So you need a new website. Whether your old one has just reached the end of its lifespan or you're improving your online presence in the aftermath of COVID-19, you've decided that now is the time for an upgrade that your business and its customers can benefit from.
Better yet: you've read about the advantages of WordPress for web design, and chosen it as your platform of choice.
Now, the fun begins. As you dive into the actual process, you will need to keep a few things in mind to keep it on track, on budget, and on time. These 10 best practices will help you make sure that you can build a WordPress website you're proud of, designed to help your business grow.
10 Best Practices for a Successful WordPress Website Design Project
1. Start With Your Website Goals
Before even the first line of code is written, or the first graphic is designed, you need to make sure that it all goes in the right direction. That means defining exactly what you need your website to accomplish.
The answer to this question could range widely depending on your type of business and audience:
- E-commerce merchants look to their website for their main revenue stream.
- B2C brick and mortar businesses look to communicate basic information and make their business easy to find.
- B2B businesses try to build up their presence as a thought leader and gain the trust of their buyers.
- Nonprofit organisations look to educate their audience about their cause and the importance of supporting it.
Of course, these are just a few of the basic possibilities. Going into the web design project, it pays to define what you're working towards as the overarching guide to achieving success.
2. Inform Yourself About the WordPress Platform
Next, it's time to learn more about both basic and advanced features that come with building a website on the WordPress platform. As mentioned above, there are many benefits to using this CMS, but you can only unlock those benefits if you know exactly what to expect and how to leverage those features.
This list of WordPress tutorials is a great place to start educating yourself. It also helps to browse around the platform and its knowledge base. Your goal here should be not to master WordPress, but to have a basic understanding of both the platform and its possibilities.
3. Define Your Budget
No web design project comes without a budget. WordPress as a platform may be open source and free, but you'll likely need a partner that helps you build it. The process is less expensive than building a site from the ground up on another system, so that's a great place to start.
Still, it makes sense to define a specific budget or at least a budget range. That way, you know exactly how much you can spend going into the project, and can ensure that you don't go over with unexpected extras or any miscalculations. This guide can help you understand the parameters and costs of building a WordPress site.
4. Establish a Timeline
With your budget in mind, it's time to start thinking about your timeline. In other words, when would you be ready to devote your resources to building the website, and when would it need to be finished for you to effectively reach your marketing, business, and website goals?
COVID-19 accelerated the web design timeline for many of our clients. The good news, then, is that you can stand up a quality website on WordPress for relatively little budget. You'll still need to allow some time for planning, developing, and designing, of course. Having a clear start and end point can help you build those parameters and set expectations.
5. Find the Right Partner
All the above steps are essentially pre-ambles to help you prepare for this one. With your goals, base knowledge, budget, and timeline in mind, it's time to start thinking about the person or agency you want to partner with for your website project.
Here, finding a partner who specialises in WordPress website design is absolutely crucial. It ensures that you have experts on your side who are not just familiar with the platform, but have mastered building websites on it. Look for recommendations from references, and don't forget to check out the agency's portfolio to get a feeling of the types of website they've designed in the past.
This step will take some time, and rightfully so. After all, your future partner will be the lynchpin to reaching your goals and spending your budget wisely. The right agency also becomes a long-term partner who helps you not just finish your initial website, but keep it up to date over time (more on that below).
6. Establish Regular Check-Ins
As soon as you find a partner, define the way in which you want to work with them. Chances are, if you choose an experienced agency, that they have a standard workflow and process. Ask them to share it, and make sure it works with you and your own schedule and abilities.
One of the most important parts of that working relationship will be regular check-ins with your WordPress agency. During these check-ins, you should receive briefings on progress, but also make time for potential questions and discussions. Especially as your new website evolves, there might be changes and adjustments that need made, and it's important to learn about those and make relevant decisions sooner rather than later.
7. Build a Brand Style (Or Refine Your Current One)
As you establish process, your partner will also need guidance on exactly how they should build out your website. In most cases, that means establishing a basic brand guide that communicates your preferred style in a few key areas:
- Share your company logo, and how you would prefer it to be used.
- Share the key brand colours you want incorporated into the website.
- Define the fonts that you typically use when designing or writing materials for your company.
- Share some basic information about your brand 'personality'. Are you serious or casual? Educational or news-style oriented?
If you don't have the answers to all of these questions, ask your partner to help you define them. In most cases they will. And if you already have the above defined, make sure they're still relevant before sharing them for your website.
8. Check in on the Testing Process
During one of your early check-ins, it makes sense to check with your partner about exactly how they'll go about testing the pieces of your new website they're now building. Will there be usability tests or basic functionalities? How about UX testing to make sure the site actually resonates with your audience?
For most WordPress web design agencies, these types of tests are baked into the process. It makes sense to get a basic understanding of how and when they'll happen, so that you can be reassured that the final product will actually work as intended for your target audience.
9. Plan for the Hand-off
With the above processes in place, your website design project should be moving along relatively smoothly. That means it's time to start thinking about what happens when the website is finished and you're ready to take it over.
Start talking to your agency partner about what that hand-off looks like. Will they or you be responsible for procuring the host? What about the basic steps needed to get your site registered for Google searches?
You might also want to talk about potential trainings for staff who will use and update the site on an ongoing basis. That way, there should be no surprises by the time the website is ready to go live and help your business grow.
10. Create a Continuity and Maintenance Plan
Finally, it's important to remember that a finished website does not necessarily mean the end of the partnership. As alluded to above, some partners are able and willing to stay on with you or at least be available for basic website maintenance, significant updates, or emergency needs like a server failure.
Whether you'll be working with a partner on these issues depends on your budget for ongoing website maintenance. Either way, start planning for these contingencies now. That way, you'll be well-prepared to act quickly, should you need to do so.
Are You Ready to Embrace the WordPress Web Design Process?
WordPress website design comes with many advantages, from cost to security. Still, it requires a few steps you should absolutely take through that process to ensure you get the right website for your needs. The above steps can help you make sure that you can come out of the process with an online presence designed to help you reach your business and marketing goals.
To get there, you'll need a reliable partner with dedicated expertise in WordPress web design. That's where we come in. PixelFish has spent years helping businesses like yours build, expand, and optimise their online presence. If you're ready to do the same, contact us to start the conversation.