So, you recently hired an agency to build a new website and improve your online presence. Congratulations!

Designing a new website is an exciting time for any business, but it’s demanding and may require a lot of work for your team. Internal preparation is paramount, as it allows you to get the most value out of your website partner and makes for an overall smoother process. You’re smart and don’t want your project experience to feel like a second job on top of your primary duties, so start your preparation as early as possible. It gives you the best chance of minimizing delays and creates bandwidth so you can launch a great website.

As a lead producer with nearly ten years of web experience and over 100 projects in my portfolio, I’ve seen many clients struggle throughout the redesign process simply because they don’t take a few minutes to get organized. Here are some things to work on in advance for your project kickoff.

1) Identify and (re)write content that may be missing or poorly communicated on your current website.

Projects can stall for many reasons, but the most common is because clients struggle to produce their content. Unless you write often, creating quality website content can take a lot of precious time. Trust me when I say if you’re planning to update your website copy, you want to start writing as early as possible.

Scan your website and take note of content where you see an opportunity for improvement. Think about how you would rewrite it, then jot down some ideas or bullet list what you want to say. Don’t worry about perfection, and it’s okay if your thoughts aren’t entirely fleshed out yet (we can do that later). Focus on the essence of what you want to communicate and come back sometime later after you’ve had time to mull it over. You will be amazed at how quickly ideas start coming to mind, and they’ll flood in even when you’re working on something else.

Let’s face it—not everyone can be a skilled copywriter, so don’t be afraid to lean on a professional if writing is not in your wheelhouse. If you think you will struggle with writing content, save some budget for copywriting or, at the very least, copy editing so you can focus on other things.

2) Organize imagery into a shareable folder.

If you have custom imagery from a photo shoot or a backlog of photos you’re currently using on your website, then now is the perfect time to organize all of it for easy access. I like Dropbox or Google Drive because you can quickly share folders, but there are numerous other platforms for sharing content. Find what works best for you and your team and send it to your agency for review.

Make sure folder names are descriptive and clear, so it’s no mystery what images are inside. I always like it when clients create folders that match primary page names. It removes any doubt about where images should live. Also, for images of complex or technical processes, please describe what each image depicts or hint at it in the photo name.

If you don’t have images and hiring a custom photographer is not within your budget, ask for help in sourcing stock photos. Your designer can find natural, candid photos that communicate the right emotions for your design.

3) Gather all design assets, style guides, and brand requirements.

Most designers will give you multiple file types of logos and other brand assets at the time of creation, such as custom iconography and graphics. Find your logo in a vector file (such as .svg, .ai, .eps, or .pdf) and share it with your agency. Please don’t send a .jpeg logo unless you want it to look blurry. If you can’t find it, reach out to the designer who created your logo and ask for a vector version. Worst-case scenario, if you can’t get your logo in a vector file, you might consider asking your account or project manager for a quote to recreate your logo in vector format. It will come in handy for the website project and any other assets you create moving forward, so it’s time well spent.

Also, if you have a brand book or style guide, please send it to your designer to ensure proper handling of your website styles.

4) Login (or gain) access to Google Analytics (GA) and share your account with your web agency.

Reviewing historical data is imperative for optimal website strategy and benchmarking, so it’s worth your time to share your GA account with everyone involved in the website project. While you’re at it, share your Google Tag Manager and Google Search Console as well. Don’t have them? You should. Ask your agency to set them up for your organization.

Not sure if you have GA, or where your logins are? Try logging into old Gmail accounts within your organization and go here to see if there’s an analytics profile. If your GA was owned or set up by a previous employee and you’re unable to gain access, you can reach out to Google to reclaim ownership.

5) Document and organize all login credentials.

Double-check that you have access to your web platforms, such as hosting (or control panel), domain registrar, and DNS. If what I’m talking about sounds foreign, ask your IT person for this information. Sometimes the web host will house everything under one roof, but some websites have separate providers for their web host, registrar, and DNS. Your agency should be able to tell you who to contact if you don’t know where to start but plan to get these logins in order.

Other logins to gather and or set up before the project kickoff:

  • Agency access to the current site
  • A to (info@) and from (no-reply@) email for setting up SMTP
  • CRM or other third-party tools (SalesForce, HubSpot, MailChimp, etc.)

6) Review and come prepared to discuss common discovery questions.

While questions can vary from project to project, especially considering the scope and unique client challenges, I want to provide you with a sample list of questions you’ll need to answer. This preparation will help you get the most out of discovery by ensuring your chosen agency has all the information they require to make great, targeted recommendations. To score brownie points, write responses to these questions and send them to your agency before your project kickoff.

You can download the discovery questionnaire here.

Parting Thoughts

You may be thinking, “Wow, this is a long list. How will I have time for it?” Most of my clients chip away at it over time. You don’t have to do everything on this list overnight, and it’s certainly not required before your project kickoff (although it is appreciated). But there’s a lot of prep work to do, so there’s value in starting on this list as early as your schedule allows. If you’re behind schedule, communicate your timeline for completion as it becomes clear. As the project progresses and deadlines approach (and they approach faster than you think), you’ll thank yourself for taking this extra time to prepare so you don’t have to scramble when it counts the most.