Website Preparation Checklist
Preparing your website content will help make the development process smooth and efficient. Below is a list of items you should have prepared.
Does your business have a logo or are you a new business? If you already have a logo, be prepared to give your web designer an EPS version/PDF vector of the logo ideally. If you don’t have an EPS, a high resolution JPG would be next best.
If you do not have a logo, do not use the “free clip art” or even “paid clip art” for your logo. Your logo is perhaps the most used element in your business. Using clip art makes your business look generic, untrustworthy, and it will be hard trademark.
BONUS INFORMATION: Below are some quick tips to for web development:
- Have clarity at virtually size
- Works well in black and white as well as color
- Visually represents what your organization offers
- Minimal font usage
- Minimal color usage
- Doesn’t have a lot of effects added
- Is line art (vector) based
- Your logo should be clean, simple and elegant. Look at today’s most successful logos.
- Have both vertical and horizontal versions of a logo.
If your current logo doesn’t meet this criteria, you may want to consider modifications.
Writing content is a challenge. Your website content should be original. Content copied from other sources not only has potential legality issues (its relatively easy to find plagiarism on the web - try copyscape.com), but also search engines can penalize your website for using duplicated content. All your content should optimally be original. If you do not have the resources to have grammatically correct content created, you should consider hiring a copywriter. At the very least, make sure your content is carefully proofed for grammatical and typographical errors.
If you are creating an eCommerce system, you may also want to create comparison charts, feature list, product descriptions, and other relevant details.
- Common Concern - When content is discussed with most clients, the common complaint is, “I can only explain the same product line in so many ways.” Their point is if a business offers 10 similar products with minor variations, its often difficult to come up with original copy for all 10 items. I can sympathize, but usually with a little prodding, original content can be created. Some redundancy is okay, but its debatable to what degree copy should be altered be to be considered original. Original copy is best.
- Using A Vendor’s Copy - Even if your vendor gives you permission to use their copy, there is a chance its already been indexed (given credit to another by search engines). Unless your site is incorporating and inordinate amount of products, creating original content will be more beneficial in the long-term.
If you can plan it, get your competitive analysis back before having content written. It can give you an idea about keyword density and other factors. (keyword density is a fancy way to describe how often a target keyword used on a given page. Your developer will more than likely have to adjust your content, but getting in the ballpark will help.
- Photos – Start gathering photos of your key employees, office/storefront, vehicles, products/services, and any other relevant images. Photos drive a lot of today’s image heavy, clean websites. Poor images will drag down even the best design.
- Authoritative Logos, links and notations - In addition to your business logos, gather information about any certifications you have obtained. This usually comprises of a logo and a link to the authoritative site. Credentials help offset your services from the competition and establed your credability.
- PDF Forms - Do you have any forms that need to be downloaded from your site? Try not to send your developer a scanned image. Poorly scanned, crooked, and hard-to-read documents should be avoided. Expect to pay a little more if your designer has to cleanup your forms.
- Brochures and other Collateral - If you have any relevant, up-to-date marketing material, organize and highlight key areas to be used a reference. Try to not ask your designer to scan images that were used from print if possible. Printed images that are scanned can have a moiré pattern (distortions from the printing process), blurriness, and color casts.
- Email lists – Create a list of employees that will need email addresses. Also create their passwords as well if you like. Just search for password generator online to create solid passwords.
- Blog Articles – Write a few blog articles if you plan on starting out with a blog. It’s good to have a few in place at launch. Make sure to focus on something relevant and “don’t write just to write”.
- Testimonials – Gather testimonials and if possible, photos of the person giving a testimonial. It adds credibility. Video testimonials are even better.
- Website samples – Look online and find some websites that meet your needs from an aesthetic, organization, or feature perspective. Remember you are striving to meet your customer’s expectations, not yours. If you can involve some trusted customers for their input, it’s a good idea to do so.
- Social Media Setup – Setup any social media business pages and have your social media information ready to give to your developer. Creating a strategic plan for social media is beyond the scope of this book. If you don’t have a plan in place, maybe start out with social sharing. This is a way where visitors can share your content on their social networks (you don’t need an actual profile page).
- Domain login – If you already registered your business domain, have the login information ready for your developer. Again your domain is your website address. An example is www.mydomain.com
- eCommerce Only – Determine how you want transactions processed. The most popular methods are Paypal and Authorize.net. Both allow for credit card transactions. Go ahead and setup your account. If you want your developer to do it, it will probably cost you a little more. Regardless make sure you developer is locked out of your eCommerce systems once the site goes live by changing the password.
Make sure to clearly convey what images, text, and other content go with each product or page. Your developer does not live your business and as such is not as intimate with your products as your business. By clearly laying what information goes with what product, you can significantly reduce miscommunication.
Do you need to get all the content created beforehand?
This is up to you. The perfect world answer is “yes”. The real world answer is I very seldom see a site launch for small businesses with everything in place. Most sites have partial product loads, crude copy in some places and other pages disabled for the initial launch.
You live in the real world so you will need to make real world decisions in terms of how you want to launch the site. I would say very strongly, do not have an “under construction” page. This screams you are a new or unprepared business. Have these page disabled until the content is prepared for a given page.
At the very least, you need to have all your main product service pages prepared and any standard business pages.
Your provider may charge you more for having to load your site in pieces (and rightfully so). After all, it does take time to schedule bits and pieces as its filtered in and then the extra time to login to the site and get oriented to the project again.
In the end, do what’s best for you and work out the terms with the developer. Some are more than happy to break the product load down into sections. They should offer SEO insight and how it could impact other aspects of the site as well.
You will also need to be flexible. A good developer will offer marketing and content insight. Some of this will be resolved during initial planning sessions with your developer, but some content and ideas will flow dynamically during the development process.
Your goal is to create a marketing asset that will help your business. Its not something to check off your list. A good site is always being evolved, updated, and fine-tuned to increase its conversion goals. A good site is never “done”.