there are more decision makers, potentially an agency, and there are quite likely to be multiple revisions – expect to spend up to 2 months to get things delivered.

Of course if you’re looking for a list of ways to mess up your website, I’d recommend reading this hilarious post.