Just read a great article by Scott Kellum – “Specializing Yourself into a Corner“. Check it out!
As someone who has been designing websites for years, I’ve found that when someone approaches me about developing a website, many times they know they want a website but don’t really know what they are looking for beyond that.
If you are looking for a website for yourself or your company, here are some things to think about as you are prepping for that new web presence.
What do you want the site to do for you?
Are you looking for a site that is purely informational? A site that sells products or services? An application that provides a service? A combination of things?
What is your target audience?
Who are you targeting? Are you selling widgets to 18-35 year-olds? Repair services to motocross riders? Pizzas to everyone? Pediatric health services to the parents of small children?
How is success defined?
How is winning defined for this website? Getting more foot traffic through your door? Generating leads via email? Via phone? Selling products online? Services? Getting people to make appointments for your clinic?
What have you already tried?
Have you had success with something in the past? Had a bad experience? We don’t want to reinvent the wheel each time but to learn from past experiences.
When the client understands what they want, it means that they can better communicate with the developer what their expectations are. Once the developer understands the real scope of the project, they can focus more on reaching your goals than having to guess (and worry about guessing wrong!) Few things are more frustrating than trying to reach a moving finish line and many times that’s exactly what happens.
If you have answers to all of these questions, does it guarantee that you will have a seamless website development experience? Of course not! However it does mean that there will be fewer issues, which translates into a website that gets delivered faster, potentially delivering more customers (and their pocketbooks) with it.
If you already have a website and are looking at a redesign, here are some additional things your developer will need:
- Access to your domain (in GoDaddy, internic, Wix, Dotster, Network Solutions, etc)
- Access to your current hosting
- Any branding assets you might have (logo, colors, etc)
- Existing content from your current website (pages, blog posts, pictures, etc)
- Any social media accounts you want your website linked to
With the recent trend of responsive web design, there have been some websites that are pushed out without any thought beyond “Just make the columns stack on cell phones”. With all the tools out there to make a site responsive (Bootstrap, Foundation, etc) making a site responsive to the width of a device has never been easier. However to make a site really work as “responsive” takes more than just making the columns stack on top of each other; it takes a responsible developer that pays attention to the details that might be missed if all they are worried about is making things stack.
One of the first considerations a responsible web developer will think about is how things are going to look when they start stacking. If we put an image in one place, it may look great on a big computer screen but how will it look when we look at it on an iPhone? Will that image still have the same context that it has on the desktop version? With the latest version of Bootstrap, they’ve added in the ability to use columns even on a mobile device, but just like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Another consideration a responsible web developer will pay attention to is a site’s load time. What happens when we put that big massive background in there? Will it slow down the load time on our Galaxy S III running on a mobile network? What happens if someone tries to load the site on their iPad while tethering to their phone while in Roswell, NM where they don’t have LTE?
A third consideration of a responsible web developer is how the site takes advantage of a device’s unique abilities. Does that pretty slider on the home page still work when someone is swiping their finger on their tablet rather than clicking a mouse? Are you telling people to click when you really want them to tap? The tools are out there which allow the designer to find out what the user’s device can do (touch, geolocation, etc), allowing them to tap into the extra functionality with your website. It’s up to the developer to take advantage of it.
Just because your site is “Responsive” doesn’t mean it’s meeting the needs of your users. As you choose who will develop your responsive website, make sure to choose a responsible web developer that pays attention to the details when creating your responsive website.
I’m working on how to redesign our church website and came across an article today that really got me thinking.
So many times as we design (or redesign) a church website, it’s very colorful, nice fonts, pictures, etc. But it’s not really content-first, which is really the direction it should be. We put up an image for this week’s sermon. We put in complementary background, a pretty picture up at the top. But if you really think about it critically, isn’t that just a lot of fluff?
Don’t get me wrong, I think that there should be balance. A church website shouldn’t look ugly, especially if you have a professional web designer that goes to your church. However if the professional isn’t available to continually work on the site, it shouldn’t look like someone threw it to the dogs.
At church, we have content. Lots of content. Different things are going on all the time. At our church, every week we hear about how we are a “church on the move”. However that doesn’t seem to translate to the website. So many times (and it VERY much happens at our church) you have one or two people that can post things up on the website but that’s it. A few things happen in those situations.
- People expect the people in charge of the website to magically post anything and everything that’s given to them immediately
- People then start expecting the web people to be posting more content in general
- They also expect more content even though they themselves aren’t giving any content to the web people to post up
A different approach
Maybe what we need to do is to have people share what they do. Instead of the website being this static thing have it to where at least 2-3 people a week are sharing what’s going on in their area. If we were to split it up to where each department posted at least one thing per month, we’d have gobs of content. Instead of just having a single page for women’s ministries, give them their own blog, allowing them to be able to throw stuff up on the website whenever they want to promote what they are doing or just want to share something encouraging. It’s crowd-sourcing. Kinda.
If we give everyone the ability to have a voice, would it help people to build better relationships? I’d argue maybe. Either way it would make the website a destination for people to go to so that they can keep up with the things that are going on.
The hard part isn’t the technical side though. It’s the motivational side. Getting people to post up on the website has been the hardest thing for me in all of this. Do I have an answer to it? I wish I did. However I truly believe that if a church is going to have a meaningful website, it takes more than just the designer to do it. It takes people posting real content rather than fluff. It takes dedication. It takes time.
So this is where we are at. I really want to see our church website as a tool to help spread the gospel, to help evangelize rather than just looking pretty and sitting there possibly a bit outdated in our content. I want it to be current, not have the newest story / article / post be from 2009.