Author: dannypeavey

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Hiring a Web Design Agency? You’d Better Have Time to Spare.

For many organizations, redesigning a website means hiring a design agency. Why an agency? Because most full-service agencies offer it all. They can create a design, perform some technical wizardry, publish some content, and BAM! You’ve got a website.

In other words, you don’t have to do anything. The agency does it for you. Easy peasy.

So you gather a list of contenders, listen to their pitches, and peruse their portfolios. Then you pick one. Fingers crossed, you sign on the dotted line.

Afterward, you hope – no, pray – they do great work. And that they do it quickly.

Because most agencies take their time.

That’s the thing about agencies. They’re usually… slow.

Who can blame them? When you work with an agency, you’re actually hiring a big team of designers, developers, and project managers. They’ve got to coordinate with each other. They also need to set aside time to sketch out your new logo, share the design options with you, and corral the group for screen-share phone meetings with you.

Oh, about those meetings…

You’ll probably have several of them over the course of your website build. You take time out of your schedule, dial into a conference line, and look at wireframes and mockups. Project managers are terrified of not pleasing you, so they’ll pick your brain for feedback until your cerebellum starts to ache.

Did we mention they’ll pass you around like a hot potato?

After the salesperson closes you, she’ll pass you to the project manager. Some time goes by. The project manager has you talk with the designer. Then the developers. Then everyone at the same time. Oh, and look! Here are some different people! Maybe they brought in a contractor. Maybe someone quit halfway through.

Total time spent doing all this? 4 to 8 months. Or longer.

All the while, your existing website remains live. And it’s still costing you money.

Anyone with an insurance policy has encountered “loss of use” coverage – the indemnity against your ability to use something (a home or car, usually) and the associated costs of not being able to use it.

For an outdated website, your loss of use period begins the moment your website ceases to provide optimal value. A long design process prolongs that period. It represents more time spent not generating new business from your website.

And to our knowledge, nobody sells loss of use coverage for outdated websites.

One more thing. “Slow to build” often means “slow to respond.”

After your new website goes live, most agencies put you on a service plan. When they’re well executed, these plans provide benefits like:

  • Keeping your website infrastructure up to date. There’s a lot of software powering your site behind the scenes. The agency needs to be sure everything works properly.
  • Making changes. Whether it’s for design, content, or functionality, agencies often have a hand in making changes to your site.
  • Performing technical sorcery. From hosting to CMS changes to domain management to security, the people who built your site want to – and often need to – maintain control of the technical aspects of your website.
  • Responding to support requests. Things happen. You have questions. You need something fixed. You want to change something. You need a quick, capable human to respond to your every requests. The quicker the better.

Anyway, response time for this stuff matters. And you might not know how well your agency handles support until your website is done and you have no other choice.

For instance, how would you feel if your site got hacked and the support team didn’t have a recent backup to restore?

Or what if you urgently need to add a service page in anticipation of seasonal demand but the support team doesn’t do it in time?

Your first response might be, “I’d hire somebody else.” But if your web design agency uses proprietary software and site architecture, you might have to choice but to stick with them (and their crappy support) until it’s time to redesign your website again.

“Agencies are slow and they suck” isn’t the lesson here. We just think it pays to choose wisely.

And enter the fray with your eyes wide open! Many organizations begin a relationship with a design agency without understanding the required time commitment. It rarely matters what the agency’s “projected timeframe” for project completion is. Plan on it taking longer.

What’s more, few organizations include “support request response time” in their list of things to ask about when they interview agencies. During the selection phase, technical support seems like a far out, far off, far away thing. It shouldn’t be.

With those concerns in mind, be sure to select a web design partner – be it an agency, a freelancer, or whoever – who provides satisfactory responses to these questions:

  • Do you guarantee a project timeframe? Keep in mind that any guarantee depends on client behavior. For example, an agency can’t finish your website within a given time period if you’re on vacation and can’t check in to approve mockups. That being said, it’s a good sign when a company can tell you, “Yes. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we can definitely finish your website before [such and such date].”
  • Will I have one point of contact, or several? One is ideal. Several is hectic and confusing. Even if you speak with multiple people throughout the course of the project, you want to have a single, consistent person to whom you can relay your every question or concern. Things get done faster that way.
  • How quickly do you respond to support requests? Trust, but verify with this one. Nobody is going to say, “We’re super slow, thanks for asking!” See if you can talk to the provider’s current clients to get a sense of the support experience. Faster is better, no matter what type of request.
  • Do you prioritize certain support requests? Some support requests can wait a week. Others can’t wait 5 minutes. Find out what qualifies as “urgent” for the company and have them describe how they handle those problems.
  • Does the service/maintenance plan only cover specific tasks? A service plan might not cover all the stuff you think it does. Find out what’s covered and what isn’t. Are small, one-off support issues covered at no additional charge? For example, at One Week Website, we don’t charge extra for support requests that take less than 30 minutes to resolve. The task might not be explicitly defined in our plan, but we try not to sweat the small stuff (or charge for it).

It’s up to you whether a designer’s responses to these questions are satisfactory. What matters is that you ask the questions – and that you ultimately reap the benefits of a great-looking, effective business website that’s enthusiastically and competently supported by your design partner.

As for speed, let’s just say we’re big fans of one week design and development.

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2017 Review: 4 Things I Learned From My Almost 5 Months In Business

Wow. Have you ever been on autopilot so much in your life that you forget it’s the end of a calendar year? Ha! Today is Christmas Eve Eve – or something – and I’m just now realizing that 2017 is done. Finito. Over.

I launched One Week Website in 2017 – in fact – we’ve been in business for roughly 5 months – I say roughly because it’s really difficult to determine when your business “launches.” Is it when your idea first came to you? Is it when your website was “done?” Is it when your LLC was approved by the Secretary of State? For me, I think my key performance indicator (“KPI” may not be applicable here but it makes me feel super smart) is the first customer meeting I had which was on July 28th, 2017. On July 28th, I met a super nice lady for coffee and had an amazing discussion. She was so happy and thanked me profusely. I drove away thinking “wow, this is awesome! I’m really going to be able to help her. Business rules!”

Then I never heard from her again.

What an awesome way to get introduced to running your own company!

So I’m going to say my business launched on July 28th, 2017. So we’ve been in business for 4 months and 26 days. Wow, what a ride it’s been. Here are some of my key takeaways for 2017:

1.) I. Love. My. Business.

I did some soul searching before launching One Week Website – I went on a journey of things I loved and things I feared. And you know one thing I love? Business. I love meeting a business owner, understanding how they are successful, and using my creative, strategic juices to help accelerate what they have in place and turning it into something they love that will truly help them make clients happy. We are a content first company – we believe your messaging is THE most important part of a website – so you can imagine how the first initial minutes of meeting with a client isn’t really about a website. It’s about learning who they are as a business owner, diving into their brand identity, and understanding how they interact with customers.

It’s exhilarating.

I love it. I mean, you’re talking (or reading) from a guy who watches Shark Tank and The Profit for fun. I secretly want to be Marcus Lemonis. I love solving problems. I love people. And I believe there is an enormous amount of improvement we can all do in our lives and businesses to serve people by simplifying our messages. And the first step to doing this is meeting someone and diving into their current. Their now. I find it a privilege to be asked to create for my clients. Speaking of…

2.) We did good. (slang intended)

We’ve had a great almost 5 months. We’ve satisfied 10 clients – 10 websites in 4 months and 26 days – and I couldn’t be more thrilled to the fast start. I mean, we started from the bottom now we are here scratch. But what made me the happiest outside of the number of clients, is the FEEDBACK. I admittedly felt like One Week Website was a good idea. I mean, I lived through the hell of the alternatives. Well, not hell, but, frustration. Raise your hand if you want to learn SquareSpace for 3 years or pay $20,000 for a website? Go ahead, I’ll wait. In my past website experience as a client, I wanted a website exactly the way I wanted it (by providing examples of websites I liked) with some strategic help from someone who knew how to do it the RIGHT way that didn’t break the bank. This was something I couldn’t find. So I created the experience I wanted. And I wanted to create an experience that was honest, authentic, and against the backdrop of this insanely busy life: simple. We are bombarded with too much noise today so I wanted to answer the “what do you do” question with one sentence that ultimately SERVES someone asking the question. I wanted to create an experience that didn’t cause people to think. Any way – that’s what I wanted.

But clients want what they want.

And after your blood, sweat, and tears, this is all that matters. If clients can’t see themselves and their solution in your business, then you’ve got to change something. So, first client. BOOM, loved their website. Second client: BOOM, loved their website. Said very nice things. Third client: BOOM, roasted (The Office fans, anyone?). Same thing. Great feedback, pleasant experiences, all designed and developed in one week. I have asked every client for post job video recommendations and all of them except one (camera shy, still gave us a 5 star Google review) said yes. Getting validation on your idea is awesome. But when your CLIENTS, who I have the joy of getting to know along the way (cue fun), LOVE their website and actually enjoy the process of getting it made? It sends me on a level of job satisfaction I’ve never had.

3.) Just do something.

What “they” say about business is true: there are ups, downs, and all in between. It’s a good reflection of life. I anticipated it. I was ready for it. And ultimately I had a choice each day to wallow in whatever I wanted to wallow in. So I made a decision early on to just do something. Meet someone new. Go to the event. Put out a piece of content. Help. Someone. And you know what? I can literally trace my 10 clients to actions I took based on a choice I made in a given moment. I can even remember one evening in particular, after working several long days in a row, being extremely tired and not wanting to go to a networking event I signed up for weeks ago. I decided to follow my “do something” rule and go. And you know what? I met the owner of an agency that introduced me to a new agency “club” and I’ve met some amazing people from it – some of which I recently celebrated Christmas with. How sad it would’ve been if I decided to have self pity and cancel the networking event! I would’ve missed great contacts and future business. With that said…

4.) I’m not my business.

Launching One Week Website represented the culmination of the journey I had about 6 years before launch (and candidly, my entire life) – which is a different blog post that is coming soon. I spent about 10 years mostly working for big companies servicing other big companies. I also ran my family’s heating and air business. The different jobs I had, the experiences I experienced, and the attempts to figure out what was changing in me was equally frustrating and exhilarating. So when I went full time with the business, let me tell you, I was stoked. I’m an all or nothing type of guy so every waking moment (and sleeping moment – seriously – I would dream about One Week Website) was spent analyzing EVERYTHING about the business. Messaging, operations, marketing, sales, time – all of it. It was everything I ever wanted – and more. There were times I admittedly thought about my business every waking hour.

On the personal side, I’m a pretty big health and wellness guy. So I was “aware” of self awareness, the importance of exercise, ensuring I was eating right, and not “overworking.” But last week I got a call that one of my extremely close “framily” members (friends that are really family) had cancer. And for the past week, this moment combined with other ones have made me incredibly aware that I haven’t been taking care of myself or my stress management: heart flutters, digestive issues, and more. And I’ve had to spend time recovering. And as I write this blog wrapping up 2017 and getting ready to celebrate Christmas, I’ve had to tell myself: I’m not One Week Website. Even the fear that comes from vulnerably writing that is worth the risk to you – my visitors, potential clients, and current clients – to shout from our beautifully decorated rooftops (wait do we decorate rooftops anymore?) that:

We aren’t our businesses. We are human beings. Not human doings.

Outside of not sleeping enough or eating right, the more dangerous act is sidebaring how we are feeling and how we are doing. One of my favorite speakers said emotions are like the check engine light on your car. They alert you to something going on in your life. You wouldn’t go to the car mechanic and ask them to remove the check engine light without asking what’s wrong with the car, right? And if you keep driving that car while ignoring the check engine light then that car will eventually blow up – and so will you and I. So, in 2018, I’m going to work harder than ever before, but I’m going to keep an eye on the check engine light.

Will you join me and do the same?

I want to end this post and 2017 by saying THANK YOU. If you are a friend, client, potential client, or even visitor that has been watching us: THANK YOU! I wish you and your family the happiest of times this Christmas. And hey – you’re going to get to know a lot more of me and One Week Website in 2018. I’d love to get to know you. Send me a message at the bottom right chat program or contact us. Cheers! (*raises eggnog*)

p.s. I haven’t had eggnog in years.

Bring on ’18!

Content-First Web Design is The Best Web Design. Here’s Why.

Imagine you write for a major news magazine. You just returned from Canada’s central provinces, where you were investigating a high profile heist involving truckloads of maple syrup and hockey sticks. It’s a big story, and you’ve got all the goods on the perpetrators. You prepare a draft and send it to your editor.

But when she sends it back, something is wrong. She removed all the juicy parts – the stuff that exposes the bad guys! It’s just… gone. The story isn’t even interesting anymore.

You run to her office to ask what happened. “Why did you eliminate entire sections of my story?” you ask.

“Well,” she says. “We just redesigned the magazine. Your story doesn’t fit the new layout, so I had to make some changes.”

In other words, the magazine decided to prioritize the packaging of its content over the substance of its content. Game-changing journalism? Pah. “Look and feel” is the new muckraking. Who needs investigative reporting when you’ve got a snazzy new layout?

No serious news magazine would ever do this.

And neither should you. When you prioritize the design part of a website design project, you do so at the expense of your content. That’s risky because:

  • Your content is the embodiment of your brand.
  • Content conveys your value proposition.
  • Your audience uses your content to understand the benefits of hiring you or buying from you.
  • The quality of your content helps you optimize search engine visibility.
  • Content provides a basis for growing and mobilizing a social media following, if that’s something you plan to do.
  • Content forms the substance of your website, providing insights to (and meeting the needs of) your audience.

And so on. The bottom line is that you need to prioritize content during your web design project. You – or someone else – should create it before any web designers or web developers start building your new website.

When you don’t prioritize content, bad things happen.

Snubbing your content can result in all sorts of negative scenarios. Most of them fall under two categories:

1. Delaying your launch date

At a lot of agencies, web design projects never launch on time because the content isn’t ready. The client ends up with a nice-looking new design, but it’s full of placeholder text and stock images. Now the client has to replace all of that stuff with the real content.

That might not sound like a big deal, but it is. Creating content is hard.

Take copywriting. It’s a skill that diligent creative professionals hone and perfect over many years (and bonfires of crumpled drafts). Most people don’t realize how difficult it is until they try to do it themselves… and can’t.

And what about images? Choosing good photos is time consuming, and it takes even longer when you have to crop, resize, and optimize those photos for the web. The same goes for video production. It’s easy to make a video. It takes a long time to make a video that you deem good enough for your website.

The outcome of all these difficulties? A delayed launch date.

2. Failing to convey your message

Think back to our fictional example of the news magazine. Know what happened when that magazine published a boring story because the good version didn’t “fit” the new layout? Nobody read it. Nobody shared it. Nobody cared.

Because it was boring.

In many cases, it simply isn’t possible to squeeze your message into a design that wasn’t created to accommodate it. Sure, you’ll end up publishing some kind of message. But it might not be the one your audience needs to hear.

You might find there isn’t enough space to say what you need to say, where you need to say it. Or that you’re adding superfluous language here and there around your site, just because the design requires it.

In the end, it’s the wrong message for your business and your audience. The new layout might look good. But nobody reads it. Nobody shares it. Nobody cares.

To avoid these problems, create your content first.

That way, web designers understand the message you need to convey – and how you plan to convey it – before creating the packaging for that message. You also get a website that does the best possible job of addressing business goals and audience needs.

And if your launch gets delayed, it won’t be because of content.

So, what does a content-first approach to web design look like? That depends on the agency or design team you choose to work with. Everyone does things a little bit differently. As long as you partner with someone who follows some kind of content-before-design approach, you’ll be better off than those (most companies, really) who don’t.

At One Week Website, we actually offer two tracks for content and design. Both use a content-first process, but one involves hiring a writer to create most of your content. The other is a guided, DIY content creation program that helps you produce content that meets business goals and audience needs before any designing happens on our end.

Content-first isn’t industry-normal yet, but it should be.

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We’ve all heard that one.

Well, the same thing is true in the website design business. When you’re a design agency, every problem looks like a design problem. The thing is, a lot of website design problems are actually content problems. They just look like design problems because that’s what web designers know the most about.

The good news is that it’s easy to solve those problems by prioritizing content. Insist on a content-first approach for your new website design. In the end, your audience will love your website a whole lot more.

And your balance sheet will look just as good as your new design.

5 Things You Wish You Knew Before Hiring a Web Developer

So you’ve decided to hire a web developer to build a site for your business. Trouble is, there are lots of web development companies out there. From graphic design studios to photoshop studios to freelance front end developers on Upwork, choosing the right team (or person) can seem overwhelming.

There are even variations among freelancers and among agencies. Everyone does web design differently!

A lot of small business owners just sit back, shrug their shoulders, and say, “Well, that option makes sense. I guess we’ll go with it.” Then they hope for the best. Sometimes, it works out. But other times, well…

Let’s just say that many wish they’d chosen differently – or at least done more research before making such a consequential decision.

Just like buying a hatchback, trying a low-carb diet, or getting your kid a hamster, hindsight is 20/20 when you hire a web design company. You’ll have several, “I wish I knew ____ before ____” moments. It’s normal.

Unless, that is, you read through the 5 “wish you knews” we’re about to cover. And internalize them. And keep them close.

You’ll be far more prepared than the typical small business owner boarding the new website train. You’ll also be empowered to make the best decision for you, your brand, and your business. Let’s get started!

1. Web design and development can take forever… or no time at all.

Hire a big design agency with a complicated chain of command, and you’re bound to spend weeks or months waiting for your new website. That’s not the case all the time, but it’s common.

Big design agencies typically have multiple people working on your project. First, there’s the salesperson, who sets expectations for what the process is like and what your website might look like. Then you meet a project manager who gathers requirements. After that, you work with copywriters, designers, and the project manager at the same time as things get sorted out. There are wireframes, mockups, and weekly dial-ins. After that, they send your project off to developers. You typically don’t talk to the developers, though. They’re off practicing the dark arts coding in a dimly lit room.

And if your agency has high turnover, you might have multiple project managers throughout the life of the thing.

The good news is that you might really love your website after it’s done. The bad news is that you typically wait a really really long time.

You might think you can avoid this scenario by hiring a freelancer or, *gasp* using a low-cost website builder. Unfortunately, there are problems with these options as well.

A freelancer is not a freelancer is not a freelancer. Some are speedy and talented. Others are talented but also slow and unresponsive. And those website builder tools? They might not result in the website you want as quickly as you want it. There’s still a learning curve, and it’s not uncommon to spend days – weeks even – trying to make something that doesn’t look generic and doesn’t compromise on your vision.

With those concerns in mind, here are some ways to avoid an interminable website build process:

  1. Talk to a web design company’s past clients to find out how long their build process lasted.
  2. Ask companies on your short list why projects often get delayed. When you know the potential pitfalls ahead of time, you can take steps to avoid them (or hire someone else).
  3. Start with a requirement for when the website needs to be complete. Tell the companies you might hire, “I need my website launched by [specific date]” and see if they flinch.

We actually think one week is a reasonable timeframe for building most business websites.

2. Plan to collaborate.

Wouldn’t it be nice if hiring a web designer was like hiring a cleaning crew? You’d just greet them at the door, go about your business, and pay them when they were done. They get in and get out – no collaboration needed.

If only.

When it comes to building a new website, plan on having some pretty detailed collaboration with the web design company. Whether the collaboration occurs online or over the phone, you’ll be communicating with the company about:

  • Brand attributes, including voice, style, and tone
  • Specific business goals related to the website
  • Logos, colors, and layouts
  • Content, including language, images, and videos that appear on specific pages

And so on. The designer can’t know all of this stuff without asking you, so it’s a good idea to gather as much information as you can before the project kicks off.

Content, in particular, is something you’ll need to have a handle on from the get-go. Speaking of…

3. Content creation is hard.

Not only is it hard – it’s often the most time-consuming aspect of the website design process. Thinking back to #1 above, content creation (or a lack of it) is notorious for delaying a new website beyond its anticipated launch date.

That might sound scary, but you know what? You can avoid the “content purgatory” that plagues so many website builds. Here’s how:

  1. Choose a web designer that uses a content-first approach. The alternative is design-before-content, which could leave you with a design that fails to accommodate the content you need to publish. That scenario leads to eleventh-hour design tweaks, which means more waiting and more delays.
  2. Start thinking about content long before you hire a website company. If you can’t have all your content ready before connecting with a designer, at least have a sense of the number of pages, their tentative titles, and what sorts of elements (text, images, video) should appear on the page.
  3. Even better: Write all of your content before the designers start creating wireframes. That way your design will definitely accommodate your content and there’s zero chance of a content-related delay.

And if the thought of writing your own content makes you want to hide in the corner, you can always hire a copywriter to create the content for you.

4. Flexibility matters.

Behind most modern websites is a content management system, or CMS. It’s the software or website back-end you use to add pages, publish blogs, upload images, and tweak headlines. A really flexible CMS will even let you modify aspects of your design without writing code like CSS, HTML, and Javascript.

So, why should you be thinking about a CMS before choosing a designer? Because choosing a designer who uses a proprietary CMS is usually a mistake.

And you might not know you’re stuck with a proprietary CMS until it’s too late.

What is a proprietary CMS? It’s a CMS that one company created and one company controls. Want to add a page? You’ll need to get in the company’s support queue because they’re the only ones who know how to add one. Need to fix a layout problem right away? Good luck. Get in the queue. Nobody else can help you except for one company.

It’s like buying an appliance that only one mechanic can knows how to fix. Oh, and he’s booked well into next month. Closed on Sundays, too.

And if the company goes out of business, well…

The point is that you want a flexible CMS. Something that lots of designers and developers use. Here are some things to ask prospective web designers:

  • Do you use a proprietary CMS? If the answer is no, they might say something like, “We use an open source CMS.” Or they might say they use “WordPress” or “Drupal.” This is a good sign. Those are flexible systems that many designers and developers use.
  • Does your CMS allow me to update my own content?
  • Will you train me on how to use the CMS?
  • Do I own my content if I decide to have someone else design my website in the future?
  • Do I have to sign a contract?
  • Is there a mandatory maintenance/hosting/support fee? If there is, how much is it?

You might be thinking that out-of-the-box website builders with low monthly subscriptions are a good alternative. They’re billed as “easy to use,” right?

The thing about those tools is they might give you lots of flexibility on content, but they don’t give you much flexibility when it comes to design. Can you easily add blogs posts and tweak page titles? Yes. Can you add a new page layout to accommodate a new service or promotion you’d like to highlight? Probably not.

In their own way, DIY website builders are just as inflexible as a proprietary CMS.

5. Quality varies among web developers so be sure to scrutinize.

How do their websites look? Good? For that matter, how does the web developers own website look? It’s important.

In one sense, quality is in the eyes of the beholder. If you feel like a website has a nice look, simple navigation, and an overall professional “feel,” that might be enough.

But there’s more to quality than how a website looks and feels.

There are also things like…

  • Performance across devices – is the experience consistent on a desktop computer and a smartphone?
  • Underlying code – is it clean and efficient or messy and full of scripts?
  • Search engine optimization – does the CMS accommodate basic on-page SEO best practices?
  • Previous projects – Do they have a portfolio of previous website projects they can show you?
  • Time – How much time do their typical website projects take? And does it differ depending on if you need an express website job or if you have a large project?
  • Job Status – Are they a full-time web developer or building websites on the side?
  • Job Description and skillset – Are they a full-stack developer that knows different programming languages like Ruby on Rails and Python? Or just a developer that can build your website in Wix?
  • Process – Can they handle building the entire website themselves or will they be working with different people to build the website?
  • Payment – Do they charge by an hourly rate? If not, try to determine the starting point from a price perspective. Also, see if they break your website cost into multiple payments. Many web developers will create milestone payments which is simply a payment schedule that is aligned with the different stages of the website development.

You might not be an expert on these things, and you don’t have to be. But the designer you choose should know all about them and be able to explain why their websites excel on every quality-related front. The more they know, the fewer mistakes they will make when you hire them. Ask them!

Ok. There’s a number 6, too. We’re not quite done.

Here’s the other thing you’ll wish you knew before hiring a web design company: Just how much you were going to love your new website. Because you know what? You are going to love it.

You’ll probably even gush about it to your friends.

As long as you plan for a collaborative, content-first, timeline-driven, high-quality website built on a widely used CMS, you’re going to outrageously happy with the end result. Because if you insist on all of those things, you’re all but guaranteed to connect with a great web design company.

And the whole “I wish I knew ____ before ____” thing? You won’t have to go through all of that.

You’ll just be happy.