What do professional website designers know about good web design? What should you look for in a website designer? When is it better to build your own website versus hiring a professional web designer?
What Makes a Good Website Designer?
As time goes on, the list of what to look for in website designers only increases because — as skills increase and their skillset grows — there is always more, there is always better. There is always a new opportunity, a new way of trying things.
If we were to try to put all of those together in one list, it would be a very, exceptionally lengthy list including: communication, collaboration, the ability to get a finished product done, on time, within budget and have it reflect the brand that you’re trying to build.
There are endless variations and variables that go into the development of a site. The developer or designer must be able to use their skillset to create a unique interpretation of what that brand is and how to represent it online.
12 Essential Web Design Elements
- Website Designer
- Graphic Designer
- User Experience (UX) Designer
- Photo Editor
- Content Manager
- Project Manager
- Font & Typography
So, You Think You Need a Website?
A website is the foundation of your online presence. It can play several roles depending on whether you’re focusing on paid advertising, email marketing, or SEO. At the end of the day, the goal of good web design is driving traffic to the website.
Website design plays a vital role on the success or the failure of the website strategy. You know must know how and when to combine certain visual and content elements and how to make them work together.However, while working with clients who already have websites when they partner with us, we often find that there is no clear purpose.
Why Are You Building It?
When somebody wants to start developing a website, the first thing we ask them is, “Why?” When we start a conversation with new clients, we are trying to answer the question, “What is the end goal? What are we trying to achieve?”
When it’s time to either create a new website or redevelop an existing website, let’s make sure you know why you’re doing so. Know what your goals are. We should always start with the end in mind.
Because oftentimes, we find that people haven’t thought this through very well. Perhaps a friend of theirs said, “Let’s build a site, let’s do this, let’s do that.” However, they don’t create a goal for marketing the site. There is inadequate, long-term planning involved. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for people to lose.
Should You Build It Yourself?
We can understand why people are a little hesitant to jump into building a website on their own because they think that there is so much to do. There are so many components. And if they were to try to do it themselves, they would have to go out and find a graphic designer to do the graphics, a photo editor to edit the actual photos, a UX person to make the user experience and the wire frames to help understand what the site looks like before it gets built. If they go to a website designer who’s halfway reputable, the web design company is also going to function as a project manager.
Should You Hire a Professional?
Can you wear all the following hats? If not, consider hiring a professional.
- Website Designer
- Graphic Designer
- User Experience (UX) Designer
- Photo Editor
- Content Manager
- Project Manager
Why would somebody come to us as opposed to going it alone? Because of experience, and because we can effectively and knowledgeably manage the project. We deeply understand the elements that go into website development.
What Will a Pro Web Designer Do?
You know where the misperception is? It’s that when people find a web designer, they think that they’re getting a website. Web design really is much more in-depth than just making a thorough website.
You’re giving power to something that is going to run for an extended period. Therefore, it’s important for people to really understand what they want before they even begin the process of finding a web designer.
Make sure you can find a developer, designer, or agency that has the experience already. Don’t make the mistake of paying for their learning experience. Make sure they have a portfolio of sites that you would be happy to have for yourself. If they don’t, this is a problem.
Once You Find a Pro, Trust the Process
But when you find a web designer that has the same visions in line, or at least can understand your vision and what you want out of it, they should help guide you.
Then, give them the creative license to choose fonts, typography, colors, user flows, etc. If they have been doing this for a long time, trust their relevant experience.
Your Relationship with Your Web Designer or Agency
What if you have to spoon-feed each idea about your site or how to build sections? Or explain, “This is what this should look like,” or, “This is how the page needs to be designed”? At that point, you might as well build it yourself.
Your designer should have a large skill set in that department. And if not, maybe that’s not the right person for you. They should make recommendations on the content management system, why it’s important to do it this way, and give you good reasons. Everything should make sense.
Would you want to go to a mechanic and tell him how to change the oil? No. You expect him to know how to change it, when you need a new air filter, etc. Your relationship with your web designer should be the same.
Cutting Corners Doesn’t Pay Off
It’s naive for any kind of business, even a small business, to think they can just go on a platform and throw something together, and that they’re going to have this magical website that everybody’s going to love and it’s going to convert very well.
Yes, you could go online and find a freelancer to throw something together. What good is it going to do? There are platforms out there. Somebody could go pay a small fee to use a drag-and-drop builder and throw a website together.
Yes, it’s out there. Some are better than others, but one must ask, “What are my goals here? Is there a point where this particular system is no longer going to function for my needs? Am I going to be spending money monthly to market my business? And if so, what are the restrictions?”
How Serious Is the Business?
If it’s a startup or a dream idea that someone’s putting a couple hours a week into, fine, maybe they don’t need to make that investment, because they’re not treating it like a real business.
But for someone who’s serious, they will understand what it takes. They will make sure that the website’s up-to-date and stable. They will ensure the blog doesn’t get hacked with spam. Their site will be mobile-friendly and will look different on different-sized phones, tablets, and computers.
Website Design Elements
- Data & Analytics
Is Your Site Converting?
The whole point of superior visual design is to use what will ultimately convert. You must know where to put buttons, or what size to make buttons, or how to make a font scale bigger on a 27” monitor versus a 13” monitor.
Start with the Right Platform
You need to take into consideration the colors, fonts, and visual theme of the design. However, if you don’t begin correctly, and if you spend money, time, and effort in the beginning with the wrong platform, it’s a recipe for disaster. From a web development standpoint, it will lay the foundation for your website to have the ability for success. You will have the correct elements built in so your site can rank organically on Google.
If you start with the right platform, you will have analytics that are able to track events correctly. You will be able to give your title and headings tags, which will ultimately tell Google what’s on your site. That way, when it crawls it and searches for it, it knows where to place your site for relevant searches.
Why Do Data & Analytics Matter?
The need for data and analytics is an especially critical point to stress. Oftentimes, we see business owners make changes to their website based on their personal taste, not on what is working or not working. Reporting is crucial to understand what changes to make as time goes on. Don’t just trust your gut. Listen to the data.
Visual Elements of Website Design
There are so many visual elements to consider: the font weights, the font colors, the color you put behind the font, the main images behind the text — all of those speak so specifically. They can make or break an entire look of a page.
It’s so important to choose the right images. It’s so important that they work with the message and the feel of the site. Often, when you look at some other sites, it looks like sometimes the images are just randomly placed. On the other hand, it could just be the wrong colors are complimenting the imagery. Don’t just throw random images on your website. You need to be able to tell a story.
Typography should usually be left to professional graphic artists. It’s a huge part of the development of a website. Fonts can certainly tell a story. Some fonts are playful, some are more serious, some are super thick and bold. They could always increase the weight and the line height of the font to give it a different effect.
Research the Fonts You Like
Many times, someone will come to us and say, “Hey, I want a website.” And while they might not know exactly what font is right for their purposes, they should have an idea of the type of fonts they like, or the type of fonts that are associated with their brand. Just to give some perspective, we have seen that maybe, at most, 1 in 10 clients will even know what fonts they use or have a style guide associated with their brand.
Most small- and medium-sized businesses, when they come to us for help, have an expectation that we will make those recommendations on their behalf. It’s easy enough just to go through Microsoft Word and look at all the fonts. At least you get an idea of what you like.
How Many Fonts Should You Use?
First, as far as the number of fonts, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with having multiple fonts. There should be a few, certainly. Is there a rule of thumb? I go for two to three. I’ll go for main headings being one font, body font being a different one, and then styling different elements in a third way.
Stay on Brand with Your Fonts
It’s important to choose a font style upfront and use the same style through all your marketing efforts. It’s very unprofessional to use one set of fonts on the homepage, with a completely different body text, then on other pages to us a third or fourth or fifth or sixth type of font. It’s not presenting a cohesive statement to your clients. The ideal situation is when somebody sees your marketing or sees your site, they say, “Okay, that’s certainly their brand. That is on-brand for them.”
A Website Is Not a Billboard
Website design is not static. It doesn’t involve etching something into concrete or into stone. One of the beautiful parts about a website and digital marketing in general is, you can pivot relatively easily. So, if we see that in six months from now, the business is not what it was today, we make changes live. And that is one of the most beautiful things, in general.
Building a website isn’t an end-all, permanent, unchangeable thing. If you decide in six months that the fonts aren’t working out, you can change them. There is danger in overthinking. We’ve seen some corporate website clients in the past where they’ll spend weeks debating on multiple fonts but end up getting nowhere. Just getting started. Have an idea of what you want and through time, you’ll get data and the analytics to pinpoint if your first decision was effective.
Design Your Website the Best You Can, Then Iterate
We like to say to our clients that the Sage website, for example, is the best iteration of what we are now. It’s not what it was six months ago, it will not be the same six months from now. This is because we’re evolving, we’re growing, things change, things happen. A business in general should opt for that point of view as well. Ask, “Does this website represent who we are in the best feasible way at this current time, with an ability to grow and increase and change it as time goes on?” Design your website the best you can for now.