You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re asking you to give them all the things they will need to create the site. The problem is you don’t know the first thing about it, so what do you do? You can start with this list of things that most if not all website designers and programmers will need in order to create a new website:
1) Unformatted digital text – be prepared to give your development team all of the text for your website in one UNFORMATTED, Microsoft Word or Word Pad document (or other digital word processing file). Be sure to label each section of text with the page names that the text goes on (so put “About Us” at the top of the text for the About Us page and so on). Make sure that the headers for each page in this section match the names of each page. These page names should correspond to and match the primary navigation tabs on the home page and any sub tabs or links that may be included with your site. Don’t forget to include all the headlines, sub headlines, and other text that you want used through the site (you may want “pull quotes” to be used on side bars, for example or quotes or captions to be used on photos; also include all the contact information, copyright dates, email addresses, names of employees.) To ensure you don’t forget anything use your initial “site outline” that you should have created when you asked for the quote for the job, as a guide for the text you need to write and prepare.
2) Website Instructions – First let me say that there’s nothing more dangerous and confusing than receiving 35 emails each with a snippet of text or a photo with a name like “25944GP.jpg” or other files that are not properly named and prepared to be handled by the development team. Be sure to include any and all instructions for the website in the above “Digital Text” document (these instructions can be before or after the text for the site). Be sure to make a clear differentiation between the web text and your instructions, perhaps by writing the instructions in colored text or a different font.
3) Correctly prepared and formatted Images – The exact size of photos that your team will need won’t be clear until AFTER the design phase of the web development is done. For that reason it’s just better if you give your team the biggest, highest resolution images you have. If you have those images on your computer, do not try to email them to the team by embedding them into a word document or an email. You CAN send them as an attachment to an email OR better yet use a service like “drop box” or see if your team has an “FTP” server that will make it easier for your to transfer files that are very large. If you try to email these images they may clog up your email software’s outbox and even if they go out of your own email system, you won’t have any way of knowing if the client can accept files that are that big. For that reason it’s just better to upload them to an FTP server or use a system similar to Drop Box.(to use an FTP site, someone from your development team will have to send you the instructions and log-in information separately). Be aware that not all images are “ready to go”…and your design crew may have to do some photo retouching, cropping, resizing and other word that may or may not be included in your initial website quote. If you have a choice to send your images in a variety of different file formats, most designers would prefer .jpg images (pronounced J-peg).
4) Image and file Naming – Be careful how you name the files and images that you give to your development team because it’s REALLY hard and very confusing when they get files or images that are named “qap239r809.jpg”. If you could name the photo or file WHAT it is……that is very helpful and avoids unnecessary delays. If the image you are sending is a photo of “Mary Smith” then you could just name it Mary Smith. It would be even better if you could add the name of the page where you’d like that photo, for example marysmith_pricing.jpg (don’t forget you can’t ADD a period in the text name…. you CAN add an underscore OR a dash, without a problem – no other characters can be inserted into a file name and the .jpg part is added automatically so you don’t need to worry about that part…just name the first part of the file name (before the period) as I’ve explained here.
5) Captions – if you would like a caption on or above any of the images, please provide the information to your team by creating a list using the Image file name (see above instruction about naming your files) plus the text that goes with that image next to the name. You can include this list with the text for the website (with the instructions, before or after). If your website is going to have a series of photos with captions, you’ll want to consider how those photos will look next to each other and try to keep any text or captions that go with the photos in a similar style and length. It’s better not to have one photo with a big, long sentence under it while another photo has two words. Also remember that if your site is going to have any moving images or text, which are usually programmed with FLASH instead of HTML, for example, you will want to have those captions of similar length and style as well.
6) Forms – if you plan to have a form on your website, be sure to include the text for the form (or the field names, in other words) with the unformatted digital text that you’ll be providing to your development team. Also you’ll need to include the email address where you want the form information to be sent to (so for example if you have a form on your “contact us” page, then whenever someone fills out that form, your team will need to know what email address you’ll want that information to be sent to).
7) Logos – you development team will also need any and all logo artwork that you use for your company and possibly the name of the font that goes with your logo and business package (some companies have a typeface or “font” that they use for all of their outgoing materials and some organizations even have instructions or rules that go with those fonts & logos, that a marketing team would have to have in order to use those items correctly). Be sure to send your logo in the highest resolution possible and if possible send the version that’s color and the one that has a clear background or no background. If you are not sure which logo to send, then I’d suggest that you send them all the logos you have (you can include these files with the images you will be emailing or posting to the FTP site or putting into “Dropbox”).
8) Social Media Links – if you want social media links on your website please send the links or web addresses to each of your social media webpages. Try to avoid telling your programmers “can you link my website up to my Facebook page?” because this opens up a whole new can of worms and a number of opportunities for the programmer to connect your website up to the wrong Facebook page. If you want your site to be developed quickly and correctly, make it as easy and clear as possible for your team so that you minimize confusion and maximize the chances of things being done right the first time.
9) Contact info – Don’t forget to include any and all current contact information with the content for the website including all the email addresses you want listed on the website (and where you’d like those items to be listed or located).
I often hear horror stories of companies who have hired someone to work on their website, only to have that person drop off the planet or stop working on the project abruptly with no explanation. I’d wager to say that these people get frustrated asking for materials, waiting for them, asking for the next thing, then waiting for that item and so on….only to lose time and money and ultimately any and all profitability on the project. This isn’t inevitable however and you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of having any major issues if you will take the appropriate amount of time on the onset of the project in order to prepare the materials that your team is going to need.
Finally, don’t forget that your development team is most likely made up of a number of people – you may have a marketing person who is helping you plan and outline the site, a copywriter who will help you to write the text, a designer who will develop the design of the website, a programmer who will program the basic site (an HTML programmer or WordPress Programmer, for example) and possibly other programmers who will do specialty programming such as FLASH, database or E commerce programming. Finally you may have someone to help you after all that’s done to market your website and get it listed on the search engines. You may not need to send all the above information to each person who is working on the site, but it will be helpful to you and certainly the initial people working with you to be able to see all the information in one place – well-organized and clearly thought out – before they start on your web development project.