It took about five months to design and launch the new The Brazen Soul website. I thought for SURE I could get it done way faster – after all, I am a workhorse, willing to keep at it hours upon hours until the thing gets DONE.
But that's not how creative, collaborative project go. You can't rush brilliance. And you certainly can't convince everyone else involved in the project to take on your ridiculous workhorse ways.
Creative endeavors take t-i-m-e. Time. TIME.
And patience, which I'm constantly trying to cultivate but wondering if it's just too far outside of my strengths.
That said, looking back I realize there are a number of things I could have done differently when creating The Brazen Soul website. I hope sharing them will make your next website project – or any creative collaboration – less anxiety-provoking and more streamlined.
Here are the five biggest takeaways I've had from my website redesign process:
- Direct communication with the Designer/Design team is critical. The Brazen Soul rebrand was really an offshoot of a plan to create a new website. I was working with a coach at the time and the further we got into the business details of a new website, the more clear it was that I really needed a whole new brand (actually, a new business name, too!). My coach was an excellent co-thinking partner and brilliant at helping me navigate the rebranding process. Handily, she had a design branch of her business that handled logos and websites. I like and trust my coach, so I hired her team on for this project. Turns out, her “team” was housed somewhere far far away, with a 9-hour time difference, and every single tweak or revision took from three to FIVE days. The process was excruciating. I did get a gorgeous logo out of the process, though it took something like 40 original concepts to get there (note: if you are anywhere past 5 or so original concepts, there is a serious communication problem/design skill situation.) The website creation process began to show the same patterns, so I bailed out of that arrangement relatively early. The lesson: Have direct communication with the creative team to ensure that your design wishes are heard and understood – as are deadlines and revision timeframes.
- Relationships make a big difference. I have a number friends who are designers. Most of them actually don't like to work with solo entrepreneurs and small business owners. We are notoriously undecided and slim-budgeted, I hear. So, even if they would make an exception and work with me because we are friends, I didn't want to be the one to affirm their preconceptions about entrepreneurs. The website developer I ended up hiring, Lynn, and I have worked on client projects together before as well as co-facilitated workshops and presentations together. She designed my previous website as well. As soon as I realized the error of my ways in my new website process, I called her. She hopped on my project immediately (with nary a sarcastic told-you-so comment, the lovely soul) and put me directly in touch with her favorite designer, Asha Hossain. Through lots of conversation with me, Asha (who is definitely working in the sweet spot of her strengths – she's so good) designed a site I love. The difference in angst was night and day with these mutually respectful, collaborative relationships driving my website project. The lesson here: If you know that someone is really good and you have had great experiences working with them in the past, use them again. Don't start anew with the unknown when the known is already great. (Jeez – this seems so obvious when I put it there like that. hmph.)
- A self-created wordpress blog can bridge the gap nicely. Designing and building a website takes a while, even when the whole team jumps on board immediately and everyone's plates are empty enough to concentrate a lot on your project (which wasn't entirely the process with mine, but damn close.) In my case, it didn't make sense to use my old website since I had a very different new brand and business name. So, I took my amateur wordpress blog skill to the task. I went to www.wordpress.com (not www.wordpress.org, which requires your own hosting and a bit more technical skill) and chose a theme with a customizable header. After some frustration (required of most new technological ventures, in my experience) lasting a very short time, I had a temporary home for The Brazen Soul. It wasn't fancy – but really, it worked beautifully. I made new connections every single day via that website – in all of it's simplicity – and for me, that's what it was all about – getting the new brand out there and creating meaningful relationships. The lesson here: Doing something now is way better than doing nothing and waiting for the perfect something (sometimes. In this case.)
- Let expertise drive the task while you joy ride in the backseat. Once the designer was on the task, it was all a lovely, awe-inspiring experience. We exchanged a bunch of emails about my business, the purpose of my website and details of my Brand Elan and Asha brought on her brilliance in design. Then the same process was repeated in functionality planning with Lynn of webprodigy.com. The more I let them bring the solutions and let go of controlling every detail, the more often I was happily surprised by their remarkable ideas and outcomes. The lesson here: Let go and your collaborators will bring exceptional brilliance from their strengths and Contribution.
- Pad the budget – time and money. Even with my workhorse ways and a ton of flexibility and commitment from my web team, the project took way longer than I hoped or planned. It just does. I changed my mind a few times. We had all these holidays in there like Christmas and New Years (annoying!). The copy wasn't flowing as easily as I hoped it would when it came time for me to write some of the pages. We had all of those final itty bitty fixes that happen on any project of this kind. Of course, all of that mind-changing and great new ideas added design and development costs. I don't regret a single one of those changes or additions in functionality – but I hadn't planned for them either. The lesson here: Add at least 20% (I'm making that number up – but it's about right for my project) to the time and budget for your web project so you have room to produce the most remarkable project possible.
I wish you great success on your website or other collaborative project. I beam happily every time I open up The Brazen Soul website so I know all of the time, energy and resources are worth it. Well, that and the fact that community is building beautifully through The Brazen Soul brand, just as I hoped. Let me know if I can be of service to you in any way as you venture into your project. I have a checklist for choosing a web team and a Website Planning Worksheet that walks you through the many planning details of creating a new website. I'd be happy to send them over to you if you send me an email with the request.