My mother has asked me to design her a website. This scares me, not only because I want her to be proud of my efforts, but also because I have previous experience of dealing with her demands as a client. To lessen the pain for both parties, I have put together a checklist that all designers should encourage their clients to complete before embarking on any design projects. Trust me, your bile duct will thank you in the long run.
1. Do they really need a website?
There are a number of businesses who feel as though they ought to have a website, but who have no real reason to have one. Is the website going to impart any extra information or provide a service to any visitors? Or is it simply a vanity project that needs to be done because everyone else seems to have one? Not all businesses actually require a website, and if having one is not going to add any extra value to a business, the money might be better spent elsewhere.
2. Who is the website for?
A business with a website will be expecting two types of visitors: retail and wholesale. Enticing retail consumers will require a different approach to providing wholesale visitors. Granted, it is possible that a site could do both, but this will again require a specific approach depending on which visitors are expected to make up the majority. Do not expect a website to be “one size fits all.” It’s message needs to be varied according to the audience.
3. Are the bells and whistles necessary?
I have been meaning to elaborate on why all-Flash websites are the work of the devil incarnate, but so far I have not managed to work up the correct level of righteous indignation. Still, with all the possibilities for a website, it is important to note that some of them – while being very impressive from a visual perspective – can actually be very distracting from the central purpose of a website. Make sure that any visual effects and enhancements add rather than detract from the site’s central message.
4. Does the content match the message?
There is nothing more annoying than finding what appears to be a well-designed and coherent site, only to find that none of the information given is useful. By all means take as many photographs as you please, include all of your press clippings, and offer the biographies of your senior managers. Just make sure that you also include all the information that a visitor may require. You don’t need to provide quotes for every service you offer, but you should offer contact details so that a visitor can find out how much they may be expected to pay. Remember, you may know your business inside-out, but it would be a fool who assumed that the rest of the world did.
5. Can they keep the website current?
Nothing is more sad than a corporate website or blog that includes timestamps on its posts or entries that show that the site has not been touched for months, or maybe even years. This gives a bad impression, as it implies that the business is only paying lip service to the idea of an online presence, and cannot be bothered to keep visitors to its site appraised of its latest activities. If a client demands a website, ascertain who is going to be responsible for maintaining it once it is set up, and whether any new content will be added to it. Again, if there will be little or no online activity, a client may be better off opting for another way of communicating with customers or competitors.
Though it is only a short list, this should be enough to make the most gung-ho client assess what their goals are for their website and how they envision its place as part of their corporate identity. Hopefully, it will prevent some ill-advised online forays and make the process of liaising with clients an easier one for everyone involved.
[Image by Rust Bucket]