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If you are thinking about getting a website for your business, or redesigning your existing one, you’re probably trying to figure out the best route to take. With all the new platforms out there, should you do it yourself? Or should you hire a web designer? And if you were to hire a web designer, how do you know what kind of designer to hire?
I am a web designer based out of Charleston, SC, but it may come as a surprise to you that I don’t think you should hire a designer to build your site… At least, they shouldn’t be just a designer.
As a designer myself, I get excited at the prospect of building you a beautiful, modern website that will impress your customers. However, I know that you don’t simply need a beautiful website…
You need a beautiful website that will actually help you meet your business goals – whether that be generating leads, converting browsers into buyers, building an email list, etc.
While there are a lot of web designers out there, many of them only understand graphic design – they do not understand the fundamentals of marketing. Your website is one of the most important marketing tools you have! If it is not designed as such, you have wasted your money!
And on the other side of the coin, I come across many marketing companies that offer web design, but their websites look atrocious. What you need is the best of both worlds!
Ok… so I’m not completely saying you shouldn’t hire a web designer. I’m not necessarily even saying you shouldn’t try to design it yourself. What I am saying is, whoever designs your website, they need to have a strong understanding of these seven important principles of web marketing:
7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Designer
1. Do They Prioritize UX?
User Experience, or UX, is exactly what it sounds like. It is providing a good experience to the users that browse your website.
There are a number of factors that go into delivering positive UX. I’ll cover more of these in the next few points because they are all interconnected.
The kinds of questions you want to ask in regards to UX are: Is my site difficult or easy to navigate? Is my site overwhelming to someone new visiting the site, or do they know exactly how to use it right away? Does my website meet certain expectations that the user has? Is it clear how to buy, sign-up, or get involved?
The next question you should find out about your web designer is…
2. Can They Help to Clarify Your Message?
Did you know you that when a potential customer visits your website, you only have about 10 seconds to leave the right impression with them before they hit the “Back” button? If your message is not clear enough for them to know exactly what you have to offer, they will click away.
I am always surprised at how many businesses get this wrong. In their headlines, they focus on the wrong aspects of their business. They focus on features, rather than the product itself. They fail to communicate how they will make their customer’s life better as a result. And in their copy, they use jargon that the average person does not understand.
A web designer’s job is not necessarily to be a copywriter (which is a job in itself), but they should understand how to convey a clear message. A designer should be able to guide you in articulating your message and writing good sales copy. A web designer should be a storyteller, helping you paint the picture of your customer (the hero of the story), and how you guide them from problem to solution. For more on this, I strongly recommend checking out the resources put out by Story Brand.
3. Will They Work to Understand Your Target Audience?
A designer that understands marketing is going to ask you about your target audience and ideal client. Even if you don’t know your target market, a competent web designer will be able to help you start defining it. They’ll seek to understand why your target audience uses the website, and what experiences would be valuable to them.
Your target market (in most cases) is going to be the same as your users. So it’s important to know this in order to serve them and provide a good User Experience.
4. Will They Build the Website Around Your Goals?
A good web designer knows that a website does not just serve the user. It serves you, the business owner. (And in other cases, there may be other shareholders that it needs to serve as well.)
A web designer should know how to ask the right questions to determine your goals, and they should know how to listen.
Every company, even a non-profit, is selling something. Even if you offer a free product or service, you still have to “sell” your audience on it. So, every company has a Sales Funnel. Your web designer should, first of all, understand sales funnels. And they should be able to integrate your sales funnel with your website. This means collecting leads, building a following, driving sales, soliciting donations, etc.
Your website doesn’t have to be just a glorified business card. It can actually help you accomplish some of these goals. In my opinion, if your website does not actually help grow your business, what good is it?
5. Will They Create Easy Decision Paths?
Creating “Decision Paths” on your site involves mapping out the steps towards an action.
Clear messaging contributes to this. With clear “Call-to-Actions” to buy, sign-up, “contact us”, etc., you guide the user to do what you want them to do. Again, I’m amazed how many websites don’t even have a clear action step to take.
There is more to “Decision Paths” than just the call-to-action. You need to design for “Progressive Disclosure”, in other words, giving the user the right amount of information at each step of the path. It cannot be too much information, or too little. More often then not, my clients’ original websites have way too much information on the homepage. If you have long paragraphs on your homepage, I guarantee nobody has ever read it. It’s just too overwhelming.
Knowing how much information a user needs to see, and at what point they need to see it, is important.
6. Are They Willing to Say No?
You may be surprised by this one, but believe me, you do not want a web designer who is a “Yes-man.”
UX expert Jono Young coined the term Minimum Viable User Experience. This means: how can we accomplish our goals in the simplest way possible? You may have many ideas for features on your site, but an experienced web designer will help you determine the tradeoffs between importance and feasibility.
The truth is, any feature you can dream up can be built… but at a cost. A designer that says Yes to every feature is either lying about how much it will cost you, or they don’t understand how much time it will really take them (which, again, will cost you). A designer that is willing to say “No” now and again is one that wants to provide quality. They are looking out for your best interest and trying to save you money.
7. Will They Design an Appropriate and Effective UI?
We’ve finally come around to talking about the aesthetic design of the site, which is still incredibly important. We call this the “User Interface”, or UI.
UI ties all of this together to provide good UX. Yes, we want a modern look-and-feel to our website, but there’s more to it than that:
Is the branding consistent with your other marketing materials? Are the colors and images relevant to your target audience? Does the layout provide for smooth navigation? Is the design appropriate for your industry? Is it clear what is a clickable button versus an icon?
There is a lot that goes into your UI, and modern does not automatically equal better.
A good designer knows how to build you a beautiful website that will make you look professional and credible, without sacrificing user experience or meeting your business needs.
No matter what you decide for designing your website, make sure that you implement these things. Building a website is a large job. Either you will spend days and weeks figuring out how to do it yourself or pay someone a good chunk of cash to do it for you. It is an investment either way, and I want to make sure your investment is well spent on the right person for the job!
When I work with my clients, these are the exact principles I try to implement for designing their website. I know how important a website is to their success, so I want to give them the best result! If you’re interested in sitting down with me and discussing your new website, I would love the opportunity to do that with you free of obligation. Simply, contact me here, and we can set up a time to chat!