These are five simple tips, designed to help you get the most out of your next website. If you're not building a new site, the first two tips are still great things to check for on your existing homepage. Hope this helps!
Interested in having your website evaluated professionally?
1. Does My Site Pass the Three Second Test?
The three-second test is a measure of messaging and clarity. Our creative director, Andrew, loves this one. The rule is:
If you can’t tell what a business does within three seconds of viewing their landing page, the messaging is too clouded and needs to be clarified.
When you’re building your website, particularly if you’re working with a freelancer who doesn’t specialize in marketing, you need to make it absolutely clear that you expect a concise message above the fold on your website. It’s a good idea to keep this rule in mind when browsing through their portfolio as well.
2. Is My Website Responsive? (another very easy test)
Next, you’ll want to test your website’s responsiveness. Responsiveness is your website’s ability to adapt (or respond) to different screen sizes, and still display well. There are a lot of ways that this can be done incorrectly, as all font sizes need to change, images need to reorganize, etc., and the content should look good on all screen sizes (within reasonable aspect ratios). Despite this complexity, we’ve found this to be a good rule of thumb:
Open your website on your phone, and try swiping from side to side. Do you have the ability to scroll outside the width of your screen? If so, your website isn’t responsive enough.
Note that this test only works one way: just because your website doesn’t allow you to scroll side to side, doesn’t mean that it is properly set up to be responsive, but if it does allow you to move off screen, then you can be sure that it isn’t responsive.
You should check your designer or developer’s portfolio for this major red flag before paying your security deposit.
3. How Much Control Do You Need?
This is the number one reason that I see projects go over budget and over schedule.
In the industry, we refer to the stuff on your website (text, images, videos, etc.) as content. Some content stays on the site for a long time unchanged (such as the information on the contact page of your website) and some needs to be regularly updated, such as updating listings for realtors, adding or removing healthcare for medical practices, and blog posts.
We call the system that allows you to edit this information without having to do any new development your Content Management System (CMS). There are platforms, such as WordPress and Squarespace, that allow you to make large parts or even all of your website have C capabilities. The technical details aren’t important though, here’s what you need to know:
It is essential that you communicate with your web designer/developer/team what content management abilities you need to have on your site.
Not sure how to articulate this? Book a free call with me before your first web call, and I’ll help you iron what you need to tell your development team.
4. Should You Pay your Developer Hourly?
Spoiler: Probably not.
I get it – from a freelancer’s perspective, hourly pay is very attractive. If someone asks for revisions, you get to charge more for the extra time that you spend catering to their needs. Additionally, you don’t have to deal with the struggle of developing a sophisticated pricing model, which we all know can be tedious and stressful.
However, from a business owner’s perspective, this model usually doesn’t make sense. You don’t care how much time your developer spends fixing bugs – you just want the final product, and you know exactly how much that’s worth to you. Paying someone a flat fee incentivizes them to get the project done correctly the first time, saving you time and money.
There’s an exception to this: if you’re developing a sophisticated web application, you want your development team to spend lots of time ironing out bugs, improving user experience, and other things. This article is specifically referring to business websites, not SAAS products.
5. What’s the Goal of My Website?
Why are you building this website? Are you a realtor trying to showcase your listings? Are you a doctor or medical practice trying to book consultations? Keep your primary objective in mind the whole time that you’re monitoring the progress of your website. Here’s a rule of thumb:
If a feature on your website doesn’t contribute to your primary objective, it should be given less prominence than those that do contribute to its completion.
There should be a prominent call to action on your landing screen, or “above the fold,” guiding visitors towards the completion of your primary objective.
This rule of hierarchy applies to all kinds of design – not just web design. Your logo should effectively communicate a primary focus, your fliers should communicate key information prominently, etc.
Bonus: Should I Hire a Freelancer, or an Agency?
Building a website is very similar to building a house.
If you hire one person to do the whole thing, you’ll end up with something done poorly. Your plumber doesn’t know how to lay concrete, the same way that a developer usually doesn’t know how to write great sales copy.
That’s why you hire a general contractor to manage your construction projects for you. Your GC knows:
– What needs to be done
– What order those things need to be happening in
– Who the best person for each job is
– How to communicate effectively with each of those people to get the desired end product
You wouldn’t try managing a construction project on your own – and it would be unwise to treat a web project any differently.
Don’t believe me? Answer these five questions:
1. Do you really know which platform your site should be built on?
2. Do you know how to tell if a developer is technically proficient, or would you fall for a good designer who can make garbage look pretty? Is that even relevant to your project?
3. If someone told you that they were good at Search Engine Optimization (SEO), would you know how to tell if they were legit?
4. Do you have someone on your staff who specializes in writing sales copy? How about graphic design? Hope you weren’t planning on leaving those to the same person who’s coding the backend of your site.
Here’s the big one.
5. Are you prepared to start over from scratch if the sole person that you’re counting on to build this site isn’t good enough?
Most businesses should not hire a freelancer to build their whole site, for the same reasons that they shouldn’t hire an electrician to build their whole house. Even if it’s not mine – working with an agency is far less risk than using a freelancer, because it doesn’t require betting on the skillset of one person; there’s a team of people working on every project, ensuring excellence in multiple areas.