When I started my consulting practice more than two years ago, my immersion into social media was, maybe, knee-deep. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I had joined LinkedIn in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2009.
Still, the social web has exploded since then. And so has my insight — although the thing about social media is that it’s easy to feel as if you’re always playing catch up because it’s changing so quickly.
Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to redo my website. I wanted to make it more interactive, to highlight my blog better and to enable posts to be shared easily. It needed a big upgrade with respect to its social presence and capabilities.
The journey has been bumpy and difficult. And it’s not over, yet. But it sure has taught me a lot!
5 lessons I learned by redoing my website . . .
(that I wish I’d known beforehand!)
1. Make sure your programmer and designer listen, well, to what you want and can convert those ideas into action
I definitely should’ve spent more time interviewing former clients of the first designer I hired to make sure his skills and approach would translate into a partnership. He ended up designing the site he wanted. Not the one I wanted. And then kept trying to talk me into it, and told me that others he showed it to had liked it. Ugh. To the team redoing your website, you are the important audience. The project should feel like it completely meets your specs and communicates what you want it to.
2. Check their Twitter feeds and blogs
Find out: Do they communicate on a somewhat similar plane as you? Do they share as frequently as you want your posts Tweeted, Buffered and Pinned? Do they know the kind of tools and plug-ins that are on the cutting edge? Just because a designer or programmer is talented doesn’t mean he or she is going to really understand the way you’re going to use the site and need it to work. If your potential designer/programmer’s social presence clashes with yours, RUN. Tweets with expletives? A dead giveaway (and now I know.)
3. Study up so you know what you want
If I am going to have my house painted, I don’t need to know the best techniques. If I am going to get my taxes done, I am not going to brush up on the latest regulations. But social is different. Week to week, things change. Tools come on the scene that make things better, easier, prettier. Trends shift in warp speed. This is not the area to outsource completely to a designer or programmer — even a good one. You’ve got to know the tools you want to be able to guide the process and site development so you end up with something close to what you envision. I’m not talking about being a dictator. But I am suggesting you have to a partner if you want to love the final product.
4. Know when to give up
I stayed with my first designer (who brought in a programmer I didn’t know — another big mistake) way too long. I knew he wasn’t getting what I wanted, or more precisely, wasn’t listening to what I wanted. I knew this wasn’t going to be the partnership I needed as tweaks to the site would crop up. I began dreading meetings and phone calls, which were not returned very promptly. I got to the point where I had paid for 3/4 of the job. And still hated it. Why didn’t I just leave earlier? That is my advice to you, if things are sliding steeply down hill… just start over. And get an escape clause in the contract that doesn’t leave you paying for work that didn’t meet your specs. I got out of the last payment, but not before it got ugly, which was unfortunate.
5. People skills matter as much as designing/programming skills
This is social media, for goodness sakes. The person or team you pick to redo your website needs to not just display professional social media skills. They have to display professional social skills, period. This project you are embarking upon is intensely personal, very important to your business, a reflection of you and responsible for driving customers and clients to act and buy. You need someone who totally gets that and can translate it into a site that works for you. And to get that, you need someone dedicated to working with you.
So, my website redesign odyssey is, finally, almost done.
I am thrilled with my new team, Yurich Creative. They did my new logo. They found fonts I love. They made awesome design suggestions. And they took my requests for plug-ins I wanted and the sharing capability I pictured. They didn’t know every tool, but were open to discovering and incorporating things into the design.
Their suggestions clearly showed that my descriptions of how I wanted the site to look and work resonated with them. It was wonderful! Ahhh.
I wish I could’ve made this progress without learning these 5 hard lessons. Some of them might look silly, in hindsight. But I learned. And I think that’s why this go-round went so much more smoothly.
And, hey, all of those hassles did provide a great idea for a blog post. Feel free to share it. I want others to learn from my mishaps, as well. And I would love to hear about your bloopers and triumphs with your own website redo. What lessons would you add to this list?