This is a very common question I get asked as a website designer. And the answer is always an unsatisfying, “It depends.”

At least that’s what it is if I’m being honest.

The truth is, I can actually input a website in a few hours. A complete website — register the domain name, install WordPress, put in some text and a few photographs and BOOM, there’s your website.

But that is IF you really KNOW your BUSINESS! (And have all your graphics and copy together!)

The reality is, a website only comes together as fast as you can give the designer the information. The reality is, it takes weeks, sometimes months, to put together a website because the process requires you, the business owner, to really examine what you want your business to be; to know what you want to say and who you want to say it to and to know how you want your brand to deliver that message.

The key word in that last paragraph is “process” by the way. The more you embrace building your website — or all of your business for that matter — in the mindful state of knowing things are progressing just as they should, the less frustrated you will be as the process unfolds. I digress — so back to the business of making a website.

A website is a snapshot representation of your business — and if you don’t know what your business looks like — in detail — the picture will be fuzzy and lacking clarity.

Fuzzy pictures do not sell — I know, I’m a professional photographer. (Well, maybe the really artsy-fartsy ones, but that is usually not the case!)

If you don’t have a clear picture of your business, you can’t create a clear image in your marketing. Is it a cow? Is it horse? It’s sure not art.

A website is a snapshot representation of your business — and if you don’t know what your business looks like — in detail — the picture will be fuzzy and lacking clarity. Fuzzy pictures do not sell — I know, I’m a professional photographer. (Well, maybe the really artsy-fartsy ones, but that is usually not the case!)

So when you ask me, as website designer, how long will it take, I will ask you a series of questions, give you a series of tasks, coach you through a series of decisions and we will begin a journey together, that hopefully will lead to a beautiful, functional website that will bring customers into your business, add value to everyone involved’s life, and be a source of pride for yourself and your brand.

The first steps on your journey to website nirvana should be on the spiral staircase leading down into the heart of your business and here are some things to consider before you take the first step:

 1. Do you really (really) know your customer?

You really (really) need to know who you’re communicating with and selling to when building an effective website. You need to know their values, their pain points, their motivations, — and their turn offs. You also need to know how to speak their language and communicate with them at their level of understanding.

 2. Do you have your brand ducks in a row?

Just as important as knowing your customer, you need to know your brand inside and out. You need to know the feel of how you want to communicate to your customers. You also need to know very specific things to help your designer be able to communicate your brand message accurately and consistently to your customers. These details include hexadecimal or PMS codes for your colors; logos in different file types and arrangements; font names, etc. You will also need images — photos, videos — that visually demonstrate your message and are of a high enough quality to look good on today’s high resolution devices.

You should know your color codes, have your logo in various layouts, and have a good set of images in both horizontal and vertical formats. Video is also recommended.

3. Are you financially prepared to make the investment in a design or a marketing professional?

Another question I get frequently asked is how much I charge for a website. The answer is again, “It depends.” How much you know about your business and how much branding you have done will make a huge impact on the number of hours I spend on a website. It is my job to solidify your vision into a digital format, and if that vision is not clear, it becomes my job to put it in focus. That takes time. Time is money. Realistically, if you’re spending less than $1500 on a website, you’re probably not getting much more than someone who knows how to make the technology work. Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, for many, many small business owners and entrepreneurs, a designer is simply not enough. Online marketing is a moving target on an ever changing marketing landscape and unless you invest a lot of your own time in keeping track of it, it’s a good idea to have a person or company on your team who does. This expertise is not cheap — nor should it be. It is many times the factor that will position your business for much greater success and revenue. As a marketing professional, I spend an average of 10-20 hours per week researching and learning new concepts, skills, and tools. I do this so my customers don’t have to. Think carefully on whether you need a website designer or a marketing professional and then choose accordingly.

4. Do you have a business plan?

A business plan is a lot of work, but if you do it you will reap well-deserved rewards. I attribute having a business plan as one huge reason while I’m still in business after 25 years.

Ah — the best for last. Less than 10% of my clients come to me with a business plan in hand. But those 10% have something else in common: They are the most successful 10% of my clients. There are statistics to back this up — but this knowledge comes also from my experience. In order to put together a business plan, you must really think about your business — its structure, it finances, its customers, its marketing, its competition. You should also glean a good understanding of your income streams which will dramatically help you fill them from your website. These things set you up for success not only with your website but also with your business in general.

One final word of advice: Your company website process is only done when you’re done being in business. Websites are ever evolving entities these days. The work — and the process — is never really complete. To stay relevant you need to constantly be adding or remixing content plus keeping up modern technology. This means it’s likely you’ll be repeating the website building (or rebuilding) process every two years — or more — in addition to making minor changes and regular content additions all along the way. Just like being mindful that building a website is a process, being mindful of how website maintenance is going to be a routine part of your business will help you navigate all things www with a clearer mind and more open heart.

Join Kim every week as she gives you one thing you can do to move your business marketing forward.