So you have a business, service or product and either have an existing website, need to update it or need to create something from scratch. It's easy to ask for a website and have someone design it or choose a wordpress template, but it'd be a little silly to that without content to back dat design up. See what I did there? I just made a Juvenile reference.
Jokes aside, design is what helps your content come to life, and without content, design becomes art without purpose. So let's take a deep-dive look at what content you need to get organized prior to the design process.
1. Identify Your Business Model, What You're Selling, and Target Audience
This is the first area you'll need to look at when preparing your site. When you identify your business, who your target customers or audience is, and what it is that you're selling exactly, the rest is easy peasy. But sometimes getting to this point alone is challenging, and for those who are total newbies who want to create a business plan, I recommend these books:
- Business Model You - Tim Clark
- Business Model Generation - Alexander Osterwalder
- 4 Hour Work Week - Tim Ferriss
Your target audience is a whole other part. Who is your ideal client? Who are you selling to and is paying for your products or services? Where are they, what do they look like, how are they finding you? All this information is really important to define initially so you can set up a strategy for how you'll show up online.
2. How are people using your site?
This involves strategy. What is the way people will be interacting with your site? What is the flow they will need to follow from page to page? This is typically known as an overall site strategy and site map. This is essential to create prior to the design process, because it creates the roadmap of how users will be using your site. And though often people click around, you can definitely help to create that journey for them, with Calls to Action (more of this below). This is especially useful for e-commerce projects where there are steps people need to take before they can skip ahead.
The business strategy also helps to define WHY you're placing certain bits of information on certain pages. You wouldn't put your about me section on the sentence prior to the "add credit card information" box. By defining the overall strategy of the business, this also helps provide clarity as to what information goes where.
3. If you had to choose ONE objective of your site, what would it be? What would be the secondary objective?
This is important to help define the Calls to Action (or CTA's as they're typically abbreviated) for your site. For example, if your main objective is for people to opt-in to your newsletter, opting in is your objective and your CTA's should say something along the lines of: "Subscribe to the newsletter". Or if you're asking for an email in exchange for a gift, you can say something like "Download the free guide now". Whatever it is, your CTA's should be few, concise, and help you deliver your objective with clarity.
4. Gathering Images
Ahh, the fun part! I love working with images, and I'm sure you have a ton that need to be incorporated online. We're a visual culture, and imagery is essential when communicating. It sets the immediate tone when a person lands on your page.
My suggestion is to collect all photography you have available for your site, including any photoshoots or even things you think could help in conveying the right "mood". For this reason, I often recommend people do a MOOD BOARD to help curate their look and feel.
Some fun ways to do this:
- Creating a Pinterest board of inspired images
- Cutting images out of magazines and pinning it on a wall
- Throw images you love into a folder on Google Drive
Once you get your images in order, this will help create the overall "feel" from a visual perspective on color choices, form, and the balance of copy to text ratios.
5. All together now!
With all this content together, you can start defining how your site is going to function, look, and flow through for the public. This especially helps designers, for without this important work up front, the design would be meaningless.
Now go, gather! Let me know what you think in the comments.