Does working on your website make you feel like you want to pull your hair out? Do you struggle to find a way to communicate what you want with a developer who may or may not understand your message or your aesthetic? Do you feel you don’t have the vocabulary to properly describe what you need in developer terms?
Building your site can be one of the most stressful processes to go through, especially when you’re investing your hard earned money into technology that serves as a reflection of your mission and what you stand for as an artist.
I know exactly how you feel, because I’ve been there myself many times! From an exceptionally complicated e-commerce site for my first business to simple client sites that had extraordinary development needs to my personal site you are visiting now, each site I’ve helped birth into the world came with intense labor pains at some point during the process that I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through!
And so it shall be as long as we are tackling the world of technology, which is growing everyday, much to our advantage as long as we learn the ways in which we can use it for good, and somewhat to our disadvantage if we try to resist or ignore it.
Technology promises to take us outside of our comfort zones and place us in a position of a beginner if we aren’t well versed in the language it requires. And believe me, the languages are many and they are intensely brilliant and complex. So it is an opportunity for us to surrender to approaching a collaboration with a developer with a beginner’s mind, where we acknowledge we need to take our time, go slowly and learn how this can best work for our specific needs.
The problem we often face is that we don’t have the time to go through this learning curve, especially when we need something up and running, stat! This is the ultimate hurdle that can leave us feeling completely at a standstill.
However, after project managing dozens of website developments, my own included, I have come to some very helpful, time-saving approaches that have not only saved me money but helped me establish some extremely valuable relationships with both designers and developers that have paid off in spades.
Here are a few straightforward, yet extremely helpful steps to take first in order to choose the right designer/developer team and then communicating your vision to them in ways they will grasp from the start:
1. Choose the right platform
Choosing the right platform is essential, and requires a much deeper, longer discussion to go into all the options available. For now, I will say that I recommend WordPress, as it is a popular, extremely adaptable platform that many developers are familiar with and is fairly simple to make edits and adjustments to yourself. In addition to WordPress, I recommend choosing other platforms that give you full access to taking advantage of your own SEO. I don’t necessarily recommend a custom-built site, as you are usually then at the mercy of that single person who built it, as only they understand the code they used, making it difficult and often costly for other developers to help. This can cause frustration moving forward when you need changes made and that person is not available.
2. Choose the right developer
Your beautiful site design will mean nothing if it is not sitting upon a solid, robust foundation. The development of the site needs to be ideally clear, streamlined and mobile-responsive (meaning you can see an adjusted version of it on a mobile device). Take your time to interview developers and view their portfolios, testing out the sites they have built. This is the best way to see the kind of work they do and if it jives with your own vision. Make sure the developer you choose is able to have a clear conversation with you about what you want, as well as shows signs of being able to adhere to timelines. The more professional they are in this area, the more likely you are to have your site completed on time.
3. Choose the right designer
The aesthetic of your site is as important as the foundation it sits upon, so choosing a designer whose work you love is worth searching for. Again, I recommend interviewing designers to make sure they know how to adhere to a timeline, and that they are clear about how they charge for their work, including the number of revisions they allow for.
4. Create your swipe file
I cannot stress how important creating a file with examples of what you want for your site can be for ensuring you get the look you are going for. Pull examples from designs that inspire you, going outside the box. For my site that you are on right now, I pulled examples from ads of my favorite clothing designer that I felt best expressed my personality and message, but I didn’t send them to her at first, thinking they were too far out of the box for what I was going for. But in the end, when we were stuck, I sent them to her and it was these images that made her say “Oh! I get it!!” She came up with our final look from there.
5. Set your timeline and hold accountability
(become the boss!)
This is where you need to take the bull by the horns and take authority over your work and how much you value it. You need to hold your designer and developer accountable for staying within the timeline they agreed to with you. You need to set a guideline for what will happen if they go over that time (either they don’t charge for that time, or something else that makes sense for your arrangement). Then you need to practice staying persistent and consistent with what you intended together. This becomes a breeze when you let them tell you how long they need, then give an extra amount, usually two or three weeks, to account for unknowns that will inevitably come up along the way.
6. Multiply your desired timeline by FOUR
Yes that’s right, you read that correctly. This is the single most important part of the whole collaborative process of building a site, or any type of technology for that matter. Tech is extremely fickle, and things will go wrong! (I promise you, they will!!) We tend to think in terms of how long the actual development or actual design work will take to complete, but don’t account for any of the above prep time. So with every single tech project I manage, I take my desired timeline and multiply it by four. This is almost always, across the board, how long it will realistically take from start to finish.
Looking to build your site now? Want some help with it from my web developer and me? Leave a comment below this post with your most burning question, and let us help you. The first five people to leave a comment will receive a free 30 min consultation on streamlining your site from start to finish!