Mary Philip

Commissioning a web designer

Friday 28 August 2020

Mary Philip. Image by Julie Broadfoot

I’m a real believer in the power of print. But print marketing works best in conjunction with a solid online presence.

Having a good website will give your business credibility. It will help prospective customers and clients to find you, as well as providing a valuable source of information for anyone considering purchasing your products and services.

But embarking upon creating a whole new site, or even undertaking a major upgrade, can feel daunting. To help demystify the process, I caught up with Mary Philip, Squarespace Expert, who kindly let me ask her some of questions that you might have as you approach your website project – whether you have a site you would like to improve, or you’re starting from scratch.

I’m setting up a brand-new business. When should I launch its website?

Once you have a business plan and have nailed down the branding.

You can create the branding yourself if you are working to a tight budget or you can work with a professional designer if you have money to invest.

Working with a professional designer is advisable if you don’t feel confident creating your own branding.

They will be able to present choices and save you a bucket load of time and energy (and potential stress). If you have any business cards or letterheads already in place, make sure you supply these to the designer along with any other existing assets eg photographs or imagery.

If you put your own branding together, you can always come back to improve it at a later date, but you do need to start somewhere.

Going through the branding process before you set up your site will also help clarify what you are offering, who your audience is and how you want to present your business to the world.

Pre-website checklist:

  • A business plan – it doesn’t need to be fancy, just clear
  • A logo
  • A font (or an idea of the kind of font you would like)
  • Website copy that clearly explains what your business offers and who it is for
  • Clear objective for the site eg sales, enquiries, newsletter signups
  • Collect any existing assets eg letterheads as these can help direct the branding.

What does the process of creating a website look like?

If you are working with a designer, the process will start off with an initial consultation. This allows you to explain the needs of your business and the aims of the site. You’ll be asked what assets you already have in place, the functionality needed for your customers and how you plan to market and/or measure the success of the site.

From there, your designer will create a wireframe plan of the site based on the agreed website structure (no. of pages on the site). They will then present you with a first design.

Some designers will only present the homepage at this time while others will deliver the full site.

You then give feedback to the designer so that any improvements/tweaks can be made.

The full timeline will depend on how many rounds of revision will take place, and whether SEO (search engine optimization) is included. For my customers, this is clearly outlined at the beginning of the process, with dates that they can expect rounds of revisions to be completed, as well as dates that client’s feedback needs to be delivered.

How long does it take to produce a brand-new website?

This depends on the brief.

I offer a One-Day Website service for small businesses and start-ups that are looking for a simple yet professional website without any bells or whistles.

Custom projects for more complex site that include rounds of revisions can take anywhere from two working weeks to two to three months depending on the level of customisation and assets already in place.

If someone has a logo and their copy already written up beforehand this helps enormously and makes the process much quicker. When a client has a clear objective for their site it speeds everything along. If you are unsure of your direction, this can lead to something called a scope creep. This term refers to when a client deviates from the original agreed brief – this leads to delays and extra charges. Essentially – if you are fully prepared before we start the process is streamlined and hassle-free.

I keep hearing about how important SEO is, but I’m not clear who does it, or what it is, exactly.

Search engine optimization (SEO) determines how highly your website will be ranked on search engines. It is important to make sure you have the basics covered – such as page titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags, heading tags and both internal and external links. Choosing a website builder or content management system that is set up for SEO success is a major factor in the success of a website.

I use Squarespace for my clients as it allows me to build strong SEO foundations for each website and is easily managed by my clients. WordPress is also very good, but it can be more complicated for my clients to maintain and build on the SEO strategy after the site is launched.

Some designers include SEO as part of their package, but many don’t. Make sure you are clear at the start as to whether it will be part of your agreement. If you don’t optimise your site for search engines it is a bit like building a beautiful house but not declaring the address – no one can find you!

I have a website already, but I find it really hard to use and update. What should I do?

This is a very common problem. Many clients have a site already that they love but find it a nightmare to update. This causes many headaches for business owners and also for their website rankings. Sites need to be maintained and updated regularly to rank highly on search engines.

Squarespace is amazingly user-friendly, which is why I use it for my clients. With each website build, no matter the size of the project, training is always included to make sure my clients feel comfortable updating (at the least the basics) of their website.

If you are someone wanting to build your site yourself, it is worth having a dabble around with some other companies, for example Wix or Strikingly. Strikingly can be good for a very simple site with minimum customisation.

The key thing to remember is that websites don’t need to be a drain or a chore. Find the option that suits you best and figure out how much time you can allocate to maintaining it and you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful website that supports your business.

Mary Philip is a Squarespace Expert, the only Squarespace Authorised Trainer in Scotland, a Squarespace Circle Member, Squarespace Scheduling recommended and Squarespace Affiliate. Mary works with companies of varying sizes. From startups and small businesses with her One Day Website Design service to larger businesses and design agencies needing support or custom websites on Squarespace. Find out more about Mary on her web site

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Photograph of Sarah Cowan

Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent typographic designer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan