happy little biz

Why building a website is kinda like building a puzzle

A couple of weeks back I wrote a bit about how to choose a good option for creating your website. Do you hire someone, go totally DIY, or somewhere in between?

One of the places I've noticed people tend to get stuck in the process is what order to do things in. Often I find small business people are really focused on having everything about their business match a certain image they want to convey. If they've gotten serious about their branding, this is a great thing! But it can also mean they get lost in the details and aren't sure where to begin. Do you write the site content first? Do you choose the perfect website design? Do you get the perfect logo? Do you take gorgeous photos of your office or clinic? Do you sit down and hold your head in your hands because there's no way you can fit all of that into your brain all at once?

Let's back the truck up here! If we try to do everything all at once, we're just going to get overwhelmed and keep going around in circles. You'll get a logo you love and then decide the design you picked doesn't work with it. You'll write your website content and find it doesn't really fit the photos you've taken. This is a method that's just going to leave you frustrated and tired.

Is there a better way? Would I be writing this article if there wasn't? ;-)

Think of it this way: imagine you were putting together a 1000 piece puzzle and had no clue what-so-ever what the picture is of. So you just keep trying different things to see if they fit, and hope you might figure out what you're building as you go. This might be fun for some people, but for most they'd get frustrated and give up after a time.

Now imagine doing that same puzzle where you know what you're putting together. Not only that, but you have some guidelines on how the pieces fit. That would probably be a heck of a lot nicer, right?

Building a website isn't exactly a puzzle (although it might seem like one at times!), but it really helps to be able to picture what you want to create while you're working on it.

But what's the 'picture' for your website? Your business! You want to create a clear image for people visiting your website of who you are, what you have to offer, and why they should use your services. That's the end result you want.

Here's how I put together a website with my clients:

We start out by talking about their business. What do they do? What makes them different from the other people who do the same thing? What do they love about their work? What's their real struggle point right now? What made them decide it's time to build a website? Do they already have branding elements like logos, colors and typefaces they use in their business (and if not, what sorts of things are they looking for)? What's their personality like, and how do they show that in their business?

After we get those important background details, we move on to talking about how to lay out the website. What pages do they need? Where are those pages going to go and how will they link to each other? What needs to be said on each of those pages? What kinds of images go with that text?

So now we've got our important background details: who they are, what they do, why that's important and what makes them different from others. We have some good details about colors, images and other visual details. And, we know what pages are on the site and what text needs to go on those pages.

Perfect! Now they're ready to write their site content, take photos, and get that logo finalized.

So when do we figure out the details of the design of the website? That comes AFTER we look at your content. Your content represents your business, and your business is the 'picture' we're trying to build.

But what do you do if you have ideas about the design you want?

Some people have a hard time with this, but the answer is: put those ideas aside for now! You're just going to find yourself getting lost in the details and trying to create your site content with those ideas in mind. Really, you're just going to end up doing a whole lot of second guessing yourself, like you might do if you were building a puzzle without knowing what you're making. It's great to think about what pages you need and the general look and feel you wanted, so it all matches your brand. But you don't want to delve too much into the design until you have your content ready.

Let the story of your business guide the design details. Don't let the design create the story of your business!

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