Killer website ate my time!

March 11th, 2015

 

"Eis" © Gerhard Richter

There’s a phrase I’ve never heard, but in a recent review of our ‘Brand for Small Businesses’ product and the projects we’ve completed under that banner in the last year, I discovered a pattern. A pattern that pretty much makes this statement true.

Positioning your new business correctly in the marketplace is hard, and the product we’ve designed to help businesses with exactly this is a process. It starts with a brand strategy that matches your business vision and goals and ends with a live website that communicates appropriately with your audience and makes sure you’re attracting the right kind of clients, contracts or sales. This pathway is disrupted by many, very important questions and it is our job, as client-focused, information designers, to equip you properly to make those loaded decisions with confidence so you can inhabit your brand and know that it is working just as hard for your success as you and your team are.

The process always starts well – once we’ve nailed down your creative brief, the structure and understanding we’ve given you through that initial round of questioning means that measuring design concepts for effectiveness feels relatively easy. Once the brand identity is finalised we’re free-wheeling for a bit – out pops the brand collateral you need for your business to function and the momentum brings a sense of urgency. The brand is taking shape and you can’t wait to share it with people: ‘Business cards, now!’ you scream excitedly (well, in my head at least). But then, and we know this is coming, there’s the website and the metaphorical path we’re on may as well come to a collapsed bridge over a vertiginous ravine. Nine times out of ten this part of the project, which in theory should take four to six weeks, ends up taking between six and twelve months, and we know why.

Generally there are three factors at play:

  1. Selling ourselves doesn’t come naturally to most of us. This is a major stumbling block, many of us find the idea fundamentally uncomfortable and the mechanisms of it feel so unnatural that we can spend time seriously thinking that perhaps we don’t need a website after all.
  2. The pressure of the written word. In conversation language is much more flexible, the reciprocal nature of talking to others means we can gauge how much someone is understanding and drill down or lighten up accordingly. We can get it wrong and correct ourselves perhaps feeling merely embarrassed by our mistake and not bankrupted by it. But on a website we’re saying the same really important things to everyone and so suddenly language, previously so much more flabby, has to focus, slim down and deliver your messages in the right way for your audience. Finding your own tone-of-voice and working out how much or how little to say is really difficult and takes time.
  3. Fear of exposure. Both of the preceding factors are probably underpinned by this one but fear of exposure is also very personal. We each have our own specific tender points which this messes with and of course discomfort of this kind often results in complete avoidance of the bothersome area.

Now, if I were more of a hard-nosed business woman I would be offering a slightly different product. Imagine how much better for our work flow it would be if, caught up in the momentum of the project, we extrapolated your brand into a website front end, built it as a shell, hooked it up to a content management system, uploaded it and submitted our final invoice. Leaving you to face the horrors of exposure, the inertia it brings and the ever multiplying mortification of an incomplete website alone, or perhaps ending up with a website you have no idea if you feel confident about.

However, my business thrives on genuine recommendation and I know that the way we work with our clients through this process: providing a framework for incremental progress; offering expert counsel on the ‘how much to reveal’ question; using our experience cross-marketplace to be a useful sounding board; working collaboratively to develop content; suggesting angles to help pitch content properly; adapting the front-end design to work better with emerging content; this way of working makes for a much more valuable end product. What you end up with is not only a well-designed, structured and populated website that’s actually driving your business towards its vision but also, as a business owner, you find you really do own your own language and messaging which can only lead to further success for your business.

Of course now I’m panicking that I may have revealed too much, I should have waxed on about how smoothly and quickly we can make you a new website, but I did promise to be genuine here in this blog. And of course in the virtuous circle we try to tap into every day in our work here, we’ve discovered that it always comes as a massive relief to the nine out of ten people we’re talking about to know that what they are experiencing is very common. Now I’m off to hide under the desk for two days and worry about what I’ve said.

 

  1. you can come out from under the desk. it;s ok!

    by: Annie on 11th March 2015 at 3:38 pm

     

    • Phew!

      by: shaell on 11th March 2015 at 3:46 pm

       

  2. The three factors you mention are so familiar. I’ve experienced this with clients in the past and I think it will reassure people who might be thinking about, starting or currently in the process of, launching their brand. Keep the genuine thoughts coming!

    by: Eileen Peters on 11th March 2015 at 3:43 pm

     

    • Thanks Eileen, good to know you have experienced similar things and it’s not us driving people insane!

      by: shaell on 11th March 2015 at 3:51 pm

       

  3. Yes to all that you say! All the elements you describe – and we’re working together on this right now so it also feels fresh and, well, exciting. What I’m really loving in this first phase of brand/website/logo development with you are the fabulous breakthroughs / brainaches / laughingfits / focus / distractions / inspirations / images all in service of the breakthrough that happened with a certain page number and now clarity! Hard work and fun all entangled? Not too shabby.

    by: Greg on 26th March 2015 at 10:56 am

     

    • Greg! Yes! I am glowing with pride because all the things I hope to bring to these projects you have clearly experienced. Your curiosity and enthusiasm for everything I threw at you has been joyful and invigorating and your playfulness has taken us deep and far on our creative path. And what price that clarity when it comes to driving your business forwards eh? Most excellent client.

      by: shaell on 26th March 2015 at 2:16 pm

       

  4. I’d just like to point out the number of semi-colons in this particular blog. Just sayin’.

    by: Annie on 2nd April 2015 at 2:11 pm

     

  5. Well worth the wait to read. I hasten to add that the wait was due to my occupation with various pressing matters, not a delay in you writing this. I found this blog a very interesting read. It shows why you are not just another web designer – you are something a lot more special. A certain M & S advert could be played now.

    by: Ann on 29th April 2015 at 10:45 pm

     


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