Building or revamping a website is a serious business. Big money is at stake. Get it right, and you could see your enquiries and sales leap ahead. Get it wrong and you could watch your marketing dollars disappear down a rat hole with nothing to show for it.
There are thousands of people calling themselves web designers who would love to help you create your new website. Unfortunately, some are better at convincing you to sign on the dotted line than delivering a great website. The trick is finding a web developer with expertise beyond crafting a slick sales proposal.
If you want a web designer who will add rather than subtract value, here are some issues to keep an eye on.
Nice design – shame about the performance.
There’s a tribe of graphic designers who dabble in the web. They can show you a portfolio of beautiful designs, with exquisite imagery and typography. The thing is – do they know how to translate their creativity to the digital realm?
Don’t be seduced by Photoshop files and PDFs. Ask for live links to working websites. You may find the designer with the portfolio of gorgeous webpage designs hasn’t actually built any decent sites.
Be even more wary if the sites that load in your browser are slow and dysfunctional compared to the idealised files you were shown during the pitching process.
Beware of cookie-cutter templates with bespoke price tags.
Some web developers have created a clever business model. They promise you a unique design to reflect your unique business. But – get this – they only offer you the choice of a dozen or so standardised templates.
Now those templates may be perfectly good designs. The thing is, you shouldn’t be paying a substantial design fee for a website that looks and feels just like the industry standard. Is it really worth thousands of dollars to get a site that’s cut from the same cloth as your competitor’s, but with different colours and photos?
There are thousands of awesome templates out there. Ask your designer to trawl the web for the best possible selection. Get his or her advice on the pros and cons of each. That way, you know you’re getting a website design that’s not just the easiest sell for the website developer.
Your website needs to serve your marketing strategy.
It sounds so obvious, but we find many companies don’t connect the web development process to their ongoing marketing. This could be an expensive mistake.
For example, you may be investing in Google Adwords to drive leads. In that case you’ll need landing pages optimised to convert the hot leads your Adwords are delivering. This should be one of the first conversations you have with your web developer.
Or perhaps you have a content marketing strategy built on social media. Then your site needs to host content that adds value to your Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. Don’t just serve up a generic home page.
Good web developers will be intensely interested in the marketing you are investing in. It’s because they want to ensure your website complements it.
Which platform do they recommend?
A novice or part-time developer may tell you that Wordpress (or some other Content Management System) is the software everyone is using. But is it the best for your site? It may simply be the platform that this particular developer is most comfortable working with.
They may be relying on plug-ins and other features that load the site with poor code and lead to it being downgraded by Google. Bad idea.
Another sign of over-reliance on one CMS is neglecting the back-end functionality. So get the web designer to show you how to upload and change content. If you can’t easily login and update the content on your own website, you’re heading for a world of frustration and expense.
Don’t lose your Google ranking.
If you’re upgrading from an existing website, it’s vital not to dump the search engine equity you’ve built up over the years.
Those hard-earned page ranks and inbound hyperlinks are precious. Your Google status is an asset that shouldn’t be casually discarded. So you need a strategy to make sure its value is transferred to the new site.
A business-savvy web developer will be able to hold onto your Google ranking. If they neglect this, potential customers could be greeted with the dreaded 404 Page Not Found message. Google will take a dim view of this.
Does the designer care about converting page views to sales?
Fun though it is, web design has a serious purpose. As a business owner or marketing professional, you need a website that’s optimised for converting interest into action.
For instance, did you know that red buttons drive many more clicks than buttons of another colour? It’s the sort of thing that matters when you’re designing a landing page.
Unfortunately, not every web designer knows this. Some operate on different principles taught to them on graphic design courses many years ago. They may have imbibed the certainty that a red button is a bad thing, because it signals Stop. This is just one example of a seemingly small design issue that could have big consequences for your business.
It all comes down to getting the best value for your budget. The questions you ask when choosing a web designer could make a huge difference to the performance of your site. And there’s a lot of money riding on the outcome.
What is your deciding factor when choosing a web partner?
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