Benefits of Hiring a Professional Web Designer
One of the hardest things about finding a web design company or an agency to work with is that there’s a lot riding on the actual website itself. There are so many design companies out there. There are bargain marketplaces with web designers that are starting off at $99. You can alternatively design a site yourself with one of those drag-and-drop builders. In many ways, web design is now commoditized as other options have opened.
However, for most businesses, the website is still their backbone. It’s their first impression to many of their prospective customers and clients. And it’s really important when choosing a web design company, you know what to look for. You can spend a lot of time, effort, and money, and end up with either something really good, something middle of the road, or worst-case, something absolutely awful.
When looking, find a firm that listens to their clients. Firms should come into a situation and try to understand what the real purpose is for the website. What are we trying to achieve? We’re not just throwing something together. It’s a much more holistic view.
We’re not just creating some images on a page with some content. At the end of the day, this is the foundation of your entire company. This is what the potential customer is looking at. This is a starting point for a business.
And we take what we do really seriously. We walk into every scenario and try to truly understand, what is the core function purpose of this particular website? And how can we achieve that according to best practices?
Oftentimes, when we speak with our client, that person is certainly the subject matter expert. They know their business, they know their industry, they know what they’re selling, and the ins and outs of it. On the other hand, that expertise doesn’t necessarily translate into what needs to get put onto a website or how it should be laid out.
It’s certainly important that whoever you’re choosing to work with takes the time to actually listen, to understand your goals, what functionality you need out of the site, etc.
However, it’s equally important that the web developer you’re working with is able to come to the table with ideas and suggestions. You definitely don’t want a “yes man.” They need to provide value and insights into what’s working today, what’s trending, what’s not working, what other clients have been looking for.
You have to be able to gauge insights from your web development firm in order to say, “Hey, they should have an experience of hundreds if not thousands of development projects over the course of their careers.” They should be able to bring a lot to the table and not just say yes to appease a client who thinks something looks good when, for example, it goes against all best practices for conversions.
You don’t want to get into a situation where the freelancer or the agency is just agreeing and saying, “Oh, yeah, sure, we can do it,” but they’re not able to bring creative ideas. The only thing you can expect from them is a replica of 20 other sites they’ve recently made and they’re just cloning a project and slapping your logo on there.
It’s very important that whoever’s developing your website has a clear understanding and is an authentic practitioner of digital marketing practices. Now, they don’t have to be spread across every vertical, doing Amazon, SEO, email marketing, etc. At a certain point, being a Jack of all trades is really a master of nothing.
But if they have a good understanding of paid search, social media, and e-commerce if you’re selling something online, they’ll be able to work on the site with that in mind. They will know where to place product buttons or categories, or how to design an About Us page that’s going to be most engaging with your audience.
It’s about having an integrated solution. It’s like an outsourcing your marketing department. We’re not just copying and pasting a website we’ve done 37 times before. that’s an exact template of something done elsewhere.
It’s about understanding the needs of this particular client. What are we trying to achieve? How can we bring in, for example, their CRM into the mix? How do we bring in certain features that they use specifically for their business, for the website to really function well?
When you work with a web design agency that has designers, developers, and marketers, you can be sure that the finished product will be functional.
It’s very important that your website integrates with your systems, the tools you use, the back structure, your email platform, your chat, etc. We can’t tell you how often those things aren’t really accounted for when getting a website made. Then you have a finished product and all of a sudden, your CRM doesn’t integrate with your website or your email marketing platform can’t track different user behaviors because it’s not built for that type of platform.
Just as a side note, with respect to looking at the big picture, we often have inquiries for web development that say, “Okay, I’d like a website.” But there’s no content yet since no current website exists. Or there isn’t really useful content. Thought has to go into the process about where content is coming from.
Some people expect us to just grab the content from somewhere else on the web that currently exists. But that’s doing nobody any good. You will never rank. You will never have any position on Google.
So often, designers and developers are building a website on a desktop without taking to consideration the mobile experience. Many times, the look and the feel of the mobile site is often a by-product because they’re designing it on a computer, but it’s actually for a phone.
More often than not, anywhere from 70% to 80% of your overall site traffic is going to come from mobile devices. Now, if you’re in a business-to-business industry, there’s a possibility that you’ll get more desktop traffic, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.
And many designers and developers don’t make a website responsive for all screens — an iPhone, a Samsung, an iPad, etc. It’s crucial that the website can scale with whatever device that your customer’s on.
We personally take the stance of “mobile first and desktop second.” That’s where we are in today’s environment, and we should always confirm that mobile will be at the forefront of the mind of the designer.
And if anything is going to drive that point home, it’s the fact that Google has what’s called “mobile indexing” first. That means Google looks at your mobile site before they look at your desktop site.
When looking for a designer, you’re certainly going to want to make sure you can look at their portfolio and see how their websites look and function on mobile. Because if their clients’ sites aren’t good, you can guess that your site’s not going to be any good either.
If you can’t go and look at it 10 to 20 recent projects of whoever you’re going to hire, we think something isn’t right.
At the end of the day, if the sites they’re providing as examples are not what you could envision for yourself — if the look and feel of the experience is not up to the level that you expect — then you’re not going to get that yourself.
And you can expect that anyone who is reputable, who’s been around for a while, who understands the business, has history and connections, they will absolutely have a portfolio they can easily show you. Without hesitation, a portfolio and reviews should be readily available. Website designers especially, should have a portfolio. Marketing is a little bit different because there are often confidentiality agreements in place.
For most reputable web companies, they’re going to easily be able to provide a list of references, sites that you can go on and test to see how they work so you can be confident that they’re able to produce a good product.
They Need to Know What Converts
At the same time, when designers come to the table, they should be able to say, “Hey, I understand what you’re trying to achieve. Allow us the developer the creative license in order to do something that is in line with best practices for conversion optimization.”
A good web design company is going to have designers and developers that know what makes users convert. There are very simple practices that can be applied from industry to industry. Even though some variables depend on the goals of the site and exactly the market it’s trying to reach, the principles remain the same.
A good designer or developer is going to do the research. They’re going to have a very clear understanding of the planning phase before it gets built. They will have open communication with you, so you’ll have a good roadmap of what’s going to be built. That way, you’re not wasting time, effort, and money going back and forth with revisions, having a website take three to six months.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen other website projects that have taken over a year. There’s no reason at all for this. With good communication and good planning, it does not need to take more than a few weeks.
It could take up to a couple of months tops if you have a very large site that’s either being migrated or redone. It definitely should not take longer if the developers know what they’re doing. They have to know the proper layout, how to design the navigation, where to put the call to action, and the type of pages you need to have proven, data-driven concepts that will make users convert.
When we go into a meeting with a potential customer, we make it a point to be very clear on deliverables. We cannot underscore that point enough.
When you have that list of deliverables, you know what you can hold your design company accountable for everything on it. They know and have a clear anticipation of what you’re expecting out of it. That way, you don’t run into a problem where you’re thinking you’re getting a site that does X, has Y type of functionality, or looks like Z, when all of a sudden, a few weeks go by, two or three months go by, and you still don’t know when the work’s going to be completed and you haven’t seen a draft. That is not a professional situation, and it makes for a poor business relationship.
In many situations, a designer, freelancer, or agency who is looking for business will agree to too much. Or they won’t outline potential issues that could come along the way because they don’t want to scare anybody off.
When we take on a new client, we say, “Hey, here’s our body of work. Here’s what you can expect from us. Here’s a timeline, here’s the cost, etc. And here are the issues that we have seen in similar situations. And here are potential points we need to hash out upfront to ensure that we have the absolute best success in our project.”
Could not agree more. I could not agree more. Again, in that anticipation or that desire for freelancer, designer, whomever, in order to sign up a new client, I think sometimes, these things get missed. So, my suggestion from my experience is to ask the detailed questions, make sure you have clarity on all points, ask for a very clear list of deliverables. And I think that that sets you up for the best success possible and does not allow room for error, miscommunication, the unknown, down the line at some point.
I think it’s very important that whoever you’re working with has experience in more than just one vertical. They’ve worked in different industries. They understand different businesses. Because at the end of the day, if they… Let’s say you’re a web designer and you only build websites for moving companies. It’s a pretty fair assumption that after X amount of sites that they’ve built, what you’re going to get is going to be another replica of 75 other sites that are out there.
I think that a good mix of client type is important as well. Yes, local business, great. Awesome. That’s really wonderful to have those kinds of clients. I think having some national clients and bigger named clients as well is important. It shows that a firm has a reputation. It shows that they have certain credentials and it shows that they will… I think that it gives more credence to the, hey, they’re going to deliver on what they say they’re going to do.
Certainly, you want your website to stand above the competition, not be identical. But everyone has to get their start somewhere, but typically, you don’t want to be that learning curve for that company.
Correct. You do not want to be the learning curve. You’ve said this in a previous episode. I loved it. You said, “Cheap man pays twice.” Unfortunately, in many situations, I’ll have a conversation. Somebody will say, “Oh, I spent $1,000 creating this website.” It’s not what we wanted, rather than it doesn’t… It looks all right, but it doesn’t really, it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t build a need that we’re trying to achieve. And unfortunately, that person will pay twice, more than likely, or we wouldn’t be having the conversation.
I think that it’s important for… Look, I can only speak for myself. We’ve got to push the envelope as well, in the sense of, we have to try new things. We have to take our body of work, we have to take the skill set that we have and keep applying the latest technology, latest updates, theme, etc. We need to try to continue to improve what we’re doing because if we don’t, then really, what are we doing?
And the more audiences that the designers and the developers know and have worked with in the past, I think that will greatly improve the ability for the client’s website to be able to reach their business goals. Certainly, a firm that can think big and small, who has experience with local campaigns and local markets and how to position a website. If you’re trying to serve as a local area, it’s going to be very different than if you’re trying to grow a franchise or trying to create a web presence for branding purposes and to take market share.
We’ve talked about a lot of subjects. I really enjoyed this particular podcast. What’s the takeaways from this one?
One point that I want to drive home before we summarize this episode is the price. I think price is a conversation that both the client and the business need to have early on to make sure that there’s no miscommunication. I think that if you have miscommunication upfront about price, then that same pattern is certainly going to continue throughout the relationship. There’s going to be additional fees here. There’s going to be deliverables that weren’t really accounted for here, and then all of a sudden, you’re going to have extra invoices to redo or add this in or add that in. You get what you pay for, for the most part.
But I do think that when someone says that they’re going to make you a custom website, and they say it’s going to be $2,000 or $5,000, the key is to understand what exactly are you getting for your money. If a custom website means they’re going to swap out a logo on some template that’s a cookie-cutter website, then it’s probably not worth $2,000. However, if it’s going to be structured and built, and it’s going to meet the needs of the requirements, then sure, it could be worth 2000. In fact, it would probably be worth a lot more to your business. But that is a whole separate conversation.
So, again, what are we saying? Buyers beware. Okay? Ensure that you do the research, know what you want, have clear answers, and don’t allow yourself not to get the right answers and the proper answers upfront, so that there is not miscommunication later on.
Finding a good match for the web company that you’re going to work with to build a web presence for your business is not the easiest of jobs or the easiest of tasks to complete. However, once you find a person that you’re comfortable with, someone that you have good communication with, clear dialogue, I think that’s going to make the whole process much simpler. So, to recap this episode, what’s important in finding a web designer, I think that they need to listen to your ideas. They need to bring to the table value of their own. They need to be integrated with and practitioners of digital marketing, so they have an understanding of what’s actually working today. They need to factor in your content system. They need to factor in tools, they need to factor in processes and systems that you use to operate your business. They need to be aware of mobile responsive design. They need to have a portfolio. They need to have history, they need to understand conversion, and what’s going to make a user take the desired action.
End of the day, you’re building out a website. It’s going to have a function that’s an end goal. They’re experienced in multiple verticals, they’ve worked with local and national clients. They’re up to date on modern trends and they’re not the cheapest.