Everyone is talking about content marketing, and for good reason. Your website is a home for all of your valuable content, and it should be the best, most welcoming home it can be by inviting visitors to kick off their shoes and stay awhile, or bite into your tasty hors d’oeuvres.
The Forge and Smith team are the architects ready to design and build your digital dream home. Let’s take a walk through our process. Hard hat and steel-toed boots required beyond this point.
- Building your content’s dream home with web design
Building your content’s dream home with web design
Web design kick-off and discovery
An architect can’t start to design your perfect home without your input. Likewise, we need to understand your business’ needs, desires, and areas you want to grow. Welcome to our getting-to-know-you phase. If you think a website is just a website and this seems unnecessary, ask yourself this: Is a one-bedroom bachelor suite the same as a sprawling four-bedroom, three-bath house?
We need to learn how many people will live in your new home, what type of people they are, and what they need to be able to do at home. And just as importantly, we need to know who will come to visit, how you want them to feel while they’re in your home, how long you want them to stay, what you want them to do on their visit, and what you want them to take away from the experience that makes them want to come back. All of these answers shape our building plans.
Read more on: How to Develop a Brand Strategy.
Structure and layout
Time to meet the architect, a UX designer. Their process starts with a sitemap — a basic blueprint of the content levels and high-level breakdown of the pieces of your site. From the sitemap they build out a working prototype of your website.
Much like a structural blueprint, the prototype doesn’t contain any colour. You have to use your imagination to picture the finished product, but that’s not the objective of this phase. This is when you take a virtual walk to make sure your tentative home has all the rooms and features you need. As in construction, any major changes have to happen before the foundation gets poured. Otherwise you’re looking at big costs down the road.
Read more on: Planning Before Design — Why Prototyping Makes Sense.
Interior design and decor
My name is Damian, and I’ll be your interior designer today. It’s finally time to talk colours and trimmings. We kick off the user-interface (or UI) design process with a mood board called “style tiles”, but these are no kitchen tiles. They’re small snippets of colours, typography and design elements for your site — much like a collage an interior designer would present.
It’s all about look and feel, tone and direction; possibilities, not limitations. We aren’t putting paint on the walls (because there aren’t yet any walls). This phase is about experimentation to find out what you like.
Once your site’s structure is approved we can start to get to work on your homepage — the façade of your home. We take the mood board and apply it to the architectural plans. Your homepage design is a virtual rendering and not the real deal, so the doors and windows to other rooms won’t yet open; it’s intended to give you a visual of how everything will look. From the façade we then move onto designing out the rest of your home.
Once you love what you see and the design is completely approved, construction begins. This is where the Forge and Smith developers take over. Our developers are like a crew of framers, finishing carpenters, glaziers, plumbers, electricians, and painters all in one, because they take every last detail from the layout and design plans and turn them into web-friendly code that builds out your entire website.
Moving a website is just as challenging as moving to a new house. You’ve accumulated tons of old stuff, and you have to decide what still holds value and what can get left behind. You need to pack up the content you do want, and sort it in a way that makes sense for your new home. In the world of business websites, this is called a content audit.
The great thing about moving day in cyberspace is that no one will see your furniture sprawled out on the curb while you wait for the moving truck, and you don’t have to carry any couches down flights of stairs. Migrating content to your new site is invisible to the public eye. A couple of things may break along the way — don’t worry, that’s to be expected (and we’ll be quick to fix them). Content that you’re not taking with you should be carefully put in storage (through technical SEO to prevent 404 errors).
The process of unpacking is exciting, because it’s time to set everything up just so, and turn this new house into your home.
Your furniture is moved in and set up exactly the way you want it. Art is hung on the walls, and you’ve tested the appliances to make sure they all work. It’s finally time to show the world your new home. It’s as simple as the flick of a switch; you give us the word, and your home is on the map.
Making friends & inviting people over
Now that you’ve got this amazing new home, you should show it off — that’s where marketing and digital strategy comes in. It’s important to make sure you always have the best furnishings and decor available to wow your visitors, and that everyone can see just how great it is so that they want to come inside. This comes through content strategy, digital marketing and social media.
You can’t build a home and expect it to stay in mint condition on its own. Every home requires routine maintenance on its structure and appliances, or little upgrades. In order to live up to its potential, you need to spend time every month adding new SEO-rich content to your site. You should also keep a sharp eye on analytics to monitor your site’s performance and identify strengths and weaknesses. Better yet, let us do that for you!
Choose the right websmiths
You wouldn’t choose a commercial building architect to design a log cabin vacation home, and you should put the same thought into choosing a web design team for the job. One thing I love about Shawn and the Forge team is they don’t putz around — if we aren’t a fit, Shawn will tell you up front. If you’re looking for a user experience-driven, custom crafted content hub and digital strategy solutions, check out our work to see if we might be the architects for you.
Just when you thought this analogy couldn’t be stretched any further… Here are a few more:
Google Analytics are a monthly report card for your home. Consider them to be a really thorough building inspection. They’ll tell you how your home is performing, where people are hearing about it, how long the average person stays when they visit, how many rooms they check out on their visit, which rooms are the most popular, and how often someone opens your door only to take one glance around and quickly bolt. They also tell you the top things people were looking for that led them to your home. All of this information helps you understand who your visitors are and how they behave in your home, what repairs need to be done, and what areas really shine.
Content strategy is the careful planning, organizing and curation all of your belongings — and a solid plan to have them available to residents when needed. You don’t notice that the spoons are in the right place, but if they weren’t, you’d notice right? It is understated and all-encompassing; but the details can change an experience (have you ever eaten soup with a fork?).
Domain & web hosting
Your domain is like your house numbers — it is the visual queue to direct people to your home (it’s your “.com”). But numbers are useless unless you have a house to attach them to, and a piece of land on which it can live – the land is your hosting.
Stock photos are those mass-produced IKEA art prints. Think you’ve seen it before? That’s because you have! It’s better to save up and get the original prints your home deserves. If you have to use a stock photo, learn how to brand and customize it.
Theme sites are like rental homes. Your investment is low and it does the trick, but return on investment is also low — and you might be missing opportunities restricted by the walls and closets your home comes with. Most people end up moving again and again in search of perfection but never quite finding it. It isn’t the same as a custom crafted experience, and you’re stuck with the counters and cabinets. And after all of the stress of moving in, you’re likely to discover that three of your neighbours have the exact same building structure, layout, appliances, and even colour scheme. Yikes.