We have this great opportunity in the world of today, to share what we do and sell and think online.
It’s amazing and powerful and unheard of and…we hear about it. All. The. Time!
Every other email I get tells me about the, “Power of ONLINE BUSINESS,” like it’s a cure-all for the struggles of the 21st Century. It’s a constant barrage of you-have-tos. I’m personally getting pretty sick of hearing about it, to be honest.
BUT! Those emails aren’t wrong; having a website is pretty darn powerful for your business.
The reach and customer education and trust that you can build online truly is unparalleled.
It’s the absolute least you need to do, to be found and trusted by the people you want to help in the world. You. Need. A Website. You just do. And it needs to be great.
But when you start building or rebuilding that great site, you realize that there is actually A LOT that goes into the process behind the scenes…and you might make a couple mistakes along the way. Even if you’re a pro.
It’s not all just cute pictures and perfect prose that pours out your fingertips. There is a whole lotta work that goes into every page on every good website that you have ever visited, and you’ll be more acutely aware of all of that work. when you are in the midst of trying to make one for yourself.
That’s where this post comes from, my friend.
Because I have been redesigning my site over the winter months, and I have made some mistakes along the way.
I have been online for 5 or 6 years and have redesigned my website…ugh…every year, basically. It’s tedious, but every year I look at it and think, “This won’t do!” so I decide to change it. I do a few tweaks to the fonts or the colours or the logo, and then I walk away for another day, because it’s a lot of work.
This year though, I decided to make it stick. I decided to do a FULL Website Redesign.
I wanted to really dig in and complete the thing in a way that would make me proud and make you happy – and stand the test of time, so that this time next year, I won’t want to change it all over again.
Even though this is technically my job – planning and making websites happen alongside my biz best-friend, Amanda Creek – I have made the same mistakes as anyone else might, and I’ve watched my own clients making them too. I’ve learned from our collective mistakes though, and I want to share my brain with you today, so that you don’t have to learn these things the hard way.
Here are the 5 mistakes we make when we’re re-building our online home:
Mistake #1: We start with the wrong step.
I get it! We get excited, and we look at all of these beautiful websites and colour palettes and logos…and we want the finished product like NOW.
The thing is though? You can’t get there from here. There are other things you need to do long before you call a designer or photographer in to help you make that beautiful site.
You need to figure out your Brand Message FIRST!
You need to know what your brand is all about – beyond the product you sell. Why do you sell it? Why does your customer need it? What else does she need? And why is she avoiding it? What broken piece of her world are you helping her with?
Don’t tell me you’re not, because yes you are!
Or at least you should be. Your message needs to be about more than the transactions. It has to be about something real, and you need to know what that is long before you talk to your designer, because it’s not her job to figure that out.
Plan for this in your budget and in your timeline kitten, or you are going to have a tough time getting that site up and running and doing its job without this done in advance.
You need to start HERE before you move on to the “fun stuff”:
- Your Message: What do your customers need to hear? How will you tell her this in a uniquely *you* kind of a way?
- Your website’s Purpose: What do you want people to do, think or feel when they land on your site? Are they here to get to know you, or do you want them to buy from you right then and there. Get clear on this early on, because you need to make every page with that Purpose in mind.
- Your Audience! This should really be number 1. You need to know your Audience better than yourself, and her needs should be at the absolute top priority for this website. If they aren’t, you need so go back to the starting line.
Figure that stuff out before you move on, kitten, or your site will end up unfocussed and off-track, and your designer might have a coronary. Just saying.
Mistake #2: We skimp on the right kind of planning.
I’m a plan-fanatic, for sure, but even I fell into the same mistake with my web design adventure, as I see people making all the time with their writing projects. I mean…I actually planned EVERYTHING: I made a million lists and drew a million ideas and pinned a million pins – but I didn’t do the next step well enough.
My plans didn’t include the right kinds of outlines until I got partway through the creation process and stalled.
Yeah, I know! I’m the one who’s obsessed with telling you to make outlines, when you’re writing, and I didn’t do the right kind for this ENORMOUS project. And it caused problems for me. I realized at some point that web-sites have different kinds of outlines, and when I figured what those were, things got way easier.
You need to outline these things before you start tackling your site design itself:
- Your site map:
You need to be clear about what pages you will have, what their purposes are, and how your audience is expected to move through them. Draw it out clearly, and stick it on the wall.
- Your written copy:
You need to outline and then write out your copy for each page – with your Message, Purpose and Audience in mind. Just do it! This provides a backbone for all of the visual design and user experience work you will either do yourself or hire out to the pros, so you gotta have it.
- A visual mockup of the pages:
This is what I skipped. I drew a basic wireframe for each page in my bullet journal, and then I jumped right into my WordPress site thinking that I was ready to go. It was like running through water, trying to make it work. I hated it, so I asked Amanda what to do, and she reminded me of what she does before she starts building pages in WordPress. She makes a visual mockup in Illustrator – like a first draft to revise and edit in WordPress.
Genius! She’s a genius. So I did my different outlines, like a good website redesign-er, and it made a HUGE difference.
Mistake #3: We forget about photos!
Once you’ve done all that work figuring out what your audience needs and planning everything out and writing everything, you’re tired. Or you’re out of money!
If you hire a copywriter to get your message and copy ready and then you hire a designer to build the site to share your business on…and then you realize you need a photographer too? That’s a lot.
You need to plan and budget for that at the outset, instead of being surprised by it midway through a HUGE project when you don’t have time or money set aside to complete the thing.
Because copy, design & photography need to work together to make your site magical. You can’t have just one and have your site meet your expectations.
I’m looking at one of the pages I’m still building right now, and I’m realizing that I can’t share it yet – even though everything is ready! I have great copy, and I made some cute illustrations that go so nicely. It all fits so well in the page design I created, and I even have the pages built that it links out to!
But I don’t have the right photo for the header, and the only photos I have of me are 2 years old and don’t look like the real me anymore.
I could grab something else from one of my folders of generic With a K photos, but I know that it needs to be special. So I’m waiting for my photographer to come visit before I share that page. She’s on her way here TODAY, and we’re going to do a million photo shoots while she’s here.
We planned ahead, this time, and I am SO glad, because I think it’s one of the pieces that was missing from my other redesigns.
Mistake #4: We think, “But I’m supposed to…” too much.
This one is simple. We know enough to know that this is a big job. We know enough to know that we don’t know enough. And that’s good.
But then we get too wrapped up in all of the advice we can find online about our website redesign. And that is not good.
It’s overwhelming and often contradicts itself, and if we get too stuck in that mode of trying to do what we’re *supposed* to, we lose touch with the thing that made us really stand out in the first place: our own way of doing these important things.
Listen to your gut sometimes! Listen to your creative voice in your head, and let that be fun for you. If you aren’t the kind of person who would write an “About Me” page, make a video or draw a map of your progress. Love cupcakes, but you sell flowers? Take pictures of you eating cupcakes while you create a beautiful arrangement!
Have some fun, wouldya?!
It’s your home you’re building, so you should make it feel like you live there. If it’s the same as every other florist or consultant or artist, it won’t do its job of showcasing who you genuinely are.
That Brings us to Mistake #5: We don’t trust our pros.
So…yes. This is directly contradicting the last point a bit, BUT! We do know enough to know that we don’t know enough. That is a good instinct. It’s just in the over-searching for advice that we overwhelm our own Voices.
For example: I’m a pro at messaging and copywriting, right? I’m also an illustrator who is still learning, but pretty good at creating my own brand graphics; I’m even a pro at organizing and outlining a website. It’s what I help my clients to do before we even start writing, for goodness sake.
But I am not a photographer, and I am not developer. I’m not a designer, even though I do a fair amount of DIY design.
Before I started my website design, I made sure to have a pro I trust for that.
I’m not a pro at legal or accounting stuff either, so I have a pro I trust for that. I have a pro I trust for the software I use.
And here’s the key to avoiding this mistake: when I get advice from those pros, I listen.
Sometimes, I don’t agree with a design tip or a photography idea – but it’s usually because I don’t understand it. Because I’m not the pro in that area!
So I say, “I don’t understand that. Can you explain why it works better that way?” or I say, “This is the reason I wanted to try it the other way; can we make it work for that as well?.” And then I listen.
There is a big difference between letting your creativity and uniqueness shine through. Shooting yourself in the foot because you didn’t listen to your pro when she gave you really good advice.
The opportunity we have to share our businesses online truly is amazing. You can do it in a way that won’t kill you (or your creative spirit). But not if you ignore this stuff, kitten.
Take my advice in this, and try your best to avoid these dumb mistakes, because you don’t have to.
Have a perspective to share? Please do!
Want to read more? Check out these recent articles.
What is free-writing? Right. That’s a good starting point isn’t it? If you’re not familiar with the way I suggest you use free-writing, here’s a short primer. Free-writing is a perfect first step for people who want to be able to write without enduring that feeling – you know the one: The drop in the pit…
I remember when I decided to first open up a website for my business & blog…. I couldn’t afford to hire a website designer, so I went to Creative Market & searched for days to find a theme that would work – without any real idea of what “work” even looked like. I finally bought one…
I don’t mean that you suddenly feel the need to compare Halo stats (is that still a thing?) or laugh at farts. What I mean is that you don’t trust your Writing Voice. You don’t sit down at the notebook (or keyboard) & feel like it’s going to show up for you every single time…
I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Every. Single. Day. You need to put pen to paper & do the thing over & over again – & be willing for it to not be perfect…for a while. I often tell my daughter,…