Regardless of whether you are building a website yourself or hiring a professional to build you one, there are some things you should know before jumping in. Two absolutely key things to be exact.
Your business brand AND your content.
We’ll break content down into words and images and deal with them separately as they are different.
But let’s start with brand.
A company’s brand should convey something about the culture, personality, voice, values and behaviour of its business. However, I sometimes find that there is a lack of clarity by businesses about their own brand.
Brand can be broken down into simply having a clear idea of what your business does, who it serves and how it does that. This is your brand personality. This will often crop up in the inception meeting I have with clients when I start to ask them about whether they have a logo or a style guide and then progress further onto questions about their target audience, their ideal customer, how they want to be perceived by their audience, what their unique selling point is etc.
I find some clients start talking but then start to realise that they are not actually clear at all on their brand. They may have had a logo created for them ages ago and just kind of forgotten about what it really means. A brand is much more than just a logo and many businesses forget that. “Oh yes, we have a brand. Here’s our logo”.
I also find that the very act of getting a new website built, whether it’s an updated website for an existing business or a website for a new business, more often than not it means the business is in some sort of flux or growth and so previous ideas around their brand may need re-examining. And often this only becomes obvious when we start to talk through content, strategy and brand in the first meeting.
So before you jump in to a new website build, make sure you:
- Can explain who your target audience is.
- Know who your ideal customer is.
- Know how you want your customers to see you.
- Know where you fit in your industry and how you sit against your competitors.
- Know what your unique selling point is. ie: why would someone come to you when they could go to the company next door?
- Know what you value as a business.
If you can’t give clear answers to these questions, then it’s time to do some brand discovery.
Copy is so important to your digital presence, but it’s crazy how often it’s barely given much thought by a client.
Even when I worked in digital agencies, website projects would regularly come unstuck because the client had to get their content organised. I once worked on a website that was designed, built, paid for in full and then sat on our server for two years because the lovely client was too busy running his business to collate the content needed for the site.
Take heed. Your written content has to come from somewhere. Your web designer or developer can design and build you a site, but the words and the images don’t just magically appear. Someone has to write those words and someone has to supply those images.
A good web designer or developer (ahem) will include some kind of content plan or strategy in the web build.
If you are having a new website built to replace on old site, please please please do not just simply copy over all the old content and images onto the new site. Sure there may be some core content you can use, but chances are, the content on your old site is…..well… old. Your brand may well be slightly different now or your core offerings may be different, so you need to update your content.
So, you know you need to get your content ready. Great. But where is it going to come from. I mean, someone has to write it. This is when you need to be realistic about whether you have the time to write the copy or whether it is worth hiring a professional copy writer. If you do have the time to write it, great, and your web designer or developer may be able to guide you in that (ahem). A professional copywriter will sit down with you, get a detailed brief about your business and brand, write your copy in a tone and style that reflects and embodies your brand. Great words work. Don’t underestimate their power.
So before you jump into a new website build, make sure you:
- Have given some thought to where the written copy is going to come from.
- Think about whether you have the time to write the copy for each page yourself.
- Think about investing in a copywriter to write the words for you, if you aren’t able to do it yourself.
- Don’t just re-use old content.
Although a website without images can still work, particularly some of the very minimalist font based websites, most sites are going to need imagery. Clearly if you have a shop you’ll need photos of each of your products. But even non-commerce sites will need photos that speak to their audience and reflect their brand.
I would try and avoid too much stock imagery if you can. It’s ok to use the occasional stock image in blog posts (like this one for example) or of generic objects, like coffee cups if you’re a cafe for example, but try to avoid stock photos of people. You should be showing your customers who YOU are, not looking like every other business in your industry using the same old stock imagery. And let’s be honest, you can almost always tell if an image is from a stock image library.
Using authentic, real photos of you, your team and your business helps to build trust with your client base. It’s worth investing in. And most photographers now offer branding photo sessions. So not only can you get them to take photos of your staff for your team page or of the products to go on your website, but you can get them to take some other images that show off who your business is and you can then use these images on your social media over the next year. Bonus!
And finally, it’s really important that your photos are good quality. ie: do not use photos taken on your phone. I have to say photography is one area where hiring a professional is a no brainer. Sub-par photos make your business look sub-par!
So before you jump into a new website build, make sure you:
- Have given some thought into what photos will be on your website
- Ask yourself if any photos you already have, still reflect your current brand.
- Consider getting some new photos taken by a professional photographer.
Before you approach your web developer or before you launch into building your own website, it is vital that you are clear on what your brand is and where your content is going to come from. The two work together, that is, the content (words and images) should follow and always be in line with your brand.
If you’re not clear on your brand or you don’t know what you want to say on your website, then how are you going to build it or expect someone else to build it? That’s like asking a builder to build a house with only the outline of a the block dimensions to work from.
The added advantage of having this clarity before you dive in, will mean less headaches for you if you’re building the site yourself and less cost if you’re having someone else build it.
And if you need guidance on getting to that point of clarity on your brand or with your content, then ask for help. Your web designer/developer should be able to help you with this.
Some options would be:
- Attend a brand workshop.
- DIY your own brand by following a brand worksheet.
- Pay for professional help from a brand consultant.
- Hire a copy writer.
- Use a content plan to help guide in what to write, if you intend to write it yourself.
- If cost is an issue, some copy writers will be able to write just the key pages for you, such as the home page.
- Hire a photographer to take some specific shots as well as general branding images.
The more informed and prepared you are, the better the experience of building a new website will be!