The No-Bullshit Guide to Architecting a Website
Tanya Khanna, Founder, Epistle Communications and Suneet Zishan Langer, Director, Epistle Communications
There are a lot of firms out there with no digital signature who seem to be doing just fine. Because they began in a world where relationships and referrals were king. You networked with the right people, built relationships and trust and that’s what brought in work – and more work.
But the world today has changed with the internet and a smartphone in every hand.
Today, even word-of-mouth referrals will look at your socials or website before making the final decision to hire you. And the competition out there is fierce. You don’t just need digital presence, you need to be able to stand out. Here are a few tips on how to get there.
1. What you need to ask yourself is: Who are you and what do you want? (From a Business + positioning perspective)
If you’re a creative who loves their 9-5 and has no real plans of going solo anytime soon, well, maybe your Instagram or Behance or ISSUU portfolio works just fine for now.
If on the other hand, you’re a creative looking for independent projects or starting a business, or struggling with new projects as an emerging design business, you need a website
Maybe you never had a website, maybe you do, but if you’re unable to get the projects you want, or tap the clients you like, -- it’s time for you to evaluate if your website design works.
But websites aren’t just about getting business, they are about getting the right kind of business – the business you want.
You need to have figured out your USP, your value offering, what distinguishes you from your competition, how you and your services can solve the problems of your clients
And this is where a portfolio differs from a website.
When am I ready to have a website- If you need business, you need to solve problems. And the moment you’ve figured out how you can do that, you’re ready to launch your website.
2. What Platform do I use?
Wix, Wordpress or Squarespace- Pick a platform and stick with it for at least a couple of years- Because honestly, it will take you about 6 months to crack any 1 platform, if you are developing it all by yourself. Wix in that context works well. It helps you design, it develops, offers domain, email services - ALL in one space. For a startup- you really dont want something more complicated.
Alternatively, Be prepared to spend about INR 40,000-60,000, going upto INR 3,00,000 if you do decide to outsource it. Ask the developer the right questions- Benefits of a custom coded website? Keep in mind the page-speed loading time, speaking to developers about how fast the site loads on mobiles, is the site mobile- responsive, is it mobile-first? A user's first preference will be to look up your website through their phones. Are tapping buttons, scrolling assets of optimum length? Etc etc.
Beof whether the developer can achieve all the parameters above and not only work on custom templates.
3. The next step is creating a web map - A list of pages and sub pages, hierarchy, and how they are linked to each other -- The intent is to keep it as simple as possible so that the user can self navigate, while being able to access the information you want them to see.
It needs to be intuitive, instinctive- Don’t just make things look pretty, make them easy to use and navigate
4. Content: What goes up and What doesn’t? Ask yourself before you ask anyone else.
Keep the Homepage simple - Showcase your strengths by adopting your own tone of voice
Let the Projects Page be a narrative- Focus on creating stories, instead of a slideshow- Make the user read what you want them to see. Show what challenges were solved and add testimonials
Have a news or media page or a blog- To show a third dimension to your brand’s work.
5. Ensure that the site is Google Friendly and SEO enabled- No point in having web presence, if no one can find you on Google.
More than Anything - A website is as powerful a tool as social media- maybe even more. It is therefore more important to be honest and keep it updated.