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What Went Into My $10,370 Website Rebuild

I had been thinking about redoing my website for over a year, but I was terrified about the massive undertaking of mapping out a whole new website.

I certainly wasn’t going to design the website or code it, but the prospect of having to make decisions about what I liked and disliked, and managing everyone sounded exhausting to me. I was also intimidated by the investment of redoing my website.

Despite this, I knew that as a business where nearly all of my customers are sourced online, upgrading my online storefront was absolutely essential.

I mulled over a website redesign for over a year, but made the snap decision to just go for it within a matter of days.

Sitting on the fence was not doing me any favors, and I was just delaying the inevitable for absolutely no reason at all.

I was worried about not being able to finance such an upgrade, but guess what?

When I made the decision to go for it, I was able to find the money — because that’s usually what happens when I really want something, it ignites a fire to figure it out.

I was really happy with the process I undertook to upgrade my website and also learned a lot during the process. Here are the specifics of what went into my $10,370 website rebuild — what worked, and what I would’ve done differently in the future.

Branding Strategy and Website UX

There was one thing I knew I didn’t want to do throughout this whole process and that was figuring out the brand direction for the website.

I’m very good at seeing a crystal clear brand strategy for other brands, but I absolutely cannot do it for my own brands. I suffer from the curse of knowledge and tend to overcomplicate and overthink positioning for something I’m working on a daily basis. Imposter syndrome is also not fun to wrangle during these types of projects.

That’s why I was really happy to work with Andrew at Special Sauce Branding to figure out positioning for my revamped brand. Andrew asked a lot of difficult questions and had me reflect on where I wanted my brand to go — I took 3 hours to fill out his questionnaire.

Rebranding was a really important exercise I needed someone else to do with me, and it produced results I wouldn’t have received unless someone was there to talk things through with me.

I was also really excited by the results of working with Andrew because it helped me gain a lot of confidence and clarity on my messaging. I initially was going to hire a copywriter to help me write the copy for my website, but after working with Andrew, writing the website’s copy flowed very easily.

Kicking off the website revamp process with a branding strategy was a huge win-win. Not only did it provide clear messaging and user experience direction for everyone helping with the build, it also helped me save money and time by not hiring a copywriter.

For future website revamps, I will always start it off with a branding audit, even if I think the brand’s direction is in a good place. Having a third, unbiased party constructively pick at my brand was critical input to getting my website to its best form.

Graphic Design

My partner Luke is a graphic designer so I was pretty lucky to already have a designer who understands my design aesthetic and sees eye to eye with me on a lot of visual choices.

To give a bit of direction, I collected a series of websites that captured the feeling that I wanted my website to evoke, gave background on my customer, and also created a Pinterest board with color themes for him to refer back to.

Even with this leg up, creating a visual identity from scratch is very difficult. It took a couple of rounds for us to get to the final version of the website simply because we didn’t want to copy anyone else’s visual identity and wanted to create something that uniquely represented my brand.

Once Luke figured it out, he nailed the design on the head.

The biggest lesson for me during the design process was the importance of patience. I had every benefit I could get during the design process, and it was still a process that required time, patience, and a lot of discourse.

If you ever have to shop for a website designer, my biggest tip is this: find a designer that you not only align with visually, but that you can communicate superbly with.

There is going to be a lot of back and forth if you’re truly committed to hitting a specific vision of your website’s design and the process will go much faster if your communication with this person is on point (and the process will be much MUCH longer if your communication isn’t on point).

Development

I intentionally separated out the design from the development of the website. I wanted the design to be unbound by how difficult it was to code it, so I had the design done first and then shopped it around to developers.

This is the biggest custom website build I’ve been a part of, so shopping for developers was a true eye-opening experience.

The shopping process was also a bit complicated because I wanted a custom design templated on Squarespace.

I received quotes as low as $1,500 to as high as $6,000. The range was absolutely frustrating because an increase in price didn’t directly correlate with how experienced the developer was, making it difficult to gauge where the fair marker of “quality” was.

I found that a lot of developers who were quoting me on the hirer end of this range lacked experience, causing them to log more hours coding the website.

I’m all about the large number of people learning to code right now and I cannot knock anyone for taking that step in their careers, but as a customer of the developer market, I found that I ran into a lot of coders who weren’t experienced enough (yet) to be taking on the projects they were bidding for.

I felt like there was a lack of understanding of how complicated the code on the website was and it made me unconfident in their capabilities when they didn’t take the time to acknowledge it, or estimated that the project was going to take 2–3x more time than other quotes I received.

I found EA Goats and they impressed me by educating me on what we needed to focus on in the website’s development, what was going to be the most complicated in creating a responsive design, and what complexities were lying under the surface.

My biggest takeaway from the developer experience was this — most people don’t like knowing how things are going to get done as long as they get done, but when it comes to building a website I think you absolutely need to get all the details.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than a Frankenstein-looking mobile experience of your website and I didn’t want to risk that by using a developer that didn’t acknowledge the importance of getting the design right on mobile as well as desktop and tablet.

Do your research, ask all the questions, and weigh in on why something’s estimated to take such a long time. If you’re not a developer, make it clear that you don’t know anything about the process and that you need everything explained to you — taking this stance really helped me make a decision on who was best for me to work with.

Photos

Two of my best friends Anna and Nate are a husband-wife photography team over at Castner Photography. They’ve taken amazing photos over the years during our outdoor adventures and trips around the world so I serendipitously had an inventory of photos capturing my life outdoors.

As a business that supports small businesses, I thought it only made sense to have my photos be supplied by a small business. All of the background photos you see on my website were taken by Anna and Nate.

I also got some headshots done by Anna and Nate after the brand direction and design was solidified.

This ended up being the perfect sequence to do things.

By establishing the visual direction for the brand and waiting till the design was completely done, we were able to craft the exact photos that were needed to put that final touch on each page.

If we had done the headshots prior to the design being finished, the photos wouldn’t have been as much of an asset as they were for each page.

Copyediting

I have a copyeditor, Elaine who I use for all of my business plans, so I was fortunate to have access to a copyeditor who already knew my writing style. Elaine put the final touches on all of my website’s copy and gave me peace of mind that there wasn’t any spelling or grammatical mistakes floating around on my website.

No Regrets, Except One

The only thing I regretted during this whole process was not confronting my indecisiveness sooner. After seeing how quickly everything came together, I felt so silly that I delayed this website redesign for as long as I did.

A big takeaway for me from this experience was this: never let money be the only obstacle in your way for an investment you truly believe in. You can always make more money, but you can’t recover the time you’ve lost.

I send Friday emails that’ll turn your startup chase into a victory lap. Sign up here if that’s where you’re heading.

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Sophia Sunwoo

Sophia Sunwoo

I create moneymaking brands with womxn entrepreneurs who refuse to settle for mediocre. www.ascent-strategy.com

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