I’m in the process of buying my first house. Maneuvering this process while working at a creative agency has me thinking how buying a home and redesigning a website involve a similar chain of events. Both are overwhelming and take a considerable amount of time and money, but buying and redesigning are a great investment, and in the end, you’re in a much better space than where you started.
Some items to keep in mind whether you’re considering a new physical or online home:
Carefully Select Your Partners
It was important for me to find a realtor who was a good communicator. Being a first-time buyer, I don’t know the ins and outs of the buying process, and there are a lot of deadlines and rules to which a buyer must adhere. I needed a realtor who would hold my hand through the process—the next home I buy, my expectations may be different.
The same goes for who you select to design, build and manage your website. If you’re choosing a third-party agency, do your homework. Review the agency’s website and portfolio, browse websites they’ve designed, read customer testimonials on and off the agency’s site, see if you know anyone who has worked with them, find out who your point of contact will be. The key here is to find an agency whose process and style work for you—you don’t necessarily need an agency who has designed a site for a company or product similar to yours.
Rank Your Priorities
With a house and a website, decide your priorities and goals up front. What are your needs, really-wants, and nice-to-haves?
For me, needs included a modern kitchen (I’m not a fixer-upper type) and at least 3 bedrooms; really-wants were a 2-car garage and a finished basement; nice-to-haves included a deck and natural gas cooking.
If you have an eCommerce website, needs might be a secure checkout that is PA-DSS certified, really-wants could include advanced product reviews or robust search capabilities, and nice-to-haves might be category refinements or special image zoom features. An agency should discuss and understand your needs and work with you on how they will function on your site. They’ll also show you how your really-wants and nice-to-haves will affect the cost and timeline for your project and the functionality of your site.
Follow-through to Success
Throughout the process, up to closing or launch, stay on top of things. If you’ve chosen quality people to work with who are good communicators and you’ve set your priorities, the development should go pretty smoothly. I’ve found the house-buying process to be more enjoyable than I thought it would be and I credit this to taking the time up-front to ensure I was comfortable with my ‘vendors.’ It takes effort on both sides for good results.
Don’t forget to take the steps necessary to make sure people can still find you. For me, this means updating my address with the US Postal Service, my financial institutions, etc. For a new website, you may need to implement 301-redirects to ensure that both users and search engines are able to find your new location. The agency you’re working with should be able to assist you, or at least advise you, on the necessary actions.
Allow yourself some time to celebrate – just like a new homeowner might host a housewarming party, you can throw a launch party. Spread the word of your new site through social media outlets, email marketing, and word of mouth. Be proud of your achievement.
The Importance of Maintenance
Finally, acknowledge that your home (whether physical or online) is not a ‘set it and forget it’ situation—you’ll need minor repairs, housekeeping, and occasional upgrades. A superior online partner will help with routine maintenance so that web outages and downtime can be avoided. They’ll also help you when it’s time to expand, perhaps for that new product line you’re launching. And at some point, whether you outgrow your house or your website needs another facelift, you’ll get to do all of this over again!