Nowadays, everyone has a website. There are even pets with their own websites! As for businesses, it seems as if everyone knows that having a website is practically a “must.” As with just about everything, there’s more than one way to go about website design for business. But not all the methods are particularly good, and the consequences of website design shortcuts are unfortunate enough to make undertaking an amateur job a complete waste of time.
As a critical thinker, you’re probably experiencing a moment of scepticism right now. Of course a company that offers website design will tell you that the benefits of professional website design for business beat amateur efforts to flinders! So, let’s take a look at the reasons why we say you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a professional job.
You Can Get a Good-Looking Website for Free, so Why Choose a Paid Option?
Most of us are aware that we can design a website for free on low-to-no-code platforms like Wix. We’ll be honest with you, they don’t look bad, at least, on the surface. But there are a few things you should know before shooting for a “freebie.”
The first thing you should know is that it isn’t really free. Unless you want to remain within the free platform’s domain (which makes you look super-unprofessional) you’ll have to buy a domain. So here’s how the “free” platforms make their money: subscriptions. For your domain, branded email, and so on, you pay a monthly fee. In fairness, it’s not that much, but there are other drawbacks.
Limited design options scream “this business chose a free website builder.” If you’re in the know, you’ll recognise them at a glance when you visit one of these sites. If your next thought is “this business tries to cut corners,” you’re probably up with the rest of us in getting a bad impression.
It could just end up being a total waste of time. As one of the folks who has tried paid versions of website builders, I can assure you that they’re not quite as easy to use as their providers say they are. Figuring out the user interfaces takes time, and after days of fiddling and tweaking, one runs into a lack of flexibility that’s severely limiting. Will your website stand out from the crowd? Probably not. If your ideas are in the least bit creative, it’s not going to have half the functionality you hoped for.
Then, you hit storage limitations, discover that you can’t use high-quality images, or simply can’t add all the pages you’d like to have. Meanwhile, your prospective website visitors may have to deal with slow loading times. Unless they’re pretty determined, they’ll just move on to the next business website with a similar-sounding description.
With no control over coding, you also lose control over SEO. Some website builders have messy code that search engines see as a red flag. If there’s also poor functionality, expect to be relegated down the search engine rankings to the point where your website is all-but-invisible. Even more damning, many builders are “flash based.” Guess what? Search engines can’t read flash. In a worst case scenario, your website won’t even show up on search engines for the simple reason that bots and crawlers can’t see what they’re about!
Enough said already! While “free” may be fine for amateur bloggers or folks keeping online journals, website builders don’t offer any of the benefits of professional website design to your business.
How Does Professional Website Design Improve Your Business?
It’s a common misconception: if you don’t transact with your clients online, all you need is a page somewhere-or-other so that you can show it to people if they happen to ask whether you have a website. However, if that’s all your website does for you, you’re missing out in a big way. Let’s take a look at how professional website design improves your business, and you’ll see why.
People are looking for businesses like yours online. You want to be seen! Gone are the days when people grabbed the trusty Yellow Pages to search for businesses. Whether it’s a doctor, a tradie, or an executive service, they hit the internet, type in a few words, and pow! Up come the suggestions. With instant gratification now at their fingertips, they don’t browse much. Page 1 results will do, and the “three-pack” recommended by Google gets the most attention.
Your website is your storefront - even if you have physical premises. When it comes to shopping around, most consumers don’t want to waste their time or yours. They’ll only approach businesses that look good, and since they find you through search engines, your website provides the online equivalent of a storefront. Anything in the least bit shabby will see them questioning your professionalism - even if you aren’t trying to sell website design!
Your website boosts your reputation - if it has great content. Aside from the good looks of a professionally designed website, it can make you look smart in other ways too. By offering inside information in your area of expertise for free, you build a reputation as an expert in your field. Since good content means that people find your information, they start to reference it elsewhere, giving you “link juice” that boosts your search engine rankings. So, apart from making a name for yourself as being the go-to source of information in your field, the right content also boosts your online reputation and makes you easier to find.
You can use it for lead generation among people who aren’t (quite) ready to buy yet. Good website design will include the all-important calls to action that signify buying intent. But a really good website can also be used for lead generation. If you offer great information for free, a lot of people will be willing to subscribe to your mailing list so that they can stay up-to-date with the useful and interesting content you provide. Now that people are interested in what you say and do, you have a way better chance of making a sale, and you can ensure that you don’t get forgotten by mailing out more info and offers. Needless to say, it takes professional website design coupled with excellent content to make all of this possible.
Build a strong, memorable brand with the help of a brand-appropriate website. Branding makes you memorable. But only if you work hard at building up your brand and getting it into the public eye. Your website will be an important element in reinforcing the impression you want your brand to convey. People who have never heard of your business or your brand before may still remember it - but that means having a strong online presence. Your website will be its backbone and it’s vitally important that it should convey your brand’s message and match with a clearly defined branding strategy.
A good website improves your customers’ overall experience. You may have everything in place to welcome your customers at your physical premises, but since your website is often their first point of contact, it needs to be as welcoming as you are! That means that they shouldn’t have to struggle to find relevant information, and that, in turn, requires purposeful website design that ensures they have everything they need at their fingertips. With your online and offline customer experience optimised for success, happy customers will be quick to refer their friends and, chances are, they’ll share a link to your website as a starting point. Rinse, repeat: even more happy customers and even more referrals.
Your website can encourage repeat business. It costs a lot less to gain repeat business than it does to drum up interest from the unconverted. Your website can be a tool for encouraging repeat business through subscriptions, special offers, and the free information it has to offer. It all begins with design. It ends with more feet through the door.
How does web design improve your business? In a nutshell, it makes you look great and, even more importantly, it makes you money.
Website Design for Business: How Should the Early Stages of the Process Work?
We’ve already eliminated “free” website builders as a viable means of setting up a business website (unless you don’t mind their MANY drawbacks), but loads of people will tell you that they’re professional website designers. How will you know that they’re really the experts they say they are?
Here’s the proof of the pudding. If a website designer just asks a few questions about what you want the website to consist of and then happily heads off to do the design, you’re not talking to a professional.
Since your website represents your business, your designers should have made an effort to get to know your business from top to bottom and inside-out. Just latching onto a few sentences you composed off-the-cuff and taking it from there isn’t enough. A real pro will want to know a lot about your business’s history, how things stand at the moment, and what your goals for the future may be.
They’ll also ask specific questions about your competitors, your branding and how far you are in the brand-building process. More specifically, they’ll want to know what goals you hope the website will contribute to. They’ll also ask about your target market, the personality you want the website to convey, and the basic architecture you have in mind. They'll want a look at your current website, if you have one, as well as your social media channels and any brand-related artwork you’d like them to include.
Since they're real professionals, they’ll also give you their suggestions. Do listen carefully to what they have to say, even if you think you’ve got a reasonably clear idea of what you want. They may be onto something you shouldn’t miss out on.
All of this should happen before they give you a quote. If it doesn’t, you can be very sure that your website designer is planning to trot out a formulaic recipe that won’t help you to stand out from the crowd. It’s a logical conclusion. Anyone who accepts a brief that amounts to “build me a website” without getting down to the specifics is going to give you “just another website” instead of a GREAT website that converts customers and makes you money.
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Website Designer
While the questions your prospective designer asks you will reveal a lot about his or her professionalism, you can and should dig a little deeper. There are some pretty weird practices in the industry: people who tout themselves as website designers and then use the “free” website builders; businesses who outsource everything to freelancers and then slap on their markup, and more.
Choose the best and eliminate the rest by asking any questions that the designers didn’t answer when pitching their services. Here’s what you need to know and why it’s important.
What does your research process consist of? A truly professional web designer won’t even begin with design before thoroughly researching your business and your industry. Keyword research will form part of that. If you have a website already, looking at its metrics with the aim of improving on them is part of the research process.
Do you outsource? Outsourcing isn’t always a disaster, but it can be. If the marketing agency you’re talking to is vague in their answers, they very likely do outsource. That could mean inconsistent quality plus the possibility that you’ll pay more than you really ought to. If they’re open about outsourcing, they should be equally open about who they outsource to and why.
What does the process consist of and who is my contact? Professional website design begins with research, after that comes design and development followed by the launch. Thereafter, results must be reviewed and you should be receiving reports to track the results your new website is achieving. You also need a single point of contact. Having to tell half-a-dozen people the same thing individually and not knowing who to talk to about what is hugely frustrating.
Can CRM be Integrated Into the Website? Just because it's online doesn’t mean that relationships don’t matter. For instance, if someone hits “contact us” and sends you a mail, you want to know that it’s feeding into your CRM, allowing you to take appropriate action without having to consult additional platforms first.
What do you need from us? A good website design agency should be able to cover all the bases from logo design to sourcing images and writing copy on your behalf. However, it shouldn’t be necessary to metaphorically reinvent the wheel. Professionals should be able to assess your existing collateral and either use it or give reasons why they don’t think it suitable.
How long will it take? Faster isn’t necessarily better. Very quick turnaround could be a warning that your web designer plans to cut corners. Even a basic website can take one to three months to get up and running - a complex one can take up to six months or even longer.
Do you use templates? This could be a deal-breaker. While some templates are really good and have a certain amount of flexibility, others don’t. If they work on plugins, and if one of them breaks, the whole website can come crashing down. If it’s not fixable, you’re back to having no website at all, or a barely-functioning one.
Templates also use generalised coding that allows them to be adapted to various types of business - and that coding could harm SEO efforts. Having said that, it’s possible to use them cleverly and they can result in a lower overall costs, but if your designer uses templates, you need to know that they’re durable, effective, and customisable.
Will I have access to the backend or be able to transfer content management if I move to another provider? This is a biggie, and it comes down to the Content Management System (CMS) that’s being used. If the designer uses his or her own proprietary CMS, it could mean that changing providers means that you no longer “own” your website and that nobody else can access the back end. Goodbye website.
Do you implement SEO techniques and what do they consist of? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) sends signals to search engines that help them to classify and rank your website. Without good SEO, you have decreased visibility. But you also have to be careful of “black hat” techniques that try to “cheat” the system. Since search engine algorithms keep evolving in order to give users relevant results, cheats get downgraded as soon as search engines find ways to detect them and stop them in their tracks. Ask about on and off page SEO and how it will be implemented. Then do a little research to ensure it’s all above-board.
Will my website be mobile friendly? This is old news, but it’s still worth checking. If your designers can’t make your website look good and work well across the devices from where it can be accessed, it will frustrate your website’s visitors and will result in search engine downgrades.
Who does the hosting? The choice of host will affect your website's speed, and its reliability will determine how much downtime you have. You want a fast website with little or no downtime. Hosting has a big role to play in that.
How many design revisions are included in your quote? You really need to know this. You might not have a very clear idea of what you want, but when you get what you don’t want, you’ll know. This can help you to refine your brief, but you don’t want to find costs mounting beyond your budget.
In whose name will the domain be registered? Once again, its a question to ask to ensure that you’re able to retain control. A domain can be a valuable asset - so why pay for it if you don’t even own it?
Do you provide analytics and how often do you do so? Analytics tell you how effective your website really is. If your prospective web designer is reticent about analytics, it probably means that he or she isn’t very good at boosting your results. Professional website designers will readily give you analytics. In fact, they’ll be proud of the results they achieve for you and will be hoping that you study them closely.
Can I see a portfolio of your previous work? While many design companies sign non-disclosure agreements to protect their clients, they should still be able to show you examples of their work. Ask to see a few examples.
Website Design for Business: A Strategic Decision You Shouldn’t Take Lightly
A website isn’t “just” a website. It’s the online version of your business. Just as you make day-to-day business decisions with a strategy in mind, so your website should be approached strategically. The choice of website designers will ultimately reflect on your professionalism, so it’s worth ensuring that you choose experts whose abilities will reflect yours.
At Your Digital Marketing Agency, we have a team of specialists: business strategists, designers, developers, copywriters, graphic designers, and social media experts. Working as a closely-knit team, we achieve results that we (and our clients) can be proud of. Do we check all the boxes? We’re confident that we do, plus you have the benefit of the whole team doing everything in their power to help you succeed.
After all, your success is our success too. Call us today to book a consultation. We’ll ensure that it’s one of the best decisions you ever made.