Whether you’re starting from scratch, looking for a little refresh or a complete brand site overhaul, there are some key elements you should consider when building out your new website.
Always Start With a Strategy
What are you goals?
Get honest about your business and think about what you want to achieve with your new website. Do you want to build a website that strictly markets your services? Are you going from a one-person-show to a team of designers and you need your website to reflect that? Are you looking to build both your services and be seen as an expert in your industry? Regardless of what your goals are, knowing them will help you build a website that helps you achieve them.
Who are you trying to attract to your website?
Knowing who your ideal client is is not only pivotal to your brand but also to your website strategy. If you’re wanting to attract young tech-types, you can go for something more modern and might opt for a non-traditional desktop menu. Including a mobile style menu on your desktop site will appeal to your audience and your brand will speak to them. If your target clients are the more traditional type, mother of the brides and/or shop local, you might opt for a more classic navigation bar at the top of your website. This is just one small detail that you’ll want to consider. The actual design and information you present should appeal to not only your clientele but also be a consistent reflection of your business.
What steps do you want users to take?
Think about how you want a new user on your website to navigate through the information on it. You want to intrigue them with your homepage, invite them into your story with your about page, wow them with your work on your gallery, captivate them with your services and have a direct link to book with you on this page that directs to contact. Every business is different, so make sure you’re checking your analytics to see where your users are going.
The natural flow for most planner websites goes something like this: Home Page > About Page > Gallery > Services > Contact
But, no one will go straight to your contact page if they have no idea who you are and the services that you offer. Some advice? If you’re starting out and are a solopreneur, really focus on allowing the user getting to know you. Perhaps you place a short teaser image and blurb about yourself on the homepage so a new visitor will feel engaged and create a personal connection with you. Or, perhaps you’ve already built a solid reputation and blog following and planners from all over are coming to your site for your knowledge. If expanding your industry expertise is one of your goals, I would suggest adding blog highlights to your homepage. This way people get hooked and can learn more information about the product or services you’ve developed.
Make a Website Sitemap
You’re a planner, which means you should be planning out your website too! Map out all the pages you’d like to include in your website, including any dropdown pages. People are pressed for time, so condense the amount of pages as must as possible.
Here is a sample sitemap:
Popular pages to think about including are:
Press – A great way to build credibility and trust if you’ve been featured in well known blogs or publications.
Process – If you want to stand out in a sea of planners, a detailed and fun process page is one way to really wow a new user with helpful information so they know exactly what they are getting.
Blog – Only include a blog if you’re committed to posting on a regular basis. Blogs are also wonderful for SEO. Remove your blog if you’re not utilizing its value, as a blog with old posts just makes you look unengaged or out of business!
Write All Your Content Prior to the Design
Whether you’re working with a designer or going at it DIY, knowing your content prior to any design will greatly impact the user’s experience on your website. Why? Knowing what copy you want to include can really impact the design. When you know the amount of copy beforehand, you’re going to be able to seriously customize the design so it stands out and doesn’t look like a template.
Mapping out your content first also allows you to thoughtfully focus on the information you’re providing to new visitors and how you are presenting it. Ask yourself if it makes sense, is it helpful and (maybe most importantly) does it add value?
Organize Your Images
I definitely recommend prepping all your images before you start your website as well. And be sure to curate an image story that represents the work you want to be hired for! The main takeaway with images is – don’t include any work on your website that you wouldn’t want to be hire to do or create.
For all of our client projects, we start with two folders, the first a “favorites” folder – this is your best work and represents the color scheme of your brand. And then a second folder that has all of your gallery images organized. We recommend 6 – 9 very strong galleries in total. (Anything more can overwhelm a user and have them quickly leave your site.) The amount of images in each gallery is just as important, include 15-25 images of each project.
When we work with wedding planners, we also recommend organize the photos in the order of the wedding day. It helps tell the story and allows the user to experience the day from getting ready to the grand exit. Another important factor is to choose your images carefully, you only need one image of the bridesmaids with their bouquet, one table arrangement etc. Focus more on the details that you helped design, opposed to pictures of the ring or the groomsmen getting ready. This is the time to showcase your talents and share your creativity!
Case Study – Ro&Co Events
Robin of Ro&Co Events (also an avid Aisle Planner user) came to use with years of experience and a seriously beautiful portfolio. She was branching out on her own and needed a website that represented her new brand in a way that gave credit to her expertise.
We began exploring her goals to discover the type of clients she wanted to work with, her professional goal to being an expert in the wedding industry and an expansion into the corporate brand market.
This jump started an inspiration of a black and white color palette – with hits of orange and blush, modern design details, fashion-forward fonts and large images.
On each page of her website you’ll find captivating copy to invite the user in and draw attention to what makes Ro&Co unique. This helps create the tone for her brand and intrigues the user to explore further. You’ll also see a call to action button at the bottom of most pages to encourage the user to the next page or to the contact page! It creates flow throughout the website and makes it easy for the user to land on the most desired page of a website.
We also created a unique feature on the contact page to target certain users, since it’s not just couples coming to the site. We offered three distinct inquiry forms for each audience: Weddings, Corporate and Social. It allows Ro&Co to qualify its clients and lets the user know they are getting a company that specializes in three divisions.
It was important to Robin to have a website that didn’t look like every other planners. One that was unique to her brand, created an experience that was engaging and left new users wanting more!
Social media links – If you’re in business today, you need to have social media links on your website. They should be placed on every page in the top navigation or bottom footer. These are the two most common places that users are familiar looking and if they are interested in hiring you, they will definitely be checking you out on social.
Call to action on each page – At the bottom of every page you should include a brief call to action and direct the user to where you want them to go next. For example, on your Services page you’ll want to link the user to your contact page or to check out your galleries.
Professional headshot – Photography is such a worthy investment, especially if you’re relatively new in your business! It’s an instant way to look legit and more experience than you might be. Think about planning a brand shoot with various photos of you working in-action, at your desk or a few flat lays that you can use throughout your site. A great way to have some beautiful images if you don’t have tons of portfolio work to feature.
A Few Designer Pet Peeves to Avoid Looking Like a Newbie!
- For headshots, an iPhone photo taken on a neutral background with good lighting is better than using a picture from your wedding. Please don’t do this… ever 😉
- Avoid including too many pictures of your family. Including a little insight into your personal life is lovely but filling your about page with your partner and baby might turn off potential clients. Most newly engaged couples are focused on their wedding and not on building a family….yet.
- Keep your branding consistent from your website to your social media pages. I can’t count how many times I see different logos used from a planners website to her Facebook page. Consistency builds trust and professionalism.
- Remove your blog if you haven’t posted in over a few months or remove the dates.
- Stick to 2-3 fonts on your website and keep your color palette to 3 colors or tones. Less is more in website design!
- Make sure your website is responsive. A website that isn’t mobile friendly will make your business look dated. Plus, new Google terms will impact your ranking if you don’t have a mobile friendly site.
Inspired to rethink your website? See more of Ashley’s work at ashleymalone.com