How to avoid a disappointing web design experience
Have you ever had the experience of building a website that was…not quite as rewarding as you hoped?
If you’ve experienced a somewhat disappointing website building project in the past, it may have gone a little like this:
Stage 1 – Optimism
You start thinking about getting a new website. You know that your old hard-coded, non-responsive web page from 2006 isn’t doing your business image any favours.
You start looking around at other websites in your industry and collecting examples that look sharp. Soon you’re going to revitalise your online presence and you can stop feeling sheepish about your online presence.
You ask for recommendations for a web designer who can design you a nice looking site for a reasonable price. Luckily, there are plenty of talented web designers out there who can deliver.
Great start up meeting! Your website can be built within your (robustly negotiated) budget. It shouldn’t take too long, either. All you need to do is get the photos, business logo and the content to your designer and Bob’s your uncle – your fabulous new website will be ready.
Startup deposit paid and your designer gets to work. He’s even saved you time by creating standard site map based on what most businesses need. In no time at all, you’ll be playing with the big boys.
Ooops – you’re pretty busy and the website content was due two weeks ago. That’s OK, your designer can get on with building your amazing looking new site while you take a few more weeks to get organised.
Stage 2 – Reality
[email protected]! That great tender opportunity is due in 10 days and you know they’re going to look you up online. And if they find your old website, surely they’ll question your capacity as a business? Cue panicked call to web designer to see how quickly he can finish the job.
Your designer reminds you that he’s still waiting on all your copy, images, and business logo. He’s had to move ahead with some other jobs because your content is late, but he’ll try his best and work late if you can get what you need to him so you can have your new website up for this important deadline.
Scramble for copy! In the end, you hurriedly copy and paste the text from your old website into an email and send it to the designer. OK, it doesn’t really tee up with the new page structure or reflect any of your major projects of the last 5 years, but it will do for now.
Stage 3 – Dissonance
This design guy is becoming a real pain! Now he’s complaining that the photos that you’ve scanned in of your team at work aren’t high enough quality – can’t he just photoshop them? Isn’t that what designers do? You grudgingly agree to pay a bit more to have him source stock photos of ‘something officey’ for each page – but not too much. Surely you can get decent photos cheaply!
Stage 4 – Reluctant Acceptance
Phew – website is live! Just in time for the tender deadline. Sure, there are a couple of pages that still say ‘coming soon’ and you’ve realised there is actually a whole (key) area of your business that isn’t really referred to at all, but at least it’s up. And there are some quality images of people with white teeth pointing at a graph drawn on an office window that make it look really professional.
When colleagues ask you whether you’re pleased your new website is finished, you find yourself making excuses and asking them not to encourage customers to visit just yet, as you still need to do some ‘tweaking’.
Stage 5 – Disappointment
Two months later, nothing has changed. You simply don’t have the time to revisit this whole website thing and you don’t really know where to start anyway. Getting a new website was meant to solve all your problems – it must have just been a bad choice of designer on your part. He can wait a while for his final payment.
Web design guy stops taking your calls, sends in a story about you to the ‘Clients from Hell’ website and swears to anyone who listens that he’s won’t work with amateurs anymore.
12 months later you get a marketing consultant on board, as you really need to do something to generate new business. She informs you that your website really hasn’t been well thought out, and although it looks OK at first glance, you’ll need to start again and spend more if you want an online presence that will actually bring you customers.
Sound far fetched? This scenario may be at the dramatic end of the scale but ones like this play out every day. The end result being investments in marketing that don’t pay off and clients and designers who never want to deal with each other again.
What causes web design projects to go pear shaped?
In the common scenario outlined above, the root of the problems can be traced back to both the client’s and the designer’s approach.
From the client side, website projects can go off track due to:
- A lack of knowledge about the separate processes of web design and development and web content creation – all equally important to the success of a website.
- Failure to understand what a website’s most important job is – to answer ideal clients’ questions about why your company or product is the best choice to solve their problem or address their need and to encourage them to take action.
- Not accepting that while you are an expert on your business, you may not have the online marketing and writing skills or ‘eye for detail’ that web professionals have. It can be false economy to try to cover these areas yourself rather than getting an expert on board.
- Comparing apples with oranges. If you treat web design as a commodity and choose your provider solely on the cheapest price and not on the services they include in their quote, you may get exactly what you’ve paid for.
Web designers aren’t guilt free in this process either. They are party to bad website outcomes by:
- Not educating clients about the purpose and different elements of their website, instead just focusing just on the ‘look and feel’. Yes, as a designer visual appeal may be your main remit, but if the website doesn’t work because another key element has been overlooked, you are going to be the blamed for it.
- Being an ‘order taker’. Sometimes designers have to have tough conversations with customers about why what they are proposing won’t work, or why their vision can’t be realised for the budget they have in mind. As experts in the business, web designers should be trying to achieve the best possible outcome for clients, even if that means challenging their pre-conceived ideas.
- Not recommending or supplying web content writing services as an integral part of the website development process. The content of a website is equally, if not more, important as the design – but is an area often treated as an afterthought in the traditional approach to web design. If a client doesn’t have the in house resources to develop well written web copy, it is essential for web designers to recommend or provide that service rather than thinking ‘not my problem’. A website will only be successful if content and design have been given equal attention.
How can I avoid this happening to my website?
The answer to many of the problems above is to understand that the effectiveness of your website doesn’t just rely on how it looks.
There are many elements that go into creating a successful website, and you are ‘virtually’ throwing money away if you don’t consider them.
To get the best outcome from your website project, you should be consulting a website firm that:
- Discusses with you where your business is at the moment, how your website fits into your entire marketing and digital marketing strategy, and what you hope to gain by redesigning your site.
- Takes the time to understand your clients, particularly their information needs.
- Works with you to create a structure for your website that meets current needs and allows for future growth. On current trends, a new website should last you 3-4 years so it’s important to think about where your business will be in this timeframe.
- Talks to you about the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of your website site and who is going to take care of this (hint: this isn’t optional – websites need constant maintenance and someone needs to be responsible).
- Can access experts to develop web copy and requires copy before undertaking any design (this is called a content-first approach).
- Understands the importance of imagery and how this fits with written content, and can help you develop or source appropriate imagery that helps visually tell the story of your business offer.
- Doesn’t see your web design as a ‘closed’ project, but rather the first step in developing a digital marketing presence.
- Has a good understanding of all the technical elements that make your website work, including SEO.
- Stays up to date with the latest changes in website technology and digital marketing so that they can be an expert advisor to you.
- Understands the latest online marketing developments including the increasing importance of inbound and content marketing.
In short, to have a joyous, successful and pleasant website development experience that doesn’t have you throwing darts at a picture of your web designer – don’t underestimate the complexity of your web design project. It’s not just about web design – it’s strategy, structure, usability and content too.
Avoid that sinking feeling of disillusionment. The secret of how to avoid a disappointing web design experience is to find a website supplier with the resources and expertise to deliver a holistic digital marketing tool, rather than just a pretty online picture.
Need a website designer who asks all the right questions?
Call Hook and Loop for an obligation free chat on 0404 086 140 or send us a message
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