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What information do you need to make my website?
Before I can make a website for you, I need to ask a few questions to find out exactly what's needed. Don't worry, I won't expect you to answer anything technical or longwinded (phew!).
Aside from taking personal details, I need to gather information to learn about you and your business, which will help me craft a custom website that is geared towards bringing benefits to you and your customers.
I'll explain why I need this information from you as we go along, so grab a pen and a note book and start jotting down your answers to the following 12 questions.
1 - Why do you want a website?
It might sound like a silly question to open with, but knowing your motivation for getting a website gives me the direction for the type of website I build for you.
Think carefully before you say "because everyone's got a website" as that's not really an answer that helps either of us. I simply need to understand why you want a website in order to suggest features and solutions that will bring the best benefits, otherwise I risk making something that cannot perform an effective job, and that has little value to your business.
2 - What is your business all about?
This will be easier to answer if we split it down into the following sub-questions;
- What does your business do?
- What service do you offer and how do you carry it out?
- What are your long-term business goals?
- What image do you want to portray to your customers?
The information I collect here will help me understand more about you as a person, your business ethos and how you wish the public to view you and your services. Again, these are all points that allow me to tailor a website to your individual needs.
3 - What makes your business stand out from your competitors?
It's probably safe to assume that your business is not entirely unique; If for example you sell shoes, you're up against many other shoe retailers - the focus of this question is "what makes you different?", which can then be translated into a unique selling point and the crucial hook that grabs your visitors' attention.
So, back to the shoe-seller - his unique selling point might be that he specialises in handmade, Italian leather shoes. And there it is! I instantly understand where his drive and passion lies and now I can work this key pulling-power into the perfect website design.
4 - Who is your target audience?
Knowing the kind of visitors you wish to attract to your website will influence the design, content and overall 'feel' of the package I create for you.
For example, a website for a dress-maker of fine gowns would look out-of-place with bold, jagged fonts and vivid colours. I'd anticipate a need for more 'romantic' type-face, with a softer colour palette and elegant lines, to attract a more refined clientele. On the flip-side, bold, jagged fonts and vivid colours would be very fitting for a music festival website aimed at university students.
It's not only looks that must be considered though - accessibility and usability play a major part in the success of a website. Teenagers and elderly people both favour a larger font-size, but not because both groups have failing eyesight. Teens like bigger fonts simply because they make words easier to read when they're slouched back in their chairs.
5 - What do you want visitors to do on your website?
A website that provides advice and information has a very different setup to a site that sells products, or advertises a service, and a socially directed community site with forums and a blog will be different again.
Before I can develop a site that meets your customers' needs and expectations, I first need to establish what it is that you want them to achieve while they're there. Once a goal has been established, I can hone a design to encourage the direction you'd like them to take.
6 - What features do you need/want on your website?
If you're in the market for a website, you've hopefully got a fair idea of the features you'd like your website to include. Maybe an image gallery or event registration system would be beneficial, or maybe you just like the look of a banner that showcases your top 5 products on the home page. This is also the place to cover any visual ideas or colour preferences that you have in mind.
I appreciate that at times it can be hard to explain what you like, especially when you don't know what something is called (all this techno mumbo-jumbo is gibberish to me too sometimes). A picture speaks a thousand words, so please take this opportunity to find an example, and show me what you mean with a working link to illustrate. A link will certainly help to avoid confusion.
By being forthcoming with your ideas, you'll allow your web developer to guide you towards features that add value to your website, and steer you clear of anything that may unwittingly cause confusion for your visitors.
A web developer ultimately wants to build a website that you can be totally happy with, so now's your time to discuss ideas openly and benefit from their experience and knowledge.
7 - What features do you NOT need/want on your website?
It's often much easier for a person to express what they don't like, rather than pin their choices down to something that they do.
You've probably visited quite a few websites already and have no doubt come across things that set your teeth on edge. Even on a site that you otherwise really like, there is bound to be something that just doesn't sit well with you. Maybe it's a scrolling news box on the home page that you find distracting. Maybe you have a personal hatred for the colour purple. Now's the time to say so I can avoid making a website with features that you don't like (unless there's a very good reason to include them).
8 - What are your plans for the website in the long-term?
You might only want a simple 5-page website with infrequent updates now, but what about next year, or the year after that? If you plan on expanding your website to add a community forum, ecommerce system or customer photo gallery, it would be wise to tell your developer from the onset.
Websites must be planned and coded to allow for specific types of growth, so it's best to advise your long-term goals now, so I can make allowances in the way your site is built.
A website that cannot grow to accommodate your business will unfortunately need to be rebuilt again from scratch later down the line, which is both disruptive and costly.
9 - Who will be providing/preparing the written website content?
A website isn't complete without the bulk of text that forms the main body of your website. Each page needs it and it has to fully explain about you, your business, products and services.
Premuim website owners can afford to pay a team of copywriters to research and prepare the written content for them, but if you don't have that kind of cash, then you should be prepared to write the content yourself, or get somebody who works with you to write it on your behalf.
This is actually a good thing. Yes, it takes effort, but who knows your business better than you?
10 - Who will be updating your website?
Assuming that your website won't just be a static online brochure, you should probably think about which aspects you'd like to update, and who you'd like doing the updates.
If you'd like to update frequently, maybe adding new pages and uploading images, then it's a good idea to think about using a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS will allow you to update your own website, which is great if you're already comfortable with other computer software as you should be able to master a simple CMS with minimal training.
If you haven't got time to work on website updates, or you think that it's safer to leave it to the experts, then let me know so I can work a quarterly or monthly update schedule into your maintenance plan. Alternatively, I can do ad-hoc updates for you and charge by the hour.
11 - When do you need your website completed by?
Building a website can be very complex, and very time consuming, and some clients have very unrealistic expectations of how long it actually takes to make one.
The belief that we use a fancy bit of software to make a website for us has, sadly, been reinforced in recent years with the emergence of TV ads for DIY websites that supposedly take all of 5 minutes to setup. If only this were the case for all websites.
The reality is that a bespoke website that offers tailored benefits to your business, and promotes a positive, professional and unique image, takes a lot of time to develop.
You should tell me your time frame to avoid disappointment and I'll give you an honest indication of how long things are likely to take, based on the features that you've requested.
12 - How much money do you want to spend on your website?
The killer question. Try not to let it strike fear into your heart - I'm not trying to squeeze you for every last penny. Contrary to what some folk believe, most web developers are actually very nice, helpful people who want you to be happy with the service they provide.
For people who don't work in the field of web design and development, it can be hard to gauge a suitable budget, as you have very little idea of what things in 'web-world' cost. It's nothing to be embarassed by - I know nothing about cars so I'd rely on the guy at the car dealership to educate me on my choices in an open and honest fashion - I want to help you in the same way.
As long as you're willing to discuss money frankly, I can work with you to explain things in (hopefully) a way that you understand, and a trusting relationship can begin to be established with minimal frustration for both parties.
Related articles you might enjoy
- Learn more about website prices in my "How much does a website cost?" article.
- Learn about long-term website costs in my "What ongoing website fees will I pay?" article.
- Learn about database expenses in my "Why do database driven websites cost more?" article.
Contact me for prices, discuss a project, or ask a question
If you can answer the questions above, I'll be able to start designing your perfect website. Feel free to contact me whenever you're ready and we can get the ball rolling.