Countdown to Launch
Now, the real work begins. For the most part, the work is on the designer’s side, not yours. You can provide as much or as little direction as you want, of course. But for the most part, the design process is pretty much A to B to C in form and function since it is following the scope of work and the contract.
In your launch meeting, your designer will go over the process in more detail and at what stages your input will be needed. They may be ready to provide you with a recommended architecture for your site, which is your org. chart in a more concrete state. You will want to make sure this outline of the site’s organization is clear to you as it will determine how visitors will navigate your site, how the pages will be designed and laid out, and how the user experience will flow.
In the beginning, your site may only need the basic assets we mentioned earlier – your logo, your business colors and any photos you will use. Eventually, you’ll need to provide copy, whether you are writing it yourself or someone else is writing it for you. While you could provide all the copy up front, it’s often good to wait for the initial designs to be done since you can then focus on adding copy blocks that match the design and space available. No one wants to read through a sea of copy, and if you provide a ton of copy to the designer up front, you may get a design that is not effective from a user standpoint.
As you think about copy, make sure that headlines have a call to action. Encourage the visitor to go deeper, to become curious, to want to find out more about what you offer and who you are. You want them to stay on your website and be engaged. Think of it like having a conversation with a customer in your store. Initially, they may say they are “just looking,” but eventually, something catches their eye, and they want to know more. A website can work in a similar fashion. Create visual interest, draw them in, then provide a “sell” in terms of copy that answers their questions, gets them to buy, or at least pick up the phone or send an email.
Pro Tip: If you are writing your own copy, run the final edit through Grammarly.com before sending it to the designer. It will check your spelling, grammar, punctuation and even your tone. Even a seasoned writer can miss things.
At this stage, your designer can be a big help. Search engines love keywords. There is a science and an art to getting the right keywords on the right pages on your site so that your website ranks higher in the search engine when someone types in a phrase or word. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of creating copy that will get noticed and bring in business.
Note, however, that this is another thing you can’t set and forget. Search engine algorithms change constantly, and what led to a top ranking one month may not work the next. The good news is that there are plug-ins that handle much of this for you. Yoast SEO is one such product. With the addition of artificial intelligence to themes such as Divi, this process may become even more refined as AI takes over some of this task and automates it for you.
As the work progresses, you will be asked to review the work in progress. Typically, this will include an initial design of the home page or a few pages so the designer can get feedback on the design choices such as color, type, style and navigation. There are usually several such design reviews as your site is built out, and your content is integrated into the theme.
At some point, your site will be ready to test. Often, this is done behind a firewall so that only you and anyone else you designate can review the site, test its features and make sure everything you asked to be included is there. Make sure you test any links on your site, buttons, forms and anything else that should be working correctly. You will also want to see what your site looks like on a tablet and phone to ensure everything you saw and tested during the review cycle works on mobile platforms. If you have e-commerce installed, do a test order or two to ensure everything works as expected. At this stage, having several of your staff or family members test the site is a good idea. They may see things you haven’t caught yet since they are visiting the operational site for the first time. They may also see grammar, punctuation and spelling errors no one has caught yet in review cycles.
The big day has finally arrived. It’s time to let the world know your website is ready. Hopefully, you’ve been promoting your website on social media and advertising in advance of launch day. You want everyone to know the address to your website. Make sure it’s on your business cards, invoices, stationery, signage, blog posts, social media pages, or anywhere you can think of. Keep driving people back to your website through links, content or promotions.
Even if you plan to have someone else update your site, you may still want to ask for some training on it so that you can conceivably do updates yourself. It’s always nice to be able to tweak a sentence here or there, change a headline or update a price on an item without waiting for someone else to do it as part of your maintenance agreement. Though this may sound like a broken record by now, themes such as Divi let you make edits right on the front side of the site with real-time feedback on what you’re doing. You don’t need to go into the backside and then keep checking your work. The theme has a robust editing feature with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, and if you screw it up, you can either undo or leave the page without saving it.
Your designer should also offer you access to your site analytics. This will let you know how many people are visiting your site, when they visited, what they saw, what kind of computer platform they use, and even where they live. Some server logs also let you see what page they entered on, which one they exited from, how much time they spent on a particular page and what search engine they used to reach your site. If only traditional ads could give you that much data about how your customers interact with you. Let these analytics guide you in your decisions about your site. Is someone leaving a page with a sales offer on it without buying? Try something different to see if sales increase. If you have e-commerce, analytics can tell you where in the purchasing process someone abandoned their cart so you can try a different strategy to close the deal.