Your business website is one of your most important marketing assets. It’s the shop front that tells potential customers all about your brand, details products and services on offer and is where sales are normally transacted.
Social media and other marketing channels are all pretty important too, but without the central focus of your website, there’s nowhere for your potential customers to go. Getting it right is vital.
With so many web developers and marketing companies out there, however, how can you be sure you’re getting a great website? Is it fit for purpose? Is it giving customers exactly what they are looking for?
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It’s so easy to misunderstand what you’re being sold and to end up with a beautiful but useless lemon.
Delve a little deeper and you’ll find that great website design is more than just funky graphics and a bunch of keyword-heavy content.
We’ve come up with three important questions you should be asking before you decide to take on any company to handle your website development:
1. Do they follow a proper design process?
All website developers have a design process, right? Wrong.
There are plenty of companies out there that are happy to jump straight in and show you pretty visuals of how your finished website will look.
If your website developer is immediately offering a range of attractive designs and asking you to choose one, it’s time to get a little worried.
We talk a lot about UX or the user experience at Creative.onl, and for good reason. To get it right, you need to treat website design as two distinct processes. There are the visuals, with all the beautiful images and amazing fonts and colours. But first, and more importantly, there’s functionality and usability – it’s what could define whether your business website is successful or not.
Functionality and user experience are all about how visitors to your website are going to navigate and engage with your online space. Let’s use a quick analogy:
A suit might look amazing on a model or on the hanger but, if you try it on and it doesn’t fit properly, you aren’t going to buy it. The same goes for websites. If your site looks great but people can’t find the information or product they are looking for or have options to buy easily, they’re going to look elsewhere.
There are other issues that need to be addressed through the design process:
- What is your website download speed?
- Is your website design actually having an adverse impact on your Google rankings?
- Have you got your sales funnel organized so that customers can easily get from prospect to convert in the quickest number of steps?
- What happens if your business starts to expand? Is your website design going to be fit for purpose when you start adding services and products?
Functionality and usability address these issues and more through the design process. The first, and perhaps most important question, therefore, is to ask your design team what this actually means to them and how they deliver it.
2. Are you getting proper bespoke development?
Secondly, web development itself. It’s astonishing how few marketing agencies offer true bespoke solutions for their clients. You need to be very careful about what the agency is actually giving you. Many marketing companies don’t actually have any web development expertise onboard at all. They customise off-the-shelf website themes rather than properly designing and coding a true bespoke site from scratch. It’s cheaper for them, doesn’t require much expertise, and, frankly, most of the time their customers don’t actually notice, so they get away with it.
Off-the-shelf website themes often deliver poor performance, something which will not only affect conversion rates but your SEO as well, and they can’t possibly be the result of a proper design process, because the agency hasn’t really designed it at all.
You’ll also soon realise there are plenty of other websites out there that look a lot like yours. If you want to stand out from the crowd, this may be a big problem.
- Generic re-usable website themes are built to appeal to as many people as possible. They’re haven’t been designed for your unique business, or your unique set of customers. They’ve been built generically to be as re-useable as possible.
- The underlying code for the design is often over-bloated because of this generalisation. The theme probably contains lots of features which aren’t being used on your website, but they’re still sitting there on your website, draining its performance. It can cause problems, particularly with your SEO and how search engines such as Google view your site. It can also make your pages slow to load.
- If a developer is trying to deliver a bespoke solution for your website needs, ready-made themes can be difficult to adapt for the specific needs of your business, resulting in bodged code and more bloating.
3. Can they help you develop a rationale and objectives for your website as a part of your wider digital strategy?
A website on its own will make a limited impact if it isn’t supported by a robust digital strategy. This is also something we’ve discussed in detail previously.
Many marketing companies will offer one thing and not the other. They may be better qualified to do digital marketing such as developing social media or paid ad campaigns but website design is just an add-on which isn’t given the attention it deserves.
Ideally, you want a company that has both sides covered equally well. They will have qualified and talented web and graphic designers who work together and are current with today’s best practices.
They’ll provide that coherency with your entire digital strategy, meaning all of your marketing and sales activities are linked together meaningfully.
The answer to this final question is important if you want to give your web presence (and your business) the best start, enabling future growth and development at a reasonable cost.
At Creative.onl, we ensure we are able to put all pieces of the marketing jigsaw puzzle together in a way that benefits your business from the start. Whether it’s creating an effective digital strategy or building a cutting edge website from the ground up, all with your customer in mind, we deliver a step above many other companies.