Dig it, load it, clear it, move it (design it, write it, build it)… website design and development for plant hire and haulage company Ovenden has gone live! Remedy’s latest online project provides the client with a solid online presence that showcases their wide variety of services in a confident and clear manner. Read more about the project or view the site for yourself at ovendens.com.
Posts Tagged ‘web design’
You’ve chosen a design agency, now what?
Here’s part 3 of Remedy’s presentation delivered at the Not For Profit Technology Show last November. To get up to speed, see part 1, preparing a website design brief and part 2, choosing the right design agency
So, you’ve gone through the pitch process and chosen the ideal agency to design your website, but how do you make sure your project stays on track? Stick to these steps and you shouldn’t go too far wrong:
1) Agree a realistic project schedule
“As soon as possible”. That’s the answer we invariably get when asking the question, “When do you want your new site to go live?”. That’s all well and good, but bearing in mind you will have to be part of the process, you need to take into account your own workloads and timescales. How quickly can you collate draft copy? How quickly will you and your team be able to agree and sign-off the various design stages? A website schedule has to be workable both ways, so try to avoid setting unreasonable deadlines that will put unnecessary pressure on you or your agency.
2) Get the site architecture right
Get the site map and functional spec right and don’t proceed with the design process until you are 100% sure everyone has agreed what your new site is going to do, it’s overall structure and how the user is expected to navigate their way around. Although not always totally practical, one simple rule that will make your site user-friendly is if you are never more than two clicks away from where you want to be. Once the architecture is agreed, then you’re into the design concept stage.
3) Insist on choice
Unless your design agency has to stick rigidly to an existing page template or hard-and-fast design guidelines, you should insist on a choice of design routes (budgets permitting of course). For the initial concept stage, a Home page and one other page should be enough to base your decision on.
4) Allow room for creativity
You will most likely have seen websites that you admire. By all means, share these with your design agency, but try to avoid being so prescriptive that you stifle the designer’s own creativity. Try to remain open-minded at the concept stage and try not to force a design aesthetic on your agency that leaves no room for experimentation and means you end up with a website that looks like everyone else’s.
5) Judge creative work against the brief
You have gone to the trouble of agreeing a great creative brief (see part 1 for details), make sure it is at hand when judging the design concepts. It’s at this point that personal likes and dislikes can get in the way of rational thinking. If the design concept answers the brief, then it probably isn’t far wrong. Of course, you and other key stakeholders need to be happy with the design, but as soon as the decision process starts to get tricky (which it often does when there is more than one person involved), the brief will add clarity.
6) If you don’t like it, say so
You will have to live with your website for quite a while. All of your clients/supporters/service users/staff/volunteers/competitors will look at it and have an opinion. It will probably be one of the most important elements in your marketing mix, so you’ve got to be happy with it. If there’s something you don’t like, make sure you say so at the concept stage, but equally, you need to say why. Is it a personal dislike, is it inappropriate for your brand’s personality, is there a lack of visual focus…? Whatever your objections, talk them through with the design agency so that they can understand your issues and find a better solution.
7) Ask for other opinions
Even if you are very single-minded and are convinced the design concepts are spot-on, it doesn’t hurt to get other opinions. Whoever you wish to confer with, before they give you their ha’penny’s worth, make sure they understand the brief. The website design should be judged with a proper understanding of what you are trying to achieve and who you are talking to.
By this stage, you should have a website design that meets the basic criteria of the brief and that you are happy with. If you’re not completely there yet, it may be a case of tweaking one of the design concepts. But all of the preliminary work in getting the brief right and choosing the most suitable design agency should have made getting to this point as smooth as possible.
With a couple of pages designed to everyone’s satisfaction, your agency will now need to design other page templates that can be applied across the whole site. Oh, and by the way, have you supplied all of the copy and other content yet? If not, this is the point where the schedule can grind to a halt.
So, now we go from the design stage to the build. Definitely not the time to take your eye off the ball. There are some simple guidelines that you can follow, but that will have to wait for another blog post.
In the meantime, please let us know if you have found this series of posts useful and of course, if you have any tips to add that will help anyone through the website design and build process, we’d love to hear from you.
Here is part 2 of a talk that Remedy gave at the Not For Profit Technology Show in London, alongside James Higgott from The Royal Marsden Hospital.
The first part was about preparing a website design brief, this part is about choosing your design agency and the third part (blog post to follow) is about getting the design right.
Choosing the right design agency
1) Who’s work do you like?
Boutique web design specialist? Integrated design agency? Award winning, West End hot shop? A freelancer that a friend recommends? Whoever you shortlist and however you come across them, the first filter you need to apply is “do I like their work?” If there is a design sensibility or aesthetic that you admire in their portfolio, then that’s a great start. Also, it’s good to keep an open mind – just because the agency doesn’t have experience in your specific sector, doesn’t mean they can’t create a fantastic website for you.
2) Understand who you’ll be working with
It’s all very well meeting the Creative Director, Managing Director and Head of Online Strategy, but will they actually be looking after your web project? If not, it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to know the calibre of the team that will be designing and writing your website and who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
3) Understand their processes
Every agency will have it’s own ways of working. Some will be a comfortable fit and some will drive you up the wall. One marketing director we recently met described working with his previous agency as being like “pulling teeth”. Websites don’t happen over night, so you will, by default, have to build a relationship with your design agency; so make sure it’s one that will work.
4) What do they expect from you?
From day one, right up until your new website is launched, you will have to be part of the process. Make sure from the outset just how involved your agency will expect you to be and what they will need from you, and when. Will they want to work with you to determine site architecture? Will they want draft copy at the outset? Will they want a face-to-face meeting every week? To help things to run smoothly, insist on a project schedule that is realistic for both you and the agency.
5) Ask for references
You’ve met the team. They’re charming, eloquent and have some great work in their portfolio. If they’re really as good as they say they are, they will have left a trail of very happy clients in their wake, so don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of references. It could well save a lot of heartache.
6) Choose people you get on with
Yes, it sounds obvious, but this is just as important as choosing a design agency who’s work you love. If they’re creative geniuses, they could also be prima donnas with egos the size of Ben Nevis. So, here’s a simple formula – a great portfolio + nice people = at least half way to choosing your design agency.
7) What does the estimate include?
Websites are complex, with lots of elements to consider, and all adding to the cost. Architecture, wire-framing, front-end design, content management system and CMS training, copywriting, Search Engine Optimisation, imagery, hosting… Make sure that you know what is included in the price. If there is a lack of clarity in the estimate, ask the agency to spell it out in black and white. Remember, a seemingly simple functionality change could have significant cost implications, so agree the functionality spec. at the start.
8) Licensed CMS?
Sometimes, a bespoke content management system is the best solution, often an open source system will work just as well. Think long and hard before you choose an agency that insists, come what may, on using their licensed, bespoke content management system. However, if your new website requires functionality that means a bespoke CMS is the most practical option, it is important to understand what happens if, at some point in the future, you want to move your site.
9) You get what you pay for
‘Websites from £500′ shouts the poster in the agency window. Now, let’s stop a moment before getting our cheque books out. Even if the agency only charges £50 an hour, can they really plan, design, build and optimise a website that will help move your business forward, in 10 hours?
A website is more often than not, an organisation’s most powerful marketing tool. If your website is going to be your shop window; a key way to communicate with members, clients or supporters; or the first port of call when anyone wants to find out about you, don’t make cost the most important factor when choosing your design agency.
If you are putting together a shortlist of agencies (three is the magic number), we recommend that you read our previous post on preparing a website design brief
You can download all of this presentation in PDF format including slides from James Higgott at www.ioftech.org.uk/resources
Remedy designed and developed the original Adopt a Word site for I CAN 2 years ago. It was time for a makeover.
Launched this week, the brand new adoptaword.com is a showcase for current technologies. The site has been redesigned with a fresh new look and feel to align with the design of the new I CAN website, which is launching in January.
Rebuilt from the ground-up, we stripped away the Flash content and made it even more accessible. We’ve added new sections and navigation, streamlined the search and thesaurus functions and introduced an SEO friendly blog and twitter feed. We have also substantially upgraded the hosting for the site, which now sits on a powerful cloud server, ensuring higher resilience, faster access and maximum flexibility moving forward.
In the last 2 years the site has been a great fundraising success for I CAN, and as such they were happy to invest in it’s long-term future.
So if you’re looking for an alternative gift idea this Christmas, you could do no better than adopting someone a word. All profits will go directly to help children with communication difficulties.
To find out more please visit adoptaword.com