When businesses begin a website project, they say things like:
Once our website is done, then we’ll look into running Adwords.
Once our website is finished, then we’ll start putting our web address on our email signature.
Once we have enough blog posts, we’ll start sharing them on Facebook.
Once we have everything perfect, we’ll be ready to go live.
The key word here, of course, is “done” and that can mean different things to different people along the way. Typically, the process of building a website can take 6-8 weeks from start to finish, and during that time we hear the statements above pretty often. Because “done” is hard to define when it comes to websites, it brings up the big question, when is your website done?
How Do I Know When My Website Is Done?
A project can be done when the scope and contract are fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean your website is “done.” You should always have a detailed scope of your website. List out what pages you’ll have, the menu structure, any special functionality, and understand the basic looks of your site. When it comes to photography, specify how much and who is going to supply it. If you don’t specify who is responsible for getting the pictures for your site, your web designer might think the site is done even though there aren’t any pictures anywhere. Scope out what special items will editable and which items are going to be locked.
Once you’ve completed the scope, there is a sanity check for your site before you can call it done. We have an extensive list of 152 items that we do on every website we build. (That only sounds excessive until you miss one!) In the end, however, it comes down to 6 things.
Does My Website Have the Right Content?
This is the difference between a “Coming Soon” and a “We’re here to help you sell more widgets” site. If it lists your staff, it should list them correctly. If you detail out your products and services, it should list the details that are worth sharing. This is honestly the most difficult part of the whole process, but this is what people are coming to your site to see. Business hours, phone numbers, refund policies all fall into this category. If you have that on your site, you’re almost done.
Can Google See It?
If you frequent our blog, you know that SEO is as important as uptime. Make sure your site can be crawled by Google and Bing. Request a crawl and check for errors. Other tools from SEMRush, SpyFu, MOZ, Yoast, and Screaming Frog all help you control what Google can see. At a minimum, you have to be visible in search if you want to have any site visitors.
Does It Say Anything Wrong?
This is related to having the right content, but is more appropriate if the site is just taking too long to launch. Many people get stage fright the day before their site goes live and they hold off the launch for another week to make sure everything is just right. This fear comes from what Seth Godin calls the “lizard brain.” Playing it safe by delaying the launch delays the benefits of your new website. If there isn’t anything wrong on your site, it’s probably already far better than your old site. You are ready to launch. More content and better pictures can always be added later.
Does It Convey Your Brand?
Wait, what? All of the marketing people reading this probably just fell out of their chair. You should have asked this question at the second design meeting. Your brand has a look and a feel and emotions that you want to convey. To misrepresent the brand will cause confusion to your potential customers at the worst time. Focus on your brand at the beginning and then double-check it at the end to make sure you didn’t lose anything.
Is It Clear About What Products and Services You Offer?
How to present your products and services should have been one of your first decisions in the web design process. However, this presentation can get lost through the revision process. Put your business and your best foot forward. If features and add-ons were part of the design-by-committee process, return to your roots. Make sure the presentation of your products and services is clear on your site. If your customers can see this, they can give you money.
Does It Tell People What To Do Next?
Your entire site should be leading your visitors to take a certain action. This is known as the Call to Action, or CTA. If your website doesn’t do this, then your website doesn’t do anything. This is the whole point of spending money on a professional website in the first place. Define this at the beginning and then keep it prominent to the end. Once people visit your website and answer the call to action, you’ll know that your website is done. But then again…
If Any of These Things Change, Your Website Just Got Undone!
That’s right. Everything on this list is subject to change. How Google sees your site, changes to your staff or other information, the positioning of your brand, and even your CTA can change from quarter to quarter. So when is your website done? The real answer is that your website is only finished as long as you want it to be. You can launch when it meets the project criteria, but you’d better be ready to edit something or post a new blog post to keep it relevant.
If you are redesigning your old website or looking to get on the web for the first time, look at these questions before you begin and after you finish. They can be a great guide to keep your current site fresh and to make sure you launch your new website on time. If you’d like us to take your new or current website through our 153-step process, let us know, or run it through a free SEO audit on the top right of this page.