This is a post that most website designers don’t want you to read. The reason they don’t want you to read it, is that most website designers like to be perceived as wizards with secret magical powers; and they use these powers into mystifying clients into thinking website design is more complex than it is.
This guide will help you to avoid some of the dumb mistakes that otherwise smart people make when hiring a website designer.
So, without further ado, there are the six mistakes:
1. Paying Too Little
We all want something for nothing, or at the very least, we want something for a very low price, and website design is no different.
Most people reason to themselves that if they pay thousands of dollars for a website, that’s money they’re losing, and if they only pay a couple hundred bucks for a website, then that’s money they’re saving.
Which isn’t exactly true.
The ultimate purpose of a website for most people should be to MAKE money, not to cost money.
Most people have websites built to market their services or sell a product. In either case, they are trying make money from it.
By skimping on your website you run the risk of having a second rate, unprofessional website that might not bring in nearly as much business that a more professional website would have netted.
Here are some common ways I see people trying to save money on their website, and the pitfalls that come with it.
Using a “Free” website builder such as Squarespace
I use “free” in quotes because I want to emphasize that everything has a cost even if it’s free. A lot of people ask me about Squarespace and wonder if I’m not concerned about all of these “free” websites available now and that it might cut into my business.
The truth is “free” sites such as Squarespace have nothing to do with my business.
The comparison I like to give is of hiring a wedding photographer. There are quality SLR cameras out there that can take pretty nice looking pictures. So why would anyone bother to hire a wedding photographer? Better still, why would someone pay $5-10k for a wedding photographer if you can get decent looking pictures for “free” having your friend take pictures on a nice SLR camera?
The answer is simple. Because it’s your wedding! One of the most important days of your life and you’re going to want to always look back at those pictures and remember that special moment.
Well the same thing applies to your website. If you have a small or medium sized business the opportunity cost of having an industry leading website vs. a just good enough website could be a difference that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.
Using Godaddy’s website tonight, or similar DIY website builder
The problem with the do it yourself website building programs is that they just look cheap and unprofessional. They all use cookie cutter templates, and the bottom line is they look like second-rate websites.
Hiring one of those giant website design firms
If you search online you’ll come across many of these huge, generic looking design firms who claim to give you a custom website for under $1,000.
Here’s the ugly truth. They’re really selling you a template, which they might just adjust the colors on. The actual designer is probably a guy in India or Bangladesh who you’ll never talk to once.
The site itself will probably have a pretty generic look to it.
And worst of all, after all the up-sells they give you for extra pages, and email account, a CMS, contact form and all the other stuff, you’ll probably end up paying way more than the advertised price.
Takeaway: Don’t just think of the immediate result of saving yourself a few bucks up front. Think of the long-term impact to your business by having an unprofessional site.
2. Paying Too Much
People can often be superstitious and easily intimidated into believing that website designers have magical powers when they don’t.
Here’s a little secret about website design. There are no secret or advanced programs for design.
Whether you pay $1,000 or $100,000 for a site, as far as the design goes, for the most part they’re all just made up of CSS and HTML.
Paying an extra $10,000 on your site won’t change the fact that you will still be getting a page marked up with HTML and styled using CSS.
Don’t let a fancy high-end design firm fool you on this point.
If you go to a site like Apple.com which is a gorgeous website, it’s still just CSS and HTML for the design. (Yes of course they use a lot of other scripts as far as the functionality, but in terms of the design there’s nothing special going on.)
Takeaway: Don’t make the mistake of paying too much for your website when don’t have to. And don’t let complex website terminology intimidate you into thinking the designer is a wizard!
3. Hiring a Designer to build your website
Designers, whether they be website designers or graphic designers, are essentially artists by nature.
By this I mean that they mainly concern themselves with how things look, and whether something is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
Which is great!
A lot of designers fail to really understand the purpose of having a website.
HINT: It’s not just to be pretty.
No, the purpose of a website is to sell something, either your services or your product.
And typically the purpose of a website is to provoke the visitor to contact you so they can one day end up giving you money.
The problem with working with someone who is too focused on design is they lose sight of this.
Am I saying you should have an ugly website?
Of course not! I’m all for having a beautiful, elegant looking site.
But it’s important to remember that you can’t deposit beauty into a bank account at the end of the month.
Takeaway: Here’s how you know you’ve visited a great site. Not when you think, Wow! What a great looking site! but when you think to yourself, Wow! I need to get that product or service!
4. Not Getting a CMS
CMS stands for Content Management System, and basically what it is, is a program that allows you to easily manage and update your website on your own.
Back in the day the only way anyone could update a website was by manually editing the individual pages of code.
With a CMS you can change the content of your site, add images, or even add pages on your own without having to be a website developer.
Without a CMS you’re basically hand cuffed to a website developer whenever you need to update or change your site.
Not only is this an extra cost, but it can also be a nightmare when you need to quickly change something, only to be unable to reach your website designer to make the updates.
Takeaway: Make sure your designer works with a CMS and hopefully one that is commonly used such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.
5. Not Being on the Lookout for Hidden Fees
Many website designers will lure you in with an attractive rate, only to surprise you with an endless barrage of up-sells and additional fees.
The best way to avoid this nightmare when hiring a designer is to be very clear about what your project needs are, and to put them in writing in a contract agreement that outlines the exact fee.
Two red flags to look out for are designers who don’ts offer a money-back guarantee or don’t have many or any reviews.
A money back guarantee, written into the contract, shows that the designer is serious about what they do and not in the business of ripping people off.
Having lots of quality reviews, with direct links to their websites, shows that the designer is genuinely doing good work and have people willing to stand behind them.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to some of the website designer’s past clients to see how they really felt about their experience.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to kick the tires of your website designer and make sure they aren’t out to rip you off with a bunch of hidden up-sells.
6. Not Well Versed in SEO and Social Media
There’s no point in having a great website if no one goes to it.
I’ve heard so many people bemoan having spent good money on a website, only to have no one visit.
The two best sources of traffic you’ll have to your site are through people you know, which is Social Media, and through Google, which is SEO.
SEO stand for Search Engine Optimization, and has to do with how people find you in the organic (free) Google search results.
Social Media include such sites as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Yelp where people gather together and share experiences together through word of mouth.
It’s key to work with a website designer who has a firm grasp in SEO and Social Media and develops a strategy to integrate both into your site from the beginning.
Takeaway: Be sure to find a designer who will help you integrate Social Media and SEO into your overall website designer plan.