the joys and challenges of creating a new website

It was 1997 when Siegi (my business partner) and I sat in a pub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and sketched out a concept for a website for our newly established company, on a napkin. With a little whiskey in the system and inspired by Asia, we came up with a very creative website which designers usually loved and business colleagues who plain did not understand it. It became our presence on the World Wide Web and has carried us through for the past 16 years.

One’s website is often the main point of entry, the key informant for who you are and what you do. Our business grew and thrives inspite of this port of entry being somewhat non-descript, albeit, interesting to navigate. We determined it was time to create a new website.

There is an old adage that goes something like this… the cobbler’s children have no shoes. Well, after a few starts and stops, we figured it was best for us to outsource the web design and development although Siegi was perfectly capable of creating the site. We found a great designer who came up with our new logo, look and feel, our refreshed brand, so to speak.

We even hired a writer who attempted to describe what we do. Alas, that site never saw daylight. While it looked good on paper, it did not translate well on the web. So the project stood still for another two years. Finally, we mustered up new energy at the tail end of 2013 and re-committed to creating a new web presence. This time, the determination was deep even if time was fleeting. And here we are – with a fresh website, a small toe dipped into the cesspool (oops, did I just say that) of social media with LinkedIn (still resisting getting on Facebook or Twitter) and a blog post… all thanks to our web designer/developer, IvyCat, a small but mighty web development company in Gig Harbor, WA.

Now that we are at the tail end of the development process, I can look back at the joys and challenges of creating a new website and pass along a handful of lessons, should you wish to learn from others’ mistakes.

Lesson 1 – Engage a company who has deep experience in and who focuses full time on just web development. An earlier mistake we made was engaging a graphic designer who designed for the web and this did not translate well.

Lesson 2 – Before entering into a relationship with your web development company, make sure you like and can work with the people who will be supporting you. This can be a stressful process, and if there isn’t a basic chemistry between you and the developers/project manager, it can be that much more stressful.

Lesson 3 – Allow yourself plenty of time to go through the process in an organized and detailed manner. The moment you rush to get it done, that is when you end up with something that is less than appealing.

Lesson 4 – If you are outsourcing the copywriting, ensure the person has a relatively good understanding of your business. While there are many good writers out there, they don’t always know how to capture the essence of who you are and what you do. We chose to partner with Chris Phillips who was invaluable in conveying our essence.

Lesson 5 – Allocate a sufficient budget for the project. If there is one thing that I have learned above all else, it is not to cut corners or try to shave costs from what may be important. For example, it was going to cost us more to optimize the site so that it could be viewed on multiple devices. We chose to bite the bullet and go for it at this stage because it was going to be best in the long run.

Being a perfectionist, is not usually a good trait. It makes letting great be the enemy of good enough. My personal mantra throughout the process of developing a new website was… “keep it simple and this is good for now.”

Our new website is about to launch and we could not have done it without the savvy of Ivycat and its team of designers and developers, the immense patience and responsiveness of our Project Manager, Laura, our very capable web developer, Anne, and the creative writing skills of Chris. We wish to thank them all for being the best team one could ask for. They allowed this process to be more joyful than painful.

Hello, World!