I build websites and, even though I know better, from time to time I find myself developing websites without having all the content beforehand. Eventually this always leads to problems, so here are my top 5 reasons why this is such a bad idea.
Reason 1: That’s Not Design
Design is more than just adding the logo and choosing the colour. If you have the chance to create something from scratch, why not take the opportunity to have it meet your needs properly. If you were creating something brand new with bricks and mortar you wouldn’t simply get the builder to start throwing up a few walls here and there. Even if you insist on focusing solely on how the website looks, How do you create a visual design when you don’t know what something is?
If you don’t have any of the content, how are you and the person building your site making decisions? What things are important? What are the calls to action? What are the conversions? How should people move around the site? What is the experience like for the user? How are you going to avoid pain points for visitors? These are the sorts of things you should have in mind during the design phase.
It is entirely possible to build a website and fling the words and pictures in afterwards, but if you’re serious about your new site and whichever organisation it’s supposed to represent, then this is the wrong way to go about things.
Reason 2: Strategy
Is there a strategy? If you’re commissioning a website without the necessary information then perhaps you’re not looking at the bigger picture. Your website is a key part of your content marketing arsenal. What role will it play in communicating with your customers.? How will the site fit in with your marketing communications strategy?
A website is an important and sometimes expensive resource that should be performing specific tasks to help you with your business, organisation or personal goals. If you need to include the domain on printed materials, then a holding page with nothing but contact details is better than a website built without the necessary thought and planning it needs to do its job properly.
Reason 3: Rework
I’m currently rebuilding a site because although I had the written content, when I finally received the website images from the client, the majority of them didn’t fit with the visual design we’d agreed on. The site needed lots of high quality, slim, landscape images. The idea was that each page would include a beautiful photograph of the products they offered, which would be at least 1025 pixel wide and approximately 250 pixels high. The images that arrived were anything and everything but that. As a result I now have to go back to the drawing board and create something that fits with the resources we have. The alternative would be cropping lots of beautiful, well composed, professional photographs into a bizarre collection of ugly, badly proportioned images that nobody would be happy with. I’m happy to accept that I’m not creating the Sistine Chapel, but there is no way on earth I’m going to deliberately create that type of monstrosity. If I’d insisted on having the images up front I wouldn’t be wasting time now by starting again.
Reason 4: Project Management
Managing projects is often difficult enough without adding unnecessary complications. If the content isn’t available at the start of the project when enthusiasm levels are high, how likely is it that they’ll materialise promptly when it’s been a few weeks or even months. It is impossible to plan effectively without having access to the materials at the appropriate time.
Missing content generates questions. When will the content be available? What else could get in the way? What controls are in place to manage the timescale. How do these delays affect other projects. Does this piece of work have a designated time-slot? Will the project end up filed behind somebody else’s because the developer couldn’t work on it when they planned to? What are the payment schedules? In this scenario either developers are wasting time and not being paid or clients are paying and not receiving their website in a timely fashion. Nobody benefits and it is all avoidable.
Reason 5: You Know Better
If nothing you’ve read so far is news to you, then you clearly already know that you shouldn’t be working this way. Television adverts of people adding their online content to site builders on the fly, perpetuates the idea that you just knock up a website in 20 minutes and then you leave it and wait for the money to roll in.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with people using site builders or frameworks to build low cost websites . For lots of businesses this is a brilliant option, but if you have made a decision to spend money paying a professional to create one for you, then give that person everything they need to do a good job.