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Project Notebook: Takeaways from my website redesign

Are you a small business owner? Or a marketing department of one and responsible for your business website? I recently revamped my site and have a few takeaways you might find helpful:

1) Think about the direction of your business: With a website redesign, it’s the perfect time to pause and think deeply about where your business is now and where you want it to be moving forward. As you think about your new website, be sure to structure the layout in a way that supports your business direction.

2) Start saving now: I saved for three years to update my site. Yes, three years. I am a small business owner and only able to save a little bit each month. I didn't know how much exactly I would eventually need, but I knew I was going to need some outside help to complete the project. A little bit each month adds up over time.

3) Identify the skills/things you can't do yourself: I am a strategist, not a graphic designer, or writer, or web developer. I have worked with some skilled creative folks in my time and that has pushed my level of creative expectation to be quite high. So even when doing my own project, with a limited budget, I knew some things were worth investing in. I worked with one of my writing partners to go back and forth on the tone and unique message I wanted to get across on my site. I also worked with one of my graphic designers who also happens to be familiar with both Wordpress and Wix -- the two platforms I was contemplating.

4) Bring your main message to the forefront: I am Weber Marketing. I work directly with marketing leadership and their marketing team in collaborative ways to get their marketing efforts on track -- and it's fun! I wanted this and my personality to come to life on my website. This meant stock photography of random people or simple graphics would not be sufficient. Instead, I enlisted the help of one of my oldest friends who owns a small photography business to capture me in my element. Lively client interaction photos plus bold headlines were my strategy to get the main message across. How did we do?

5) Select the platform YOU can manage: When deciding what platform to build your site on, think about the management of your site after your go-live date. Meaning, if you are responsible for updates and ongoing maintenance, then research and select the platform that you are comfortable with. For me, I went back and forth between Wordpress vs Wix. On one hand, Wordpress is what I am most familiar with through client work and I knew Wordpress would offer more custom development opportunities to bring some unique design elements to my site. However, the backend was a bit over my head in terms of technical requirements, to-dos, etc. On the other and, Wix has templated design options to select from, which is helpful, but the templates limit what you can do from a design and layout perspective. That being said, the backend is more user friendly for the not-so-technical folks. At least that was my impression. In the end, I went with Wix so that moving forward I could focus my time on developing fresh content and leave the technical stuff to the people at Wix.

6) Say it out loud: When you start telling people you are going to re-do your website, that seems to bring more accountability to the project and makes it real. It also gives you an opportunity to start saying out loud the direction your business is going, which is also helpful. You can see firsthand people's reaction to message and what makes sense to them and what needs more explanation. This, in turn, helps you craft the writing on your site.

7) Think about your “sweet spot”: Now, this point might throw some of you off. Yes, of course, you should think of your target market that will be visiting your site. Yes, you want them to quickly understand what you do and how your business can help them. However, I don't know about you, but I have several audience types. I have senior leadership, I have marketing managers, graphic designers, print consultants, media buyers and more all connecting with me. That is quite a range of job functions to be thinking about. Instead of trying to write to them all, which would be virtually impossible, I thought of the new direction I am taking my business and what business scenario would likely resonate the most with my services. For me, my sweet spot is working with business owners, VP or director level of small-to-medium sized businesses with a marketing department of 0-4 people. This group typically knows they need something different with their marketing efforts, but they just don't know what and/or they don't have the time to focus on it.

In closing, big or small, a website redesign is a large undertaking. It is not something that should be done quickly. As elementary as this sounds, I cannot stress how helpful it is to literally draw a site map over and over again to give yourself (and your team) a visual to react to. How many pages do you really want to manage long term? Do you really need a 12-page site? Or would five be sufficient? If you are moving in the direction of a blog, do yourself a favor and draft a six- month content calendar to ensure you have enough to talk about on your new blog. And who is going to do the writing? And PLEASE -- for the love of all that is good in the website world -- once your new site is up, it is not a set-it-and-forget-it marketing initiative. A website is an ongoing, living, breathing, marketing initiative. It requires weekly conversation and dedicated time.

This Marketing Minute is brought to you by Sarah Hurley, owner at Weber Marketing, LLC.

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