For some individuals and organizations, just thinking about getting a new website can be intimidating. And let’s face it – it’s not like getting a new stapler. I’d like to take some time below to explain how I work with clients. As you read through it, think about how it would look for you and your organization and whether we are a good fit for each other.
The First Meeting
The first meeting is one of the most critical steps in the whole process. Before meeting, most potential clients have already contacted me by email or phone to explain their interest in having a new website. The meeting, which is usually an hour long, can be in person, on the phone or online. Here’s our chance to cover the details of the new site. We start with the big picture:
- Why do you want a new site or a redesign right now? What is prompting this?
- What would a successful website do for you? How would you define a “win”?
- Who are your main audiences? Be as specific as possible – you can’t say “the general public.”
Then we break down the project into three distinct areas:
What is your new site going to say? What topics will you cover, and how do you want to see it organized?
In my experience, organizing the site’s content can be one of the most challenging parts of the whole project – especially for clients. One of the keys is to anticipate where new content will live, whether it’s updates about the organization, news items, new program pages, upcoming events, etc. While this part can be a challenge, I will guide you through the process and consult with you to help get the right structure. And your new website will be flexible and easy to update, so that you can change menu items and add new pages and articles easily.
What is your new site going to do? For example, will you be signing people up to your email list? Using the site to connect with social media? Collecting donations? Publicizing events? Selling items online? All of this functionality and much more can go into the project, and it’s helpful to outline everything at the beginning.
What is your new site going to look like? How will it feel to navigate around? Do you already have a logo? A color scheme? Are you looking for gravitas or a lighter touch?
Here are several of my guiding assumptions as I design websites for my clients:
Less is more; simpler is better
A well-constructed website highlights the most important information and reduces clutter. I help review content and make suggestions about how to streamline individual pages, main menu items, and more.
Emphasize readability, white space, and beautiful typography
My designs prioritize simplicity and readability over designs that require more work from visitors. I use eye-catching techniques, such as full-bleed background photos, where appropriate.
Great design interfaces can make complex information easy to skim
Visitors find what they need, quickly and easily. For example, I include an easy site search that presents results in a logical, clear way. I also use design techniques like multi-column menus and tabs on pages to help visitors see and interpret the most important information at a glance.
Mobile is not an afterthought
All of my websites are made for use on mobile devices and feature responsive design so that your content will always look great.
A successful project transforms the website into a hardworking “employee”
Your website should work for you; like a great staff member, it answers visitors’ questions, directs them to where they need to go, and allows them to do what they need to do. A successful project lasts for years and saves hundreds of hours for the organization.
By the end of the first meeting, we’ve usually settled on a service plan and made arrangements to sign a contract. The contract isn’t full of unreadable legalese. It’s a joint commitment for how we will work together to complete this exciting new project. It also includes a payment plan. I typically request that clients make half of the payment up front before work begins and the other half when I deliver a final working version of the site.
First Draft and Revisions
After our first meeting, I’ll start building your new site. After several weeks, depending on the scope of the project, I’ll have a draft version of the new site to share with you. This version won’t be seen by the public; I’ll send you a secret login that you’ll need to access it. You can send it around to your team if you need to gather feedback from others too. At this point, I’m looking for answers to these kinds of questions:
- Is the new design on the right track?
- Does it look and feel right?
- Do the colors, pictures, fonts, spacing, menu, and other design elements work?
After we talk about the draft, I’ll go right back to the site to make any necessary revisions.
New Content from Client
Most organizations want to publish new content for their new site. It really speeds up the process if you start on this one early. I know how easy it is for this to fall to the back burner, but it’s best for the project if you are able to devote the necessary resources to get it done. Some organizations will have a team working on new content, and in other cases it might just be one person. In any event, content is key and again you’ll want to start planning for this one early.
Many organizations want to test their new site before launching it. This does not have to be a formal process; it usually involved running everything past an Executive Director, Governing Board, or even just a few friends and colleagues. It’s always good to have outside eyes on the project at some point for some objective feedback. As with the first draft, we can keep the site hidden from the public at this point and continue using a separate login.
Client Training in WordPress
Around the time of launching the site, or a little bit beforehand, we’ll schedule an in-depth training session to teach you how to update the new website. All the websites that I build run in WordPress, which is a popular Content Management System (CMS) used by millions of people, organizations and businesses around the world. Our in-person or online training session will get you started, and then I’ll continue to be available to you, answering your questions and helping you learn the ropes. All of my projects also come with built-in support for after launching, so that I’ll be there to answer any questions that you might have.
Site Launch 🚀
It’s the big day! Launching your new site to the public is an exciting moment for any organization. For some of my past clients, it was the first time that they announced their presence to the world. For others, the new site meant a dramatic increase in traffic, visibility, and impact. Whatever your goals, Tomatillo Design can help you achieve a new level of success.