Marketing Strategy | Web Design

The four things you need before starting a website project

Tom Garfield

Co-founder & MD, brand new notebook

You’re starting a website project? I love this stage! The beginning of a brand new project feels like where the magic happens. Now, before you start anything — and I mean anything — in a perfect world your business would have these four things in place:

  1. A marketing plan with objectives 
  2. An established brand and visual identity 
  3. A written website project brief 
  4. A signed off rough budget 

Have you got yours ready?

Disclaimer!

I’m a realist. If you don’t have any of these four things in place yet, it doesn’t mean we can’t chat — in fact, I can help you get these things together and make plans before we even begin working on your website with you. 

None of these are deal breakers, but they will all make your web design project more likely to succeed and much less risky.

And even if you don’t have one or more of these sorted, then we’ve got a strategy that we recommend before the project starts to make sure your website project starts off properly. You’ll have to read on to find out more.

1. A marketing plan with objectives

So you’re gonna go and get a fantastic new website that’s gonna solve all your marketing problems, yeah?

Our survey says nope ❌

Not without a decent marketing plan to back it up and support it.

A marketing plan will help you answer several questions that will pave the way to creating proper objectives. If that all sounds a bit complicated, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Who’s your target audience?
  • What are your competitors doing?
  • What do they want from your business?
  • What do they expect from your website?
  • How should you position your business?
  • What branding and design styles are going to resonate?
  • What’s the right tone of voice and messaging strategy?
  • What content do you need?
  • Which channels should you drive traffic from, and what pages do you need to send them to?

Once you’re happy you’ve answered them, you can use your answers to create proper objectives that align with your marketing plan. It’s all part of building a successful website, and your marketing plan and objectives will give you a solid foundation to build on. Your objectives might look like…

  • We need four landing pages for our Google Ads campaigns that target four different types of customer
  • We need to develop a lead magnet, such as a free guide so we can build our email list
  • We need a strong SEO strategy with lots of content and regular blogs because we know our competitors are doing well in this area

They might look different, depending on what you want your website to achieve. Setting the objectives will help your website to be produced within the broader context of your overall marketing strategy.

And if you own a small business, even if that business is just you — you should still do this. It doesn’t have to be massive or complicated. Just going through this exercise before you start up that Squarespace or other build your own website software account will serve you well.

2. an established brand and visual identity

If I could give just one word of advice to anyone making a website, it would be this word: CONSISTENCY.

Consistency is the key to a successful website and personal brand. Establishing what your brand looks and sounds like, and sticking to those rules, will help you to stand out clearly. Launching into a website project without a clear brand and visual identity will mean:

  1. Your website won’t match the rest of your business visuals
  2. You’ll lose out on the trust and reassurance that comes with consistency
  3. You’ll be far less memorable
  4. You won’t look as professional

If your website doesn’t match your proposals or your contracts, or your uniforms or vehicles or anything else, you won’t come across as professional and you’ll lose credibility. And we don’t want that.

You need to ensure consistency across all of these areas:

  • Design
  • Tone of voice
  • Content
  • Photography
  • Service offering

And you can only do that if you have a strong brand and visual identity. Consistency creates trust which leads to sales. Getting your brand and visual identity solid will help you turn up looking and sounding the same wherever your clients find you — whether that’s on your own website, or on social media or at events.

3. A written website project brief

Firstly – don’t confuse a brief with a scope. Briefs are just that — brief. A scope is much more detailed, so I don’t expect your brief to have all the answers. Otherwise you wouldn’t be coming to me, right? 

The things I don’t need in your brief:

❌ A list of technical requirements

❌ A full planned out list of pages

❌ Every final decision made

But here are the things I would love to see in a great brief:

✅ A bit of business background

✅ Your goals — what you want to achieve in your business

✅ The problems and challenges you have right now

✅ What you think a new website might help you achieve

✅ Competitors

✅ Who your target customer is

✅ A brief summary of your marketing plan

✅ Website inspiration – what you love and what you don’t too

✅ Specifics you do know — eg. integration with a CRM

It’s really in your interest to think through this stuff a bit before you choose a website designer. Knowing this information will help me to give you a more accurate proposal and better work.

Once the project gets underway, that’s when we’ll develop the detailed scope. Your brief doesn’t need to be perfectly formatted or even well written — just chuck it all together and get your thoughts down.

4. A signed off rough budget

Let’s talk about MONEY.

There are practical reasons to get a budget agreed. Especially for bigger companies who might need finance department approval or even investor buy-in.

It’s important to have an idea of your budget because that upfront planning time forces you to think about your website more deeply. Which will always result in a better outcome.

A signed off — even rough — budget, will help you:

  • Carry out more thorough research
  • Think hard about the value of your website
  • Think about your must haves and nice to haves
  • End up with more accurate quotes from providers
  • Probably realise doing it on the cheap is a bit foolish

It doesn’t have to be perfect by any means, but it is a good idea to sit and think for a while before you start getting quotes.

So what happens next?

A marketing plan with objectives, a brand and visual identity, a written website project brief and a budget — even a rough one — will help you kick-start a website project. If you’re missing any of these four areas, or want more help pointing you in the right direction, there are loads of different ways we can work together. Get in touch to find out how I can help you get started.