At some point in your business, there will come a time to redesign your existing website (or create your first website if you don’t currently have one). When this time comes, you will have several options for development. You can hire a web designer, purchase a template website or create your own. Whichever option you choose, spending some time in the planning stages will make the process quicker, easier and perhaps even cheaper. Before you engage someone (or yourself) to develop your website, start by following these three steps:

Step 1: Research other websites

Step one begins with researching other websites that appeal to you. The quickest way to find websites of other financial advisory firms is to visit a registry site like NAFPA’s Find an Advisor site or Brightscope’s Advisor Pages. These sites have links to hundreds and even thousands of other advisors’ websites and will give you a good perspective of the range of designs. If you would like inspiration from outside of the financial services industry, you can visit a site like Elance and peruse the portfolios of the web designers for ideas. Another option is to visit a website template site like TemplateMonster to view hundreds of different website variations. Choose a handful of designs that you like and make note of the similarities. This will help you identify and communicate the elements you prefer. For example, you may notice all the websites are a tone of blue. Or they may all have a minimalist design. Or they may all feature pictures of families. By comparing the sites and noting similarities, you should be able to develop a clear understanding of the type of website you want and communicate those elements to whoever will develop your site.

Step 2: Choose images

It can take many hours and several rounds of revisions for a web designer to find the perfect images for your website. This process can go much quicker if you know what images are available and what you like. For step two, review stock images to determine which ones you like. It should be clear to you from reviewing other websites in step one, which types of photos are appealing to you. For example, you may like landscape photos, photos of families or photos specific to your local market. Once you have identified a theme for your photos, visit a stock photo site to see what is available. If you are on a budget, a visit to iStockPhoto may accomplish the task. If money is not as much of a concern, higher quality photos can be found at Getty Images. Make note of the image numbers so you can easily find them later when you are ready to design the website.

Step 3: Determine functionality

In addition to serving as a “brochure” for your firm, a website can be a useful tool for both your clients and prospects. It’s a good idea to understand what type of additional functionality you would like to add to your site before you begin the design process. Such items include blogs, calculators, market snapshots and client portals, just to name a few. The research you did in step one will help you understand all that is available and what suits your business. For step three, note which functionalities you would like to add to your site. It is easier and less frustrating to incorporate these functionalities in the beginning of the web design process, rather than adding them at the end of the process.

Creating your first website or redesigning your existing website is a significant undertaking. By spending the time planning for your website in the early stages, you will increase the chances of getting the exact site that you want and decreasing the chances of wasting time and money unnecessarily. In other words, following these three initial steps will help make the web design experience a more pleasant one for you and your web designer.

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Kristen Luke is the principal of Wealth Management Marketing, a firm dedicated to providing marketing strategies and support for registered investment advisory firms. For more information, visit www.wealthmanagementmarketing.net.