Anyone with a computer can claim to be a web designer, and many do.
I've met many business owners who hire-in an inexperienced person to create and manage the website and social media presence. Though cost-effective, this isn't always the best choice.
I have also seen instances, in which it was a great decision for the business owner. Having said that, Choose carefully who to entrust with your online presence.
In today's blog, these are some aspects you may wish to consider when it comes to your online presence:
1. What are your goals for this website?
A website can be almost anything you want it to be, so think carefully about what you want to use it for. Should it inform your customers about your products or services, with images and video?
Should it also interact, helping customers schedule appointments or getting feedback? Would you like to be able to sell directly from your website, handling credit card information safely?
Take the time to think about all the things you want your website to do, what you want to feature and then prioritize them before starting the website development process.
2. What kind of expert do you need?
This may be news to you, but web development and web design are very different things. It’s OK, you don’t have to be an expert - that’s why we’re here.
Web Development v. Web Design
Let’s find out whether you need a web designer or a web developer.
Focuses on the look and feel of the website
Creates an experience for your visitors
Will talk to you about fonts, colors, contents and styles
Codes and programs the inner workings of the site
Ensures the website does what you need it to do (estore, popup, etc.)
Will talk to you about HTML, apps, databases, secure connections, and other technical things
Still, there's another role that is often forgotten: a digital marketing strategist. A web designer can create a beautiful website and a web developer can get your online store up and running, but who is going to be responsible for bringing in website visitors?
Who is going to make sure that your online business listings in the 70+ online directories are all up-date? Who is going to monitor how much traffic is coming into your website and make sure that your website is actually working for your business by generating new leads and customers?
3. What are the deliverables, the scope, the cost, the timeline?
You don’t just order “a website with fries” and sit back to wait for it to be done. You have to be very specific about what you want, and then you must get everything in detail, in writing, and make sure of what exactly is included in the quotes you get.
Some questions you may need to answer before commissioning a website are:
How many pages will it have?
Will there be forms or an online store?
Do you need photography services?
What about the website maintenance and SEO?
When will the site go live?
Do you get to request changes after it’s finished?
Will you have a login to your website?
Will you be able to see analytics of how your website performs?
Look at the package you are offered and consider the deliverables and the extras. Is SEO included? Is a photography session included? Avoid surprise fees down the line for those extra high ticket items.
4. What commitment will you make to your website?
Building a website is not just about hiring someone to do it and then forgetting about it until the next website redesign. A website is a living thing that requires attention to thrive and to give you the best results.
Consider that a website needs periodic updates, such as news and offers, fresh photographs or a blog. If customers reach out to you somebody should be ready to respond. If you want to use your website to sell you will have to update it every time there is a change in inventory, products or prices.
Consider your options: Will you be the one to update your website? How often? Is there someone on your team who can do it (photography, writing, etc)?
If neither of those options is viable, are you prepared to hire or contract the maintenance?
5. What will it generate for your business? Leads? Customers?
Not all websites are created equal.
Would you rather have a good looking website, or one that brings you lots of leads and prospects? These things are not mutually exclusive, but when in doubt always prioritize efficiency over looks.
We have said this before and we’ll say it again: looks are not the most important aspect of a website - the most important part of a website is that it works, generating leads and sales for your business.
The website may not look gorgeous or super trendy, and that is OK as long as it performs at a high level. When considering a web design company ask them about the conversion rates on the websites they have designed for their customers.
What is a Conversion Rate?
There are many different types of conversion rates when it comes to online advertising and web design. One of the most basic conversion rates you should watch for is your visitors to contacts conversion rate.
The industry standard visitor to contact conversion rate is 2%. This means that if in 1 month your website received 100 visits, you should have generated at least 2 new contacts/leads from the website. At the end of the day a higher conversion rate means more leads and more customers for your business.
Though 2% is the industry standard, it doesn't mean that higher conversion rates are out of the question. Through A/B testing and continuous improvement, we have built websites that convert at 6%, 8% and even on a really good month: 12%.
These small percentages wouldn't seem to make a big difference, but just think about the difference from 2% to 6%. On 100 visits, that's the difference between 2 leads and 6 leads, and with increased visitors to your website the gap between the two only gets bigger.
6. Have you tested websites the company has built?
When considering a company for developing your website do this simple test:
A good website should give you that information clearly in 3 seconds or less, and if it does then it is a good website, regardless of how cool the graphics are.
Conversely, a site may win awards for style and design, but if it doesn’t convey those 2 facts to the visitor within seconds it is not a very good site.
A good (and fun) tool to use isDrunk User Testing- if your site passes this test, you’re golden!
How do You Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Business?
Take the time to think. Think about what your company really needs. You can often achieve this by asking yourself "why" a million times over.
For example, if someone tells me "I need a new website." Then I ask them why. Their answer: "It's out of date." My next question: "Why does that matter?"
You get the idea. Keep asking why until you discover your true motivation. In most cases, I end up seeing two scenarios:
1. The person is feeling pressure from someone else in the business who sees the company's need to focus on digital marketing for what it could do for the business.
2. The person is looking to generate more leads and customers for the business and believes a new website can help.
In most cases, these motivations require a digital marketing strategist, not just a web designer or a web developer. Though, don't get me wrong... if you have a website that performs well and you're just looking to add some fun, new functionality, a web developer is likely all you need.
Still, I like to compare it to remodeling a house. You believe all you need is someone to tear down and frame a new wall. This person should be an expert at demo, framing and sheetrock, but who is going to determine if the wall you're tearing down is load bearing or if it will require some sort of structural support? You need an architect who knows structural engineering for that.
In many ways, it's the same in the digital marketing space. A digital strategist can map the structure and the team that works with him or her will often do the framing, the sheetrock and the painting.
Ashley Quintana, M.S., B.A.
Ashley Quintana is a co-founder of Bridges Strategies. In her role, she develops, leads, and executes digital marketing strategies for the company’s growing client base, including a Fortune 500 subsidiary and an NBA basketball team. Ashley’s work can be found in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science, and she is an OKC.biz 40 Under 40 honoree for her leadership in business and community. She frequently speaks at universities, churches, and conferences on marketing, diversity, and business.