Before you start contacting web design and development companies about a customized website, it’s important that you first find out what you need. The following three steps will help you get your ideas across, so that you can get the customized website you want.
Last edited: March 5, 2015
Step 1: Describe what your website is going to be about
This step forces you to convert the ideas in your head into a story that other people can understand.
However, writing down on paper what your website should be about, isn’t as easy as you might think.
Don’t be surprised if you, like me, end up discovering that you’re not sure what you’re project is about. It’s normal to experience this. Try to not rush the process.
Take your time and answer the following questions: What’s unique about your service/product/project? What kind of fans/readers/consumers do you want to attract?
Then, use these answers to create a cool story, like something that you would use for the about page of your website.
Following is the description that I sent to web design and development companies when I was looking to set up a customized website for my online city guide, The Girl With The Blueprint.
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The Girl With The Blueprint is an online city guide with handpicked recommendations.
Listings, which include bars, shops, sights, restaurants, and other places, are curated in a unique way.
The recommendations in The Girl With The Blueprint are based on a venue’s single asset: a signature dish or drink, or some other highlight, like for example a breathtaking roof terrace.
The Girl With The Blueprint not only tells you where to go but also what exactly to order. She doesn’t hassle you with extensive reviews, keeping it short and sweet–all under 35 words.
The Girl With The Blueprint tests each recommendation over and over again to ensure quality. She believes that the daiquiri you have tomorrow should taste the same as the one she had today.
The Girl With The Blueprint recognizes quality over price tags, but can appreciate both caviar and sardines. She is a backpacking hobo and a sky-lounging cosmopolitan in one.
Besides being a city guide, The Girl With The Blueprint also shares great findings: from what to read and watch to where to go on first dates and holidays.
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Keep in mind that Web design and development companies want to work on interesting projects with interesting people.
Show personality in your communication, be smart and play nice. Make your project and yourself like-able: you aren’t the only one buying.
A good story says something about you. It shows the companies who they’ll be working with–cool story, cool person.
Furthermore, getting a company hooked to your story can help you with price negotiations. Companies don’t mind lowering the asking price if that means they get to work on a cool project.
This is especially true for web design and deveoplment companies that are just starting out. Until they expand their portfolio, they can’t be charging the same as more experienced competitors.
They’ll have to settle for less money until they make a name for themselves. Until that day comes, they’d rather make interesting customized websites than boring ones.
Step 2: Find examples of websites you like
Spend plenty of time browsing the Internet for websites you like. Collect your thoughts: what do you like about these websites? Is it the font, style, color, structure or some other detail? Make notes.
You’ll want to send the links to these websites and accompanying notes along with your initial request for a customized website (including the story you crafted in step 1 and the list that you’ll set up in step 3).
These examples help web designers understand what you’re looking for and show what kind of web design style you like.
You should also include websites that are designed and developed by the companies you’re approaching.
If the company hasn’t made anything you like, there’s no point in contacting them in the first place. (Related reading: How to Find the Right Web Design and Development Company)
Step 3: Make a list of features you’d like your customized website to include
Before you can make a list of features that you’d like your customized website to include, you need to find out what features are available and which ones are important to have.
The easiest way to find this out is by Googling: features websites must have; element websites must have or what makes a great websites. Read all the relevant articles that you can find.
Doing this will, firstly, help you discover features you didn’t think about or didn’t know exist.
Secondly, you’ll be able to clearly communicate your needs and wants to web designers and developers.
Furthermore, you’ll understand what they’re talking about and they’ll know that you know what you’re talking about–and are thus not to be fooled.
Thirdly, companies will be able to make a better estimation of the costs involved. This is important so you don’t get stuck with unwanted financial surprises down the road.
Following you’ll find the outline of the initial features that I wanted The Girl With The Blueprint to include.
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One-page website with:
1. Content Managed System, like WordPress
– I need to be able to edit all content on website myself without needing the help of a web design or development agency
2. Customized fully functional map with markers
– including a category box (all, drink, eat, shop, see, etc.)
– social media integration
3. Section for short articles
– including a category box (all, listen, read, watch, buy, etc.)
– social media integration
4. Black book
– downloadable address book with recommendations from the website so that visitors can use information offline too
5. About page, contact page and disclaimer page
Side note: One important thing to note is that I never asked for a mobile version of the website. This should be the first feature you ask for. If you leave it out, your website will be pretty much useless across smartphones and tablets.
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This outline is far from complete and a poor example. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to do step 3 properly.
My lack of knowledge in web design and development is one the reasons why I struggled infinitely during the development of The Girl With The Blueprint.
I lost precious time (it took a year to finish the website), money that I hadn’t accounted for, and perhaps the worst of all, love and enthusiasm for my project. (Related reading: Surviving Web Designers, Developers and Several Mental Breakdowns)
The design and development of a customized website is a big endeavour. Following the above three steps will help you avoid the mistakes I made.
Knowing what you need and what you’re talking about is what will help you get your ideas across and get you the customized website you want.
Tell me what you think. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (links match discussion pages for this post) and let me know: Do you have any questions about how to get the customized website you want? If you already have the customized website of your dreams, how did you get your ideas across to web design and development companies?
BOOK & WEBSITE TIP
Design Meltdown displays a gallery of websites with beautiful web design.
You can filter the kind of websites you’re interested in by choosing, for example, the color or typography style, the site type (fashion, e-commerce, etc.) or design style (hipster, minimal, etc.).
It’s a great place to start discovering what goes into web design. Furthermore, you can use these examples for inspiration and to get a better understanding of what you want for your own customized website.
Patrick McNeil, the man behind this website, also published a range of books on the topic of web design, like: The Web Designer’s Idea Book, Volume 3: Inspiration from Today’s Best Web Design Trends, Themes and Styles
This book is intended for web designers, but it’s also perfect for anyone who’s looking to get a basic overview of web design.
It includes short chapters about everything that goes into web design and hundreds of website examples with great web design.
Do get the ebook version, so that you can easily follow all the links in the book.