Website

I’ll Know It When I See It

You’ve probably said it. You’ve definitely heard it. Loosely translated it means, “I haven’t spent enough time to think it all the way through so hopefully you can pull something out of a magic hat and impress me.”

Most website design projects I’ve ever been on there has been someone in the room with this attitude. It may be cloaked in a different phrase like “I’m a visual person”, but in reality someone hasn’t done their job explaining (and that could be on either side of the table).

The problem with this approach is that it takes a lot of work to generate even one design. You don’t want someone to just crank something out for you or you’re going to get a result that’s half-baked. Or at least it won’t be well thought out. I heard a saying once, “One man’s cool is another man’s iceberg”. This is never more true when it comes to web design.

Today’s users of websites are expecting something unique. The bar has been raised and continues so. To stand out takes an effort. To make a website that is not only visually appealing but also lead generating isn’t just something that happens. It is no longer enough to have a polished looking site, it has to DO something of value for both the end-user and the company otherwise it will die out.

The most basic tool to help you have a successful website project you probably already have on your computer. PowerPoint. Ok, Keynote works too for all you Mac purists. Pick your tool and then use it to transfer your completed thought. There’s a distinction there that is critical. You’re not using this deck as a way to start designing out your site. You’re using this tool to think completely through and exhaust the end-to-end value.

If you could define a few things BEFORE you bring in the design team, your next website design project will be more successful by miles:

Why?

What is the overall purpose of this project? Before you take a step down the path, figure out if this project is really worthwhile to the business and that everyone has bought in to the value. If the value is in place the commitment to thinking through and making it the best will also flow through. What gap is it trying to fill?

What?

If you could research and find 5-10 other similar sites, what do you like/not? Why don’t you like them? What is it supposed to do (functionally)? What do you want people to do when they come to your site/page?

Who?

Who is your target audience? This matters more than you think. Think beyond just age or gender, think through the experience of someone brand new to your site versus someone who knows your company and knows what you sell but are maybe looking for deeper value. What are their experiences like? What if I’m coming from a phone, what should the experience be?

When?

How much time do you have? Is there something this need to be ready by? Are there some key dates or milestones that everyone needs to make sure is communicated?

Write it all down. Re-organize, refine, talk, debate, yell, laugh, think through. Repeat. Then sit on it for a few days and come back and review. Once everyone is in agreement, bring in the design team and present to them. I guarantee not only will you probably blow them away, but the end product you get will be light years ahead of what you would have received otherwise.

Photo credit: natalielucier

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