et's just agree that things are better when they are prepared. From dinner to dinner parties to websites and marketing. A little planning goes a long way. When you've made the decision to embark in a new online presence you should be prepared for a lot of things, like running through your deadline, and running over your budget, if you don't prepare. Recently our company purchased a new office space. It was once an old cafe/pizza place. Great bones, an outstanding view of the 18th hole, close location to UBC-O (more on why that was important later) and an outdoor space made it a no brainer. Even better for us was the location being far, far away from downtown Kelowna and it's mounting problems. We jumped. This is where we wanted our next office to be. Next came the budget and preparations. Now we bought the space at the tail end of 2021 and at the time of writing this we are looking 2023 square in the eyes. When it was closing at the end of last year we thought out loud that our budget, plans (all in our head) and ideas would be super easy to accomplish. Three months tops and we would be working for the weekend in new digs. Excuse us while we choke on those words. In fact, it was just last week that the official plans fro the architect began to take shape into something tangible. We're still a long way from permits, and all the other good stuff like occupancy because at this stage not a hammer has been swung.
“To be successful websites need planning. Not only do they need a sitemap to follow, but also content, graphics, and the intangible items like style should be firmly laid out.”
In our previous offices, whether leasing or owning a lot of the heavy lifting was carried out by a builder. In more cases than not, we were just making small cosmetic adjustments that didn’t require an Architect, Health Authority or Strata to approve. This new office was a much different process for us and one that begs comparison to building a new website for customers who are out of practice. Understandably we had to tear out all semblance of what was once a pizza, bakery/Brazillian meatball cafe and turn it into a calm and elegant place of digital marketing. Many of our customers face the same issues with their digital marketing. How do we change what we were a few years ago to better reflect who we are now? Let’s face it. A lot of us – you, me, them have changed since the “end” of the Pandemic. It’s pretty natural to want to shed our pre-pandemic business selves and reinvent. It’s also entirely easy to do with careful planning and a healthy budget of time and money.
Where do you start when you want to reinvent yourself online? If you were hoping for a list then you’re in luck. If you were hoping for a magic bullet, sorry?
Setting Realistic Expectations/Goals
Setting realistic goals and expectations for a project is a great place to begin. Dates are helpful as a universal way to communicate with every supplier on your project. There’s not too much one can argue about a date. It either comes or it goes. My advice in today’s hyper-paced wanted it yesterday world, is to be more generous with this particular budget than was ever required before. Grab a calendar and look at what you’ve got coming up. Factor in weekends for creative burnout, add in a week or two for personal time and then add a few more weeks for good measure. This should give you a good start. It’s also good to confer with your developers before you sign the contract. They’re likely as busy as any builder, or Architect. Don’t expect that just because you’ve signed and sent the deposit that they’ve already started. All your deposit has gotten you is likely a spot in line. Most marketing businesses are working on a whose next basis these days with funnels that are very full. Trust us when we say that working with your first choice regardless of the wait is often worth it in the end. I was so happy that we waited for our Architect to make room in his schedule. The end result is exactly what we hoped for and in the end all the months of waiting allowed us to really dig into and explore some cool concepts.
Setting Realistic Budgets
This is one I have personally never been great at. I know what I want and as a rule that wanted thing is generally the most expensive option. It can be a problem, but one thing I’ve learned is how to compromise and how to listen when it comes to budgeting. Listening for queues is key when you’re setting a budget, but so is planning. When someone’s face changes expression abruptly in a budget meeting you should pay attention. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want right out of the gates, either due to time constraints, cash flow, or these days’ availability crunch. What you can do, is make a plan to add said items later down the road. I like to plan things in phases, very similar to a house build. We start with a top-level budget and filter it down from most to least important. Most important are the bones of the building eg: electrical, HVAC, plumbing, drywall, etc., next are the fun things eg: fixtures and finishings. A website is no different, you need to have the foundation in place before you can add the things that make it come alive. Start your budget with a good foundation and spend the money on getting the bones. Don’t blow your budget on one home page animation that will wear out its welcome faster than your neighbours Airbnb. That means getting into a website that is up-to-date to start, secure, and fast. From there you can plan to add new sections, animations, and lead generation that will make it more worthwhile over time. It’s hard to go back when it comes to technology, so keep that in mind when you set a budget.
Organizing your assets & vision
Get familiar with a free, easy-to-use cloud storage system called Google Drive. Use Google Drive to create folders that you can share with suppliers to keep the project moving, keep everyone informed, and track your progress. For instance, when we started designing the new office I created a series of folders for potential suppliers to view and collaborate with. Pictures of the space and surrounding area, interior and exterior vision boards, potential floorplan layouts, and existing documentation on the buildings mechanical were all carefully organized into various folders. These folders were then shared with the appropriate suppliers. It made it easy to see who had viewed the docs, we can message within the folders and all information was centralized even though we were working between multiple cities. The best part about using free tools like Google is that they are efficient, secure, and free. Get familiar with Google’s business toolset and stop wasting money on flashy software that does less to keep you organized. A website project should contain folders like Sitemap, Logos/Branding, Content Map/Docs, Images, Mockups, and whatever else is important to the project. Each folder will likely have various sub-folders associated within that hierarchy.
Tracking your progress & budget
Reviewing your progress can be tied to a few metrics. Time is one. Money is generally the other. How much have you spent and where has it landed you on X date is generally the equation we look to when it comes time to quantify a project. It’s important to stay in touch with your project. Some developers will provide progress reports, others will provide live wire-frame links where you can watch the project evolve in real-time. This will vary between project, developer, and customer. Again, it’s all about communication and planning. If you know that you need regular updates like sands through an hourglass then spell that out early to your team. If you’re happy with setting a date and surfacing for air until the reminder bell chimes then I always say prepare to trust in the team you hired and hope for the best. In the case of our office space, it’s been a long haul. Much longer than ever imagined to inch barely forward. But man, can I see it all so clearly now and it is EXCITING. And that’s exactly how you should feel when you plan ahead to work with a great team on your next website.