A wedding holds the promise to change one’s life for the better. Optimism, anxiety and possibility rule. It is an important day and many have planned for it.
Most artists and small business owners have no idea how to organize, plan and launch a successful website or online platform. But most of us are familiar with the concepts and methods of planning a successful wedding.
Weddings showcase the personality and aspirations of a couple. Your website should do the same for you.
Here are seven key steps you should attempt before construction begins on your website:
Step One – Dream
It all begins with a dream; the great “What if”. “What if this happens; how would my life change?” “What if I say yes?” What if I say no?” Expand every possibility with expansive dreams. Imagine it all. The big picture, the small details. Hold nothing back. There’s no cost in imagination. Change the world. Make people feel. This is an investment. Make it matter.
Ask questions. “Why is this project important to me”, “Why will people want my service?” “What makes my work special?” “Who is my audience?” “Who is my website for?”
There will be plenty of time for sober reflection later — for now, be bold.
An easy mistake to make in website planning is to go straight to execution or detailing design elements without giving time to orient yourself with a little big picture dreaming.
Step Two – Make a scrapbook
Many a bride-to-be creates a wedding planning album. There are SO many details to consider. SO many decisions to make. How else could you keep your head from exploding or morphing into Bridezilla? Create a scrapbook of wishes and wants. Creating an album can be a fun as well as a useful exercise.
Mood boards and collages communicate ideas when words fail us. They are used in industries as diverse as design and clinical practise. They can teach us things; beyond our conscious thoughts.
Gather clippings in shoebox, create a Pinterest board. The method is unimportant only the act of collecting and sorting is. The collection will inform the design process later on.
Step Three – What have you seen and what do you want
Does everything feel equally important? Time for sorting. You’ve gathered a large collection of ideas. Hopefully you have many more than you could possible use. Look for a theme. Is there a repeating colour palette? Is a direction emerging? A motif? Are your likes and dislikes becoming clearer?
Make notes on what you see. Ranking the ideas if it helps. You won’t have all the answers but a picture will emerge.
Step Four – Collect your history
The next three steps compare to preparing a slide show for a wedding toast.
A creative life and business are made of many parts. Who you are is not in one place. Time to gather those elements together. It’s a process that can take time so best to get it done early.
Clippings, images, any passwords should be gathered together and organized. It’s important to know where all your key materials are. Gather, don’t sort and discard at this stage.
You’re creating easy access to your past work as well as reminding yourself of achievements. How does the past compare to where you want to go? Check in with yourself. Are there any elements that you have strong feelings about?
Once gathered, keep the collection together.
Step Five – Digitize your history
Wherever possible it’s a good idea to digitize materials that aren’t currently saved as a computer file. It will speed their possible use on your future site but also protect them for posterity. Transfer audio tape to MP3, scan images to jpeg or press clips to TIFF files. If you don’t understand these file formats or have the resources to do the work yourself, that’s OK. If you can’t do it now then make a list of priority elements so they can be done later. This sorting process will help identify priorities and influence the shape your final site.
Step Six – Tell your story
An honest telling of your story will take time and several drafts. It’s a process we all must do. Every website needs an “About Me” section. Begin with that. Outline the key points you would like visitors to know about you and your work. You could also try writing a “My background/history”, “Qualifications” or “My philosophy/Why I do what I do”. These areas may or may not appear on the final site but drafting the text can be helpful for shaping the message for your site.
The tone and style should reflect you and be suitable for your industry and audience. For example: a website created for fans of a rock band will have a different story tone than a clinician connecting with new clients. Let your words and the story you share reflect that.
Don’t delay. Finding the right language and tone can be tough work. Be good to yourself. An early start preempts deadline stress. Remember, whatever you finish with will likely require a final reshape so don’t marry yourself to your draft just yet.
Step Seven – Set the date and outline a budget
You don’t have to pick a date on a calendar but you should know roughly when you’d like your site to be active. Time to decide if it’s a spring or Xmas launch that you’re looking for. What season or month would you like? Consider your schedule, present work commitments, travel plans and the world around you. A January launch is a great for self improvement tips but not for promoting autumn foliage tours of New England. Consider your market.
Nothing happens without a budget. Part of your budget is financial the other involves your time and personal energy. What can you afford to spend? What are you prepared to spend? Be realistic. Know your resources. An online platform will develop over time. This is not a sprint so don’t overextend yourself by wanting everything at once.
It’s important to remember that a website is an investment. You are not buying a website you are investing in you and your plan to develop a creative business online. In some cases a site replaces the very expense elements of a brinks and mortar storefront, office, or gallery. That needs to be considered. Always a site will require a personal commitment from you to push your platform forward to online success.
That’s it. Beginning is as simple as planning a wedding. Who knew?
You can execute these steps solo prior to meeting with your designer, or engage him to act as your “wedding planner”. The choice is yours. I would encourage you to leave any final decisions until you begin design conversations. Your job is to prepare. His is to shape that preparation into a platform.