I’m a great planner. I’m an awful follow-through’er. I don’t anticipate roadblocks or challenges well, and I tend to get distracted fairly easily (ooh! shiny!).
But when I decided to redesign and relaunch my website and business earlier this summer, I set out a plan that I thought was foolproof. I had pages of notes, schedules, ideas jotted down on random bits of paper… I gave myself three months to get it all done, start to finish.
I didn’t get it finished on time.
And I’m okay with that. It’s still a work-in-progress, which is leaps and bounds ahead of where it could have been – abandoned, half-done, sometime in mid-summer. This redesign and relaunch, though, was far too important to just quit. It wasn’t that I was spending too much money on something that *had* to be followed through on, it was that
1. No matter how much time you think you’ve got, you don’t.
I started my project in the beginning of June, making wish lists and looking at other websites for design ideas. I read lots of articles and had an idea of where I wanted to go. And then summer happened and we ended up being out of town every weekend for two months… and when the only free time you’ve got to work on a project like this for more than a few minutes at a time is on the weekend, things get pushed back. And back again and then even further back.
Lesson learned – Use what time you do have more effectively.
I found that I spent a lot of time in the last few days before my relaunch date just researching and trying to figure out how to do little coding things I had wanted to include in the redesign. Programs like Evernote (which I’ve got on my Android as well as my iMac) are really helpful to keep research on hand at all times – I’ve found that I don’t bookmark things anymore, I clip them to Evernote so I can search for them easier and organize them much more efficiently.
2. Don’t assume you can just ‘figure it out’.
I’m a hands-on learner. If I can do it myself, I will… and yes, that may mean that it’s going to take longer, but it also means that I’ll know what went into the building. I took the awesome Website Kick Start Course with Tara Gentile last year so I could learn how to build a website for my needs. I knew I didn’t need anything too flashy, but it had to be useable – both for readers and customers, as well as myself – and easy to tweak. And it was – I made little design changes over the year that I had my original site up… and then I decided to overhaul a fair bit of it.
Long story, short – I got tripped up on creating the slideshow that now appears on the front page of my site, the front page itself and a few other bits that weren’t actually included in Tara’s course. I lost a couple of days trying to figure out why one element wasn’t showing up where I had told it to (misplaced space, of course…). Not fun.
Lesson learned – Ask for help.
There are always people who are available to answer questions and will walk you through your problems. Forums and online chats are full of people who are there to share their experience and knowledge, no matter what the subject you’re looking for help with. If I’m searching for help with an issue, I will head to the first forum that comes up in a search over a written article most of the time, because not only is there a good chance someone else has had your problem, they’ve written about it – and the solution – using language that you can understand.
3. Don’t try to out-do everyone else (or anyone else).
I’m not a flashy person by any means – if anything, I tend to try to blend in and be myself. When it came to redesigning my site, though, I knew I had to do something different, be a bit more out there and attract more eyes. It was a challenge coming up with a look that not only said ‘Hey, look at me!’ but didn’t go completely against the grain of who I and my business are. But it wasn’t just the look that I was changing, it was also the branding and the meaning behind my work. They had to co-exist and speak for my business when I couldn’t… and it took a long time to figure out what and how I wanted to say what needed to be said without resorting to flashy or annoying means.
Lesson learned – Take inspiration from others, but be true to you.
I knew how I wanted my redesign to look like, but still went on a search for elements that caught my eye and I thought would work for my site. I created a folder in Evernote just for sites that made me stop and pay attention – as a former graphic designer, I have an idea of what works well and what certainly doesn’t, but it’s how all the elements are put together, how they gel and speak to readers that’s important. So I gathered ideas and sorted out which ones I wanted to keep and which ones weren’t going to work for me. It’s not just about what’s easy to do or simple to maintain, it’s mostly about ‘How does this represent my brand, my business, myself?’.
No matter how ‘finished’ I think I am with this redesign and relaunch, it’s always going to be a work-in-progress. New ideas and new works will be introduced, changes will have to be made to accommodate them, all while staying true to my purpose and mission. It’s an always evolving creation that needs constant care and attention… and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two and a half years of my business, you can’t just let your business exist and hope that it grows on it’s own. It’s the constant evolution of our businesses that makes things so very exciting and frustrating, but mostly exciting.