You've decided to embark on a new website and have chosen our Theme Series - how exciting! We are thrilled to have you make this choice and hope that your new website will be used in great ways to continue your mission and organization goals.
There's a lot to do in building a new website, whether you are updating/upgrading your site or starting from scratch. This page should help define the steps involved and provide you with some helpful resources.
Step 1: Understanding the Project Timelines & Roles
Your total project timeline will largely be based on how efficiently you work through the project tasks. The minimal time Aware3 needs to complete your theme site is between 2 to 4 weeks after we have received all assets and information, as well as your payment.
It's important to realize that the timeline for crafting your theme does not represent the entire process of building a new site. You and your team will be responsible for:
- Sitemap (how the pages on your site should be organized)
- Content (text, images, documents, links)
- Key decisions about the site, the content tools, navigation, etc.
- Training on our Content Management System (CMS), if you are a new user to our Site Manager CMS.*Note: In our experience, the timelines we see for a new website project - from start to finish (go live!) - average 2 to 4 Months.
If your organization is working with a large group of decision makers, re-writing or creating new original copy (text), updating branding, logo or even doing photo shoots for the new site, please plan ahead - these things take time.
Of course, there are ways to fast track a site, and we're happy to offer you suggestions that will work for your site goals and your organization.
Step 2: Selecting a Theme
Before we can start crafting your site, we need to know which theme you want to use. Our theme library is growing and changing often, but we recommend talking with us to help narrow down the options for you.
As you look at the library, try to look at the type of content on the home page, and the placement of the content. Then look at your website goals.
If your goal is to engage a new audience (outreach, marketing, enrollment), certain themes with less text-based content and more image areas are more appealing to attract and retain a new audience.
If your goal is to communicate, solidify and/or connect an existing audience (members, donors), certain themes with plenty of content snippets and feeds of updates are more conducive for this type of primary goal.
- Of course, we meet with hundreds of customers who need to do both - reach a new audience and update the existing audience group. That's why you'll find themes that offer a balance between graphically driven and text content updates!
Each theme has its own unique personality and that may play into what you want on your new site. Each theme also has a combination of options of content tools.
Once you've selected the theme you want to use for your website, contact your onboarding and training specialist with your theme selection. You'll then be provided with a project worksheet for that specific theme.
In regards to branding when choosing a template, please take note of the logo orientation and shade (all white or colored) as well as noticing where the primary colors fall (we use a paint-by-number approach). Ensure that you can visualize your branding in these areas and it fits with your expectations as logo area and color system is set by the template design.
Fonts are also set by the template design and cannot be modified.
Step 3: Defining Primary Navigation and Sitemap
A good website is built on solid content and navigation. Without proper navigation, visitors can get frustrated and leave your site. Today, most visitors (users) expect to find what they are looking for in seconds. Delivering a good user experience requires navigation that is easy to use, short and direct.
Organize your content in a way that makes sense for your visitors and regular site users. Lead with short main (top) navigation, keeping those as your primary, or key, pages (also called landing pages).
When you build a Signature Theme, each main navigation is also a navigation category or directory, and you can add pages underneath those categories. The organization of what pages go under what category is the essential building of a sitemap.
If you are building a new site, you do not have to create a complete sitemap ahead of time. All we require are the basics of main navigation (categories/directories) and level 1 pages. We greatly encourage you to take the time to create a sitemap though, as having that initial organization will help you think through what theme you want to choose, what content you need to collect or create, and how much work and overall time your project will take you and your team. Your onboarding and training specialist will provide you with a sitemap template that you can reference as you make your own sitemap.
Step 4: Collecting Initial Site Images & Content
There are a few core elements needed to build your new website.
Those items include:
Theme project worksheet completed (more on this below)
Your logo file in a high-quality resolution (if no logo, we'll typeset your organization name)
- Any social media URLs if you are connecting your site to social media or third party sites
To build your site, you'll need to work on collecting the initial content. We recommend that you put a game plan together and focus on these first priorities:
High-quality images that reflect your organization's culture, people, mission, ministry, environment, and/or communicate the primary message you want to portray on your site. All primary images on both the home page and at the top of the inside pages require horizontal images.
The text for each of your landing pages (each of your main navigation links). Next to your home page, this is your next most important content in providing a strong user experience and good search engine optimization on your site.
Organize who will have access to the site, and to what portions of the site. In our CMS, you can create unique permissions for each admin user. Knowing who is going to update content on the site will help you arrange for system training for all users.
- Review and collect other content that needs to be on your site - such as events, announcements, PDFs, forms, etc. Begin to think about how to organize this content. For example, think about how many categories you need to create in your calendar system.
Step 5: Completing the Project Worksheet
Once you've selected which theme you want to build, we'll send you a link to an online theme project worksheet. On this form, you'll complete all the necessary details for your project.
You can expect the following:
- Logo file and organization name instructions
- Site color
- Main navigation links (exact spelling and order for your website will be required on this form)
- Social Media links
- Any 3rd party (external) URLs/links including social media and more
Upon completion of your theme worksheet(s), which you'll submit online, we'll be in contact with you. Once we've reviewed your information, your project will be submitted to our design queue.
Step 6: Design Phase
Next, a developer will start working on coding out your site, complete with applying your branding to the theme. Once they are finished, and the site has gone through internal testing, it will be provided to you. You'll be able to see what your site will look like, complete with your logo, org name, applicable branding & colors, and content sections!
A key item to remember when in the design phase:
Themes receive 3 rounds of revisions to make any changes to the primary colors in use or top navigation (tools, theme design including fonts are set by the template). You will have the ability to swap out the logo files in the CMS after the site is released to you.
We will require your "green light" approval on the website before we can release the site into your hands.
Step 7: Release & Building Your Site Content
Once your site is released to you, you will receive a training session with our support team. You'll be able to login to Site Manager and get started building content!
Your home page will contain locked tools, and if any of those tools automatically feed content (upcoming events, announcement database, blog, etc.), that feed will be in place. For other tools that contain editable content (slide show, content editors, pictorial announcements, etc.) you'll be able to update content to add your own content in, removing our test content. Additionally, you can make any homepage tool inactive – meaning it will not be visible on the live site.
All interior pages are blank and ready for you to build. Remember that you'll want to add a banner image for nearly all pages, especially your landing pages.
It's critically important that you build all your content as plain text (clean of any formatting, MS Word formatting, and/or HTML). Copying and pasting text from one source into your new site can be done using the Paste as Plain Text option. Then, use the formatting tools within Site Manager to create headers, indents, bullets, and more.
Remember that not all text should just be in a content editor. Use the tools you have in your toolbox to help create the content layout that's best for each page. Tools like the Column Display, Expand / Collapse, and even Links List and/or Content Resource tools are ideal for text content with some images, whereas adding a slide show, form creator, and links list on the right side can help create the visual and easy-to-find information page that you need. When in doubt - contact support. We're happy to help in any way - even just to give you some ideas of how to lay out your content!
Step 8: Taking Your Site Live (Or the Go-Live Process)
If you've been organizing and building your content as recommended, many customers find that adding content to their new site can move quickly. While every customer and project is unique, some customers have been ready to go live within 2 weeks, whereas others have taken more time to build and have gone live in 4 months. This is entirely up to you and your team. We are ready to assist in your go-live process whenever you are ready! Just reach out to your onboarding and training specialist when your site is ready to go live.
After you've completed your new website with our theme series, we want to help you keep making sure that it continues to be used in great ways to continue your mission and organizational goals.
Once your site has been released to you for adding content, maintenance pricing goes into effect. Maintenance pricing for the theme is intended for you to be able to request updates to your site within the guidelines of the product and your specific Theme. Here are some commonly requested items that you can request through support for maintenance and could be subject to a fee:
- Update hard-coded links
- Add/Update/Remove Main Navigation Items
- Rebranding (updating colors)
- Swapping in/out accreditation logos
All of our maintenance work for themes is done by individual quotes. If you would like to request maintenance for your site, email support and they will provide you with a quote before doing the work.
If you have any questions or need help, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!