She’s a beaut, eh? I’m very proud of my work on this site and have finally reached the point of being pleased with it rather than embarrassed. It took me a while to get to this point, though…longer than it should have! There’s lots of advice I give to people when I build their sites that I didn’t follow. So, for your benefit, where’s where I went wrong…and you don’t have to.
1. Weak Identity
Traylor Creative, Inc. came into being officially in December and I only started thinking about it in the fall of 2014. Before that, I had no brand–I was the brand! So when it came to trying to design a site for myself, I didn’t have any kind of history to rely on. I’ve been trying to pull together a logo and branding WHILE working on the site–bad idea. The simultaneous creation of branding and this website meant I’ve done four major revisions to this site–probably all before you’ve even seen it.
Does this mean that as a new organization you need to have all your ducks in a row before building your website? No, I don’t believe so. But what it does mean is that you need to settle on what your identity is while you’re figuring out your identity. For me, I should have built a simple lisatraylor.com site as I worked out the greater identity for Traylor Creative. If you’re a small church, non-profit or doctor’s office, you may need to use yourself as your brand while you get going.
2. Mismatch Between Core Functions and Wordpress Theme
Another reason I’ve done 4 major revisions was because I planned to build this site based on a highly specialized church theme for WordPress called “Uplifted.” It does amazing things–beautiful slider, my favorite Events module (for the calendar), perfect for an online staff directory, amazing ability to categorize & group sermons….but man, it was overkill for my little site. Some of the robustness of the function programming led to less design flexibility than I was expecting. In the end, I got my current theme, Mist from Mojo Marketplace’s end of year sale. It’s still not a perfect match to the functionality I need (if you’re here in January, you’ve probably noticed my slider linking to nothing) but it’s got everything I need and isn’t bloated with features I won’t use.
When I design for you, I’m going to try & find the best theme match for you not only in terms of looks, but also functionality–it’s definitely easier to add a function or two with plug-ins rather than backward engineer an over-built site.
3. Designed On The Fly–Didn’t Dedicate Time
Perhaps my biggest issue was trying to build this site in the middle of several other major projects. I never really did sit down and take a comprehensive look at what I needed to accomplish. Thankfully, I had outlined the site before I began work and done some writing, but when it came to actually figuring out what images to use, where to put my email signup pop-up, what I wanted in the sidebar…I drew a blank. Some things are still blank or click to nowhere (yeah, like my social networking buttons). If you want a comprehensive design, give it comprehensive time.
This is why when I work with you, I ask you to gather your materials together ahead of time. This will keep your project from stalling out mid-stream or even keep me from getting distracted by other stuff. When I’m building your site, you’re my top priority.
As the client, this is important for you, too. Being available to answer questions, brainstorming what to do when things don’t go as planned, and prioritizing site function help keep me on track. Your engagement during the build is essential to sticking to our timeframe.
Building your website can be a joy or a total pain. Preparation ahead of time, knowing who you are and carving out dedicated time during the build are all important ways of keeping it fun rather than futile. Plan ahead and enjoy the ride!