If you’re looking for a website designer it can be confusing trying to choose the right one. Go through the Yellow Pages in any town or city and you’ll find a long list of web designers. Look on the Internet and you’ll discover even more.
Perhaps you have a friend who knows a bit about web design and has offered to build you a site for free. Should you take up the offer?
Or perhaps you are thinking about building your own website. Should you take the plunge and buy some web design software? Or should you use one of those do-it-yourself website builders that many web hosts are now offering?
Well, it depends what you want your website to look like and, more importantly, what you want your site to achieve. If you are developing a website for your business, the ultimate aim should be to sell more of your products or services. If your website doesn’t help you sell more, why would you invest money in it? A website that doesn’t sell is a liability for your business. But a website that brings in new inquiries and sales, is a valuable asset.
As some businesses are discovering, the Internet can be a powerfully effective form of marketing. For example, one of my clients, who sells steel-frame kitset homes, is getting 90% of his business off the website I built for him. Every morning he opens up his emails and sees 20 or 30 new inquiries from the website. They come like clockwork, every day. He doesn’t need to do any other form of advertising.
So how do you find a designer who can build you a site that sells?
There are two main types of website designer – those who are primarily skilled in graphic design, and others whose main strength is in programming. Those with a graphic design focus will build you a nice-looking site, while the programming whizzes will build a site that works efficiently but may not have the same visual flair.
However, a third factor is needed in a business website. If this third factor is missing, your website will be like a two-legged stool. It will fall over. It won’t work effectively to build your business. It will simply sit out there in cyberspace looking pretty but will get few visitors and make few sales.
This third factor involves marketing. When a visitor arrives at your website, you have just two or three seconds to get across your key marketing message. It needs to be spelled out clearly so it hits your visitor right between the eyes.
Visitors don’t come to your website to be entertained by all the cool effects that your website designer has added. They don’t care how well the back end of the site works. They just want to know what your product or service is all about, and what it can do for them.
So your website needs to have a clear sales message. It needs to present your visitor with an irresistible offer that they can?t refuse. It needs to inspire your visitor to take action – either to purchase your product off the site, or to contact you for more details.
That’s why the ideal website designer needs to have a marketing brain. This kind of designer knows how to lay out the words and pictures on a page for maximum marketing impact. They understand how the human eye moves across a web page (scanning very quickly for anything that looks interesting).
They know how to write a compelling headline that makes your visitor want to keep reading. Successful web design is essentially about marketing.
So you need to bear this in mind when choosing your website designer. When you get to the heart of it, web design is not primarily about art. Nor is it about technology. Web design is essentially about marketing. It is about providing information to your prospective customers, so they will buy from you.
Will your site get a good ranking in the search engines?
If your website gets lots of free traffic from search engines, it can provide a huge boost for your business. There are some simple secrets for getting a good ranking in the search engines, particularly Google, for the main search phrases that your prospective customers are likely to use.
A good web designer will think about the best search phrases, known as “keywords”, to build each page of the site around. For example, when I built the site for my client who sells kitset homes, the most obvious search phrase was “kitset homes”. I used these keywords in strategic places in the site, such as in the title tag which is hidden in the code behind the site, which is what the search engines see.
I also used the keywords in other places throughout the content of the site. As a result, this site ranks very highly on Google and other search engines for the search term “kitset homes new zealand”.
What about the cost?
If you’re a small business on a tight budget, the cost of your website is vital factor. You want every dollar you spend to be effective in the prime aim of your site, which, as we have just discussed, is to sell more of your products or services. You may be tempted by cheap offers from designers who say they can build a six-page website for $300 or less.
These kind of sites are based on ready-made templates that, quite frankly, look terrible in most cases. I have re-designed sites for clients who have opted for these cheap offers and later realised their mistake. Generally the old axiom is true – you get what you pay for.
You may get a cheap site by getting your friend to build it. But will this site really help establish the professionalism and credibility of your business? Or will it look cheap and amateurish, and do your business more harm than good.
While a professional web designer may charge more than your friend, bear in mind the incredible long-term marketing power of the Internet if you have the right kind of site. You can keep a website online for less than $20 a monthly. Compare that with the hundreds of dollars a month you can spend on advertising in newspapers, magazines and other media.
As we have discussed, a successful website is one that ranks well in search engines and elicits the desired response from its visitors, and the secret to a successful website is persuasive, keyword-rich content. The layout, the colours, and the pictures are all very important, but the search engines and your visitors respond above all to the words.
This means when you are looking for a web designer, your top priority should be to find a designer who has a marketing brain.