If you’re a business owner, two things are probably true: you care deeply about your company, and you do everything you can to make your business succeed.
Which is probably why you are researching the importance of web design and development right now. As one of the most powerful and flexible marketing and growth tools for business owners in the modern era, a website can make or break your business.
It’s common sense that in the digital age, a good website is an essential part of any successful business. But unfortunately, in the world of web design and development, that’s about as far as common sense will take you. Whether you are looking to design your first website, or have more likely been through several unsuccessful redesign attempts, the details and importance of a good site can feel mysterious.
Especially when you have had negative experiences with your website in the past, and desperately need a redesign, it may feel like it’s easier to just give up on your business’s website and focus on other things. This kind of pessimism is common, but it also won’t lead to your company growing like it can. Getting informed about web design, the importance of a professional, high-quality website, and what makes the site ideal and useful, will help make the argument clear that it isn’t time to give up on your business’s need for a website just yet! So where can you get informed?
Search no further.
We have put together this Ultimate Guide to Web Design for Business Owners just for you! We discuss everything in plain language you need to know about web design and development, from a business owner’s perspective. We’ll break down the goals of a good website, and explain why an internet presence has become essential. We will spend the time it takes to give you all the information you need as the client of a web designer, from introducing you to some principles you should research before you contact a designer, to an explanation of the “nuts and bolts” of the web design process. Read on for the complete guide to web design for businesses.
Part 1: What Should Be The Goals of a Website?
How the Internet Did (and Didn’t) Change Marketing
A great website is like a meal at a five star restaurant: the ingredients look obscure to the untrained eye and correct preparation takes a lifetime of experience to perfect, but when it comes down to it the goals of becoming a master chef and designing a world class website aren’t so complicated. Like a good meal, the best sites do two basic things for business owners: help them stand above the competition, and create meaningful customer interactions and experiences that translate into profits. Your website can essentially be a unique and powerful marketing tool, and this is one of the most important and least understood principles of web design. Taking a quick look at some of the basics of marketing illustrates why.
A lot of people fail to realize how a great website falls into a wider marketing plan because they don’t understand what marketing really is. The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines good marketing as “the right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price.” But as a business owner, you should think of marketing as an investment. Smart marketing for business owners is spending dollars today to reach prospects and build a customer base that will continue generating more and more revenue into the future.
Open any book published more than twenty years ago about the fundamentals of successful marketing, and you will notice one crucially important part of the modern landscape missing: the internet. With the advent of the World Wide Web changing all aspects of how a business operates, it should come as no surprise that marketing in the digital age has been transformed as well.
Which isn’t to say that everything has changed. Well marketed companies still make marketing plans, still advertise in a variety of fashions, and still strive for creativity and an emotional response from their customers. But in the digital age of ever increasing web traffic, virtually every successful business of every size in every corner of the economy has a web presence, ostensibly as a marketing tool. Marketing in the internet era then isn’t about redefining the principles of marketing or reinventing the wheel, but rather is an exercise in understanding and successfully integrating the right kind of high quality website into a larger marketing strategy.
So how, exactly, does a website work as a marketing tool?
And how does the right website fit into your marketing toolkit, attract your business customers, and ultimately translate into increased profits?
First, it’s important to understand what a website is not.
A website isn’t a good example of “outbound marketing”: you aren’t shouting your business’s praises into the online abyss by paying for ad placement, or putting time and effort into building extensive email lists to cast your product into the sea and hope for a bite. However, a well-planned website is not passive either. You shouldn’t throw together some material in an hour, publish it to a server, never touch it again, and expect your “site” to act as a marketing tool.
Well-designed websites act as a pivotal mechanism in the realm of “inbound marketing.” High quality web content on your site will bring interested customers to you. Instead of trying to convince people that they need your product, a good website will turn people who already need what your business has to offer into paying customers that will boost your bottom line.
But in addition to attracting the attention of your target audience, a well-designed site will hold your audience’s attention. A professionally built, strategically customized website is optimized to turn curious browsers into paying consumers, eager to support your business because of the high quality service you offer. In contrast to running a single ad, which may help you sell a product, a professional website will help sell your whole business, and can transform casual curiosity into long term loyal patronage. Which is why a well-designed website will build your reputation and credibility.
Instead of turning potential customers into an annoyed and distrustful audience, which can be the side effect of aggressively pitching your product through outbound techniques, marketing through your website will establish your business as an authority to be trusted.
None of which is to say that outbound marketing techniques don’t have their place, or that you can launch even the greatest of websites online and expect all of your marketing troubles to be over. Effective marketing always has and always will take a blend of mediums, techniques, and tactics.
However, if you are wondering what a good marketing plan looks like, you should picture a well-designed website as your marketing hub. A professional website acts as an excellent marketing tool because it brings customers to you, keeps potential customers’ attention, and establishes your business’s brand, reputation, and story. This is a major reason why most proven modern marketing tacticians consider a professionally built and optimized website to be an essential component of smart marketing
SEO 101: Why You Should Care about Search Engine Optimization
So far, when stressing the importance of websites as fundamental tools of marketing for business owners, we’ve used the term “well-designed website” quite a bit. If you aren’t sure exactly what that means or what makes a website “well-designed,” don’t worry. The remainder of this guide will spend a lot of time making it crystal clear what exactly contributes to a site being effective and designed with the kind of quality and professionalism that will help your business grow. Starting with Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO.”
Every time web designers start using acronyms, it can feel like confusion is eminent. But don’t worry: “SEO” isn’t a hard concept to digest, and getting a decent handle on the idea is absolutely key to making the most from your business’s website.
Breaking down the acronym, we’ll start with “search engine.” Every major search engine, from Google to Yahoo to Bing, uses a series of complicated equations (known as an algorithm) to decide what it will display in its search results. In doing so, search engines try to show internet users (which remember are your potential customers) information that is relevant to them.
For example, when you type “baseball” into Google’s search bar, you will see the MLB’s official page as your first result and a Wikipedia page as your second. Google has determined that these two web sites are the most “relevant” to the average person searching the word “baseball:” if you want to see the lineup for a middle ranked college baseball team, you would have to scroll to page thirty or forty in Google’s results if “baseball” is the only thing you search for.
It’s obvious why you should care. If you come up on the first or second page of Google’s or Bing’s or Yahoo’s search results pages, you are a lot more likely to see people clicking through to your site and turning into leads than if you are on the thirtieth page. Put simply, a basic knowledge of how search engines work and why this is relevant can increase your profits. And really, believe it or not, all you need is a basic knowledge. You don’t have to know how Google’s codes work to land on the first page, you just need to know the basics of Search Engine Optimization.
Continuing to break down the acronym, “optimization” in this context refers to the science of ranking higher in search engine results. While you can and should talk to your web designer about the specifics of optimizing your website for search engine results (which is all “SEO” means in layman’s terms), there are some basic principles that every business owner should know. Here are the top three factors that contribute to the SEO rating of your website:
While the massive amount of silly and useless material on the web might make you think otherwise, one of the most if not the most important factors in establishing how well your site ranks in search engine results is the actual content of your website. Search engines like websites that have useful, meaningful content on display, and you will rank higher if your site is filled with useful material that speaks directly to the intended audience.
The kind of content you feature is important too. Content that is plagiarized from other sites is frowned upon, and will raise some red flags in search engine metrics. Content that is informative and well written will usually raise your standing and help “optimize” your site. Overall, any content is better than a blank or skeletal website, and the more high quality information you have on your site the better it will rank on Google and other search engines.
However, while ranking is all about the search engines, you have to keep in mind that more useful content benefits your visitors most of all. Better content will equate to better leads, and those users will spend more time spent interacting with your website.
The design aspect of search engine optimization can be a lot harder to get a good handle on, partially because there is a lot of code and technical lingo involved in web design, and partially because the relationship between website design and search engine positioning is a very fluid and constantly changing field. It often varies per site or per the target audience. One of the reasons why so many web designers can find clients with relative ease, is that design’s relationship to SEO is complicated and intertwined.
But there are some basic principles of how a website’s search engine results are affected by good design. First, your site needs to have a balance of static and dynamic content, which is designer speak for some of your pages should be new and regularly updated and some should be older and remain unchanged. This is because search engines penalize sites that have nothing but old pages, just as they penalize sites that only have brand new content.
Second, good use of HTML is essential to an optimized web site. While we won’t bore you with the specifics of HTML coding, the basic premise is that your site needs to be efficient to score well in Google and other browser’s rankings. Being “efficient” with coding simply means the page is optimized to load quickly and without overtaxing the server to display its contents. Good web designers use expensive programs and a lot of knowledge to “write” your website in an efficient manner that search engines like, which is one of the biggest reasons that a professionally designed site will almost always score higher in search engine ratings than a DIY or self-building platform version with all of the same content.
Finally, the way that multimedia is coded into and incorporated into your site will have an immense effect on how optimized your site is for search engine results. Again, this is something of a technical and code based subject, but in general sites that have properly optimized for media such as pictures and videos will score better in search engine rankings than sites that are only text.
“Backlinks” were once the most important part of determining how well websites ranked in SEO audits, but in typical fashion in the SEO world, that all changed. The truth is, new metrics in Google and other search engines have changed the way that links affect SEO in an effort to weed out spammy sites. Still, links do have a sizeable effect on how sites are ranked when used correctly.
In the most basic sense, the more relevant sites that link to yours, the more authoritative your site may appear to Google. In the eyes of a search engine, links to your site signifies that you are an “expert,” and therefore your content must be more “relevant” to those searching to find it. However, if the quality of the site that links to yours is very low, the links won’t help you much at all. Additionally, bloating your site with links to others can hurt your rankings, as Google is very worried about “link trading” and other spammy practices that make people look like authorities when they aren’t.
To use linking to benefit your SEO ratings, just use common sense and don’t go overboard. Only link to sites that you actually find interesting, and Google won’t mind. Oh, and share your site on social media pages. When it comes to social media and promoting your business, share wide and share often (without devolving into a spammer, of course).
Social media links are rated differently than other kinds of linking, but the principle is basically the same: the more people link to and share your site and material in the social media world, the higher search engines will rank you. Again, this is an ever evolving and very complicated field, so much so that a new field of “Social Media Optimization” or SMO is coming to light, with experts keeping a pulse on social media and its tie to SEO. Most good web designers will have a handle on social media and linking and how this affects SEO, so start by asking your designer about this field.
In general, thinking about SEO is important for business owners who aspire to have a successful website. There are a whole list of reasons why you should care about SEO, but the main ones are pretty self-evident. If your website appears higher in Google and other search engine results, more potential customers will land on your page, and you will see a higher percentage of these visitors convert to paying customers. SEO works, is very cost effective, and is one of the biggest factors in determining if your website succeeds or fails.
Who Cares? Who Really Needs a Website, Anyway?
You do! Or maybe you don’t…
It really depends on what kind of business owner you want to be.
- If you want your business to grow and succeed in the 21st century, you need a website.
- If you want to level the playing field and have a chance against your competitors, you need a website.
- If you want to pursue new clients, win over new long term customers, and reach as wide of an audience as you can for as cheap as possible, you need a website.
- If you want to be seen as an authority in your field, for your business to be respected and given the credit it deserves, you need a website.
Experts have made lots of lists about exactly why websites are so important in the modern economy, and why every serious business owner in every market, every niche, and every level of the playing field should have a website and take it seriously. But the proof is in the pudding. Many of the biggest companies in the world, from British Petroleum to Apple, have invested massively in award winning websites, and they do so because having a good website is one of the biggest pillars of growing any and every business.
And beyond just having any website, as a business owner trying to compete and grow, you will need a well-designed and optimized site. Which is what this guide is all about: learning everything you need to know, as a business owner, about web design and its importance, and making informed decisions about your business and its future.
Chances are, if you are a successful business owner thinking about the benefits you can achieve from a well-designed website, you have been down this path before. You’ve probably had a website designed for your business, or designed one yourself in the past. And you might be ready to scrap the project altogether. But fear not: no matter the state of your current website, or even if you don’t have one at all, a successful redesign and successful website are right around the corner with the right knowledge at your fingertips. So read on: the best information on web design, including lots of things that you most certainly need to know, is still ahead.
Part 2: The Keys to Effective Website Project Decision Making
In this section, we will be focusing exclusively on the tools and information needed to approach a web design project from the perspective of a business owner like yourself. Don’t worry, there will be lots of context and business philosophy in the next section, but for now enjoy the real world, highly applicable information ahead.
Preparation is Key: Gather What You Need Beforehand
If the introduction we’ve given you already sounds like a lot, that’s because a lot goes into a website.
From the content that will drive traffic to your site, to the graphics that will give your website a unique feel, there is a mountain of material required to produce the kind of successful site that will bring your business customers and increase your profits.
As such, knowing what material you will need to provide a web designer in order to optimize your web sites potential, and gathering that material ahead of time, is one of the most important things you can do to set your website up for success, and is one of the major keys to an effective website project. Here some things to keep in mind to unlock the key of good preparation:
Communication is everything!
If you have worked with a web designer in the past, and your website failed, think for a moment about how often you and the designer talked about your project. Were you given regular updates? Did you feel like you had the chance to give feedback about the direction of your project? If not, you and your designer may not have been communicating well, and communication is one of the most important things to keep in mind when planning a web design project.
And ultimately, your communication with your designer needs to start early. Collaborating from the beginning will help ensure that your web designer has a good idea of your vision for the project, meaning you are less likely to be disappointed in the website you end up with. Additionally, open communication from the start will help your designer let you know what you need to gather for your site, which will insure your launch is a success.
If your web designer isn’t big on collaborating, let them know that you are invested in the process, and open communication will help them too. Or, find a different web designer. Open communication is that important to a well-designed site.
You need to have some things together before calling a web designer!
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare! You should have an idea about the basic elements and functionality you want built into your site, and the more you have the better. Even at the start of the web design process, you should be gathering things like your logos, any pre-written content you have (think blog post ideas now if you haven’t already), and any other resources you want to have on your site.
And in addition to just gathering materials, make sure that everything that you want to see online is fully digitized. If you have some beautiful hand drawn imagery that you want to be featured prominently on your site, scan it into a computer, and take the time to do some graphic alteration to make sure the images look their best. If you don’t have any experience working with graphic program, talk to your designer and ask for help or a recommendation.
The more you do now, the less time (and money) you will spend in the future!
You may be itching to get your web design process underway, but the more work you do in the prep phases, the less work you will have to do later. And the less work your web designer has to do, which means you will end up paying less in the long run.
Plus, your site will just be better overall with adequate preparation on your end. If you have materials and graphics pre-gathered, your web designer will have a better idea of how you want your website to look and feel, and will be able to cater to ideas that you have already formed. Any good designer should be asking about these kinds of things before discussing your site in depth or getting to work, so consider it a red flag if your web designer jumps right to work without asking you to gather materials.
Pricing is Key: Know What You Want to Spend!
A well-designed website is just like an investment: you spend money now, but will likely earn much more in the future from the growing customer base your site will bring to your business. But just like investing, the question always is, how much do you spend? Knowing your budget, and what kind of pricing you can afford, is a key to unlocking a successful web design project. Keep these things in mind when considering your spending limits:
Disclosing your budget won’t hurt you.
Telling your web designer what you are willing and able to pay isn’t a bad thing. Often, there is stigma around disclosing your maximum budget, as business owners assume that once a number is thrown out, there won’t be any room to negotiate. In reality though, website prices and packages are pretty firmly set most of the time, and you don’t hold a big bargaining chip by not discussing your budget with your designer.
But if you do disclose your budget, you and your designer will have a much better idea of what kind of potential site you will see. Your designer can be honest with you about whether or not the relationship is a good fit, and will let you know what kinds of services your money will buy. By discussing your project’s potential at your maximum investment level, you and your web designer can have a lot more fun designing a site that will actually serve you well, rather than spending time and energy in an underserviced and under designed site that will still cost you but won’t lead to clients in the future.
The price of website design varies, but not as much as you think.
You can get a website designed for $1,000 dollars, or you can get a website designed for $100,000 dollars. This sounds like a huge variation, and it is, but there is no way you are talking about the same website in these two quotes. Web design costs vary a lot, but vary more based on the features and functionality you opt for, rather than the designer you choose to design and build your website. Web design pricing is about the bells and whistles.
There is nothing wrong with trying to keep costs low if your business can’t afford a high end website design. But the truth is, when you cut costs for your website, you are always going to be cutting features or functionality. And with lack of features, you have to be realistic about the investment you are making: the more bare bones your website is, the less customers it will produce. If you can allocate part of your business’s marketing budget, or find money somewhere else, every extra dollar you spend on web design will likely pay itself back in the extra clients you will land. If you want a Ferrari but can only afford a Honda, you have to be realistic with yourself and find a way to compromise.
You get what you pay for, and you get a lot.
Web sites can feel like a costly project for a business owner, but web designers do a lot. A good designer is a highly trained scientist, able to write and fix code to make your website run well and do well in the SEO world. A good designer is also an artist, with a keen eye for making your site look and feel right. You can find cheap designers and build cheap sites, but again, you get what you pay for and per service fees don’t vary too much from one designer to another.
You will need to communicate with your designer.
There are calculators out there to help you figure out how much a web design project will cost you, but they are never very accurate for one simple reason. Every project is unique. That’s the same reason why web designers make decent money and a good website isn’t cheap: your site will be unique, pose unique challenges, and come with a unique price tag. Different companies and agencies offer different standard packages, but until you discuss with your designer what you want to see and what you want to spend, you can’t be sure of how your budget will hold up.
Knowledge is Key: Come to the Table Prepared
Your web designer doesn’t want you to be in the dark. The more you know entering into a web design relationship, the easier their job will be, and the more satisfied you both will be with the website that will eventually bear your business’s name. Some things your designer wants you to know: read this whole guide for a good foundational understanding of web design and how it relates to your business. And some things your web designer needs you to know. Pay attention to some of the most key pieces of knowledge you will need, listed below:
Know your domain name!
A domain name is “the most recognized system for assigning addresses to Internet web servers.” Which is a fancy way of saying: your website’s domain name is it’s address, it’s name, it’s title. Google.com. Amazon.com. vinci-designs.com. Popular and useful domain names one and all.
Registering a domain name, or claiming a name for your website, can feel daunting at first. But it is a task anyone can handle with a little guidance. There are lots of online services that will walk you through the process step by step. If you are still unsure, your web designer can help you, but this is something that you should usually know before consulting with a designer in the first place.
Know your web host!
While there is some similarity between a web host and a domain name, the two are often confused concepts. If the internet were the brick and mortar world, your domain name would be the title of your business and your web hosting service would be the building you rent to keep your company open. A web host is what keeps your website’s actual data on the internet, letting others access it. Most domain registry services will include hosting or point you in the right hosting direction, and a designer can help you find this out if you don’t know where to look. But coming to your designer with your host information will be helpful to both of you. Also, many designers offer hosting as well so don’t be hesitant to ask them about this service. They can always point you towards a reputable web host if they do not do this themselves.
Know your content!
Content was discussed a bit above, in both the preparation and SEO sections, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Basically, every good web designer will want you to have some pre-made, ready to launch material ready for your site, you they don’t end up designing a skeletal site with no information on it. You can develop some of your web content along with your designer’s help as your site is getting built, but you will need some good content before you even chat with a designer. As with hosting, often your web designer can be your guide or source for these “add-on” services. If you don’t want to write copy yourself and need a writer to help, many web designers can help or point you in the right direction as well.
Know your goals!
While the specifics of what your site aims to achieve should be discussed with your designer, you should have spent some time setting basic, broad goals for your site. Do you want your website to feed you clients? Develop your reputation as an expert? Serve a specific niche? Some broader goal planning before you meet with a developer will make your site a lot more rewarding in the long run.
Responsiveness is Key: Go Mobile!
While the topics above offer some good practical and real world advice on a broad array of topics related to your web design project, there is one area of web design so new and important that it bears going into further detail to round out your set of keys. So what exactly are “responsive websites” and why should you care?
Website design has come a long way in the past decade, but in one very important area many designers are behind the curve and many sites are now severely lacking in their functionality. I’ll give you a hint: the smallest thing can cause big problems for the display and aesthetics of even the largest websites. And the problem is growing: every year, more and more people are accessing the web in this potentially site destroying manner.
I’m talking of course about accessing websites through mobile devices. It is common sense that what looks good on a large computer screen may not always translate well on to smaller screens, but with mobile internet access rates spiking through the roof, more and more users are visiting websites on smaller and smaller screens. (In fact, in 2014, mobile internet traffic trumped traditional desktops capturing more than 50% of all internet usage.) In the past, talented web designers crafted standalone mobile versions of sites, but this option is far from ideal.
Instead, modern web designers are opting for a new approach called “responsive” site building. With a responsive site, one website will be able to adapt to multiple screen sizes and display optimally on a wide variety of screen types. This approach offers huge benefits over traditional stand-alone mobile sites, as a responsive site will theoretically be able to adapt well to all screen sizes, even those not in large production today.
By investing now, your site will be beautiful on a wide range of devices in the years to come.
Additionally, you will have a huge and growing leg up on the competition who didn’t invest in a responsive site design. As more and more potential customers access the internet over their mobile devices, your website will continue to look beautiful and provide full functionality, and internet users will notice.
It is also worth mentioning that in April of 2015 Google is officially changing its algorithm to give responsive, mobile-friendly website better rankings over those which are not optimized for mobile devices. Many website owners will be forced to conform if they want to stay relevant to their customer base.
Implementing responsive design into your website build can certainly add to the cost but the peace of mind that comes from knowing your site is functional on all devices, and will not lose traffic or rankings in the search engines unnecessarily is far worth the added cost!
Overall, we hope the key set above makes you feel more prepared to embark on a successful web design project. Even if you have tried launching a website in the past unsuccessfully, or going through a major redesign after your website didn’t offer the benefits you hoped it would, there is a lot to be said for educating yourself about all aspects of web design before pursuing your project further. In this next section we will talk about putting it all together, and solidify some of the practical steps and the business theory behind embarking on a new web design project.
Part 3: Putting it All Together
At this point, you have gotten a lot of information about tackling a website design or redesign as a business owner. Some of that information may have been totally new to you, and we hope it was helpful. And some of that information probably felt irrelevant. Don’t worry: there’s a grand finale to tie it all together. In this section, we will focus on some concrete things that will demystify the website design process once and for all, and we will provide some concrete examples and real world steps you can take to get your web design project underway.
Breaking Down the Steps: the Art and Science of Web Design
Whether you are learning about web design for the first time in this guide, or you and your business’s website have been through several unsuccessful redesigns already and this is all pretty familiar to you, one aspect of web design that never gets easy for any laymen to understand is the coding. The science behind web design, the real nuts and bolts of what makes a well-designed website run beautifully, is a very technical and skill intensive industry that isn’t easy to decipher. But there are lots of principles of web design’s science that are worth knowing. Here are some of the most common steps behind the science of web design.
Step #1: Prototyping
After a web designer has an initial consultation or group of meetings with a client, where the two discuss everything from a website’s goals to the actual content of the site, a designer will usually draw up a prototype. In web design, prototyping involves writing or adapting code based on the ideas discussed between a client and a web designer, and building a very basic skeleton so the designer has something to show the client in-browser.
Step #2: Visual Inventory
In this phase of development, a web developer will show the client how their ideas look when plugged in to some basic, pre-coded and pre-defined themes, or “visual inventories.” The idea behind a visual inventory is not to give a client a fully functional cookie cutter site per se, but to give the client some big ideas to work with in requesting customization. Codes can be written from scratch for this step, but expect a time delay and a higher design fee.
Step #3: User interface design
In this step, a web designer begins the process of fleshing out a unique site, and shows clients different patterns and color schemes that will apply well to their prototype.
Step #4: CMS Development and Database Setup
In this phase, the web designer will accomplish a lot of “behind the scenes” prerequisites needed to eventually make a site go live. Simple things like postdating, hosting, and more are usually tackled here, but every project is unique, and there can always be snags in even the most routine foundational procedures.
Step #5: Website Development
Step #6: Quality Testing
In this final phase of the science behind web design, a designer makes sure there are no broken links, no loose ends, and that everything is running as it should be. While the development stage takes the most time and most coding, quality testing can be very time consuming depending on the complexity of a site.
Of course, there is a lot more to web design than the six steps above. If it was that straight forward, everyone with a knack for code would be designing award winning sites for Fortune 500 companies. But as anyone who has a bad experience with a bad designer can attest to, there is a lot of nuance to the design process. Web design is, and must be respected as, an art as well as a science.
First, the incredibly difficult tasks related to coding and the nuts and bolts of design are always far from straightforward. It takes an artist with a lifetime of experience to be able to improvise and handle all of the curve balls that difficult code can hurl at even the most gifted web developers. What separates an expert, artist designer from an apprentice level coder is an ability to see the forest through the trees, an ability to be flexible and try new things and find solutions. And there is a definite and undeniable art to this kind of exploration and improvisation.
Of course, more than just experience makes web design a truly artistic endeavor. An expert designer must have a trained and discerning eye for visual aesthetics, as well designed and great websites are as much about a look and feel as they are about functioning code. Furthermore, an artist level designer must be able to align form and function perfectly, integrating the way a website works with the way it feels from a customer perspective to provide the right experience for the intended target audience. It isn’t just about choosing the right colors; it’s about making every color fit together perfectly, and every function of every pixel match the overall mood of a site. It’s about making sure design is done with purpose and that the end user benefits from having found the website as does the business owner themselves for having built it.
So, why should you care about all this?
Hiring a web designer isn’t cheap, and you should know what goes into mastering the position. You don’t have to know every detail of how a designer works in order to appreciate what they are capable of doing. But why does it cost so much, and why can it take so long?
Time and Cost Rationalized: Why the Value of a Well Designed Site is Worth It
Let’s tackle the time question first. One of the most frustrating things about contracting with a web designer, from a business owner’s perspective, is the timeline associated with development. You want your site online, and you want it online now. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple. Another quick glance at the process of web design tells you why.
First, there is a substantial amount of preparation work that goes into designing a site, from the collection of materials mentioned above to initial consultations and meetings with a designer to describe your goals and ideas. Then, the designer literally has to build your website from the ground up. Think about how amazing that is: you are going to have a slice of the internet that belongs to your business that didn’t even exist before. Or, if you are in the redesign process, you are going to see a dreary and drab nook of the web with your company’s name on it grow into a prosperous and useful marketing and business tool. That kind of construction takes time.
Of course, it IS possible to rush a site. But if you are currently in the redesign process, you know this doesn’t work. If you are starting your first site with your business, trust us: it costs less, takes less time, and is overall a better idea to do something right once than wrong once first and then get stuck fixing a rush job’s mistakes. Plus, many of the benefits of branding and developing your business’s reputation that can come with a well-designed website will not be present at all if you throw something sloppy up on the web with your name on it. When you think about how wrong things can go in a rush situation, the 80 to 100 hour average timeline that a premier company like Vinci Digital quotes for “from scratch to beta launch” isn’t such a bad tradeoff.
So the timing makes a lot of sense, in that if you want something done right it will take a time investment.
But why in the world does web design cost so much?
Look back to the time explanation for initial clues. Basically, web design is hard. It is a very technical field that takes considerable skill, and successful designers have spent a lifetime learning how to code, and learning all of the nuances of applying this coding expertise to crafting beautiful projects. 80 hours of skilled labor in any field isn’t going to be cheap.
Again, of course it is possible to cut costs. Instead of an experienced web designer with a well-respected firm, you could trust your business’s future to a coder fresh out of college. But if you want professional quality work, you are going to have to pay a professional price. An inexperienced web developer may get all of the technical aspects of your site right, but if your site doesn’t look and feel inviting, it isn’t going to translate into sales. Web design is hard, and not everyone can do it well, and if you want the best website you should expect to pay professional level wages for a skilled artist and expert who can deliver. Might sound like a tough sell at first. Your site is going to take a lot of time, and if you want it done right it isn’t going to be cheap.
But seriously… how many successful businesses can you think of that don’t have a website? Probably none!
The real reason that web designers earn what they do, and why every business owner who is savvy about growth and willing to invest in their business’s future has a website, is that great websites work.
The value that a great website brings for your company, based on sound design, planning, and proper targeting is truly immeasurable. Sure, you will see huge increases in exposure, especially in targeted areas and amongst customers that are genuinely interested in your product. And you will see this exposure turn into profit like you never could have imagined. Where you once spent advertising dollars chasing clients that made empty promises or were never interested in the first place, your well-designed website will having you raking in the cash as interested consumers interested in your product become long term customers interested in supporting your business. And, most of the time they are coming to you, instead of you chasing after them!
But there is so much more value in a well-designed site that dollars and cents really are irrelevant.
Look at this website for Certified Master Life Coach Laura Posada.
Laura is a best-selling author, whose clients trust her, literally with their lives. She states her mission: “As your life coach my mission for you is: growth, transformation, balance and living every day happy and motivated with a purpose and a vision.” And doesn’t her website just say these things? Not just in the well placed text and pleasing color palette. The way Laura’s website works together as a unit, the way she is able to communicate her personality and warmth while remaining professional and trustworthy, and the way she is able to convince people to let her motivate and inspire them, are all products of the tone of her website. This is the value that a well-designed website can add to your company.
Look at this website for Sunshine Retirement Living.
The web design team for this project knew that the site would be marketed primarily towards seniors, aging adults, and their families. The functionality of http://www.sunshineretirementliving.com/ is so intuitive and so well ingrained into the design of the site itself, that it is easy even for first time web users and retired individuals unfamiliar with computers to get everything they need from the site. A web coder could have made a functional website, but a professional web designer made this website work for the targeted audience. That’s the kind of detail, the kind of form coupled with function that a professional web designer brings to the table. This is the value that a well-designed website can add to your business.
Now look at this website, for Critical Path.
At first glance, do you know what this website is trying to do? Can you figure out what product it is even representing, or what the goals of the web developer were? Is the site visually pleasing in any way, or does it entice you to stay with a subtle tone?
Or look at this site, for entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Graham.
Does this site inspire confidence?
Does Paul look like someone you would want to work with or place your trust in, based on his website’s style?
The difference between the first two websites we linked you to, for Laura Posada and Sunshine Retirement Living, and the last two we linked is pretty striking. And do you know why the websites felt so different? The first two are products of Vinci Digital, and were curated by an expert level highly artistic team of web designers. The second two were pulled randomly from a “worst websites” list, but you can bet they weren’t designed by an experienced and proficient web designer.
This is the value that a well-designed site will add to your business. You will stand out from the pack. Your site will help position you and your business the way you want to be perceived by your customers. You will make profits based on the new costumers that discover you through your site, and decide to trust your business based on a website alone. When you think of all of this value, and all the work that goes into creating it, it’s a lot easier to understand why a premier company like Vinci Digital charges around $5500 and up for their expert level web design support. If you want a professional, high quality website that will add value to your business, you need a professional, highly experienced designer in your corner.
Conclusion: After Your Website is Completed
By this point, you’ve learned all you need to know as a business owner jumping in to starting a new web design project. Whether this is your first site’s launch, or you are working through a difficult re-design period, we hope that you learned something useful and interesting in this guide.
At the very least, we hope it is obvious now why good web designers charge what they do, and clear how much value a well-designed website can add to your business. At Vinci Designs, we hear business owners tell us what they need most on an almost daily basis. “I need a great website. I need quality traffic. I need new branding.” Even if you have had a bad experience in the past, we hope you believe us that a professional, experienced, expert web designer can meet these three needs for every business owner willing to put in the time and money to build their business a great site.
And once you’ve built your company’s dream site, don’t forget to treat your site right. Regular maintenance can prevent a major crash in the future, and keep your website running as smoothly and beautifully as the day it launched. And regular updates to your website, to ensure that all of the nuts and bolts are up to date and all of the content is reflective of your current mission, are essential to keeping your website running smoothly. Any good web design company like Vinci Digital will be able to help you keep your site running right. Just make sure you don’t forget about all of the hard work you and your designer went through, and don’t neglect your site once it is running.
If you are looking for a well-designed website that will add the kind of value to your company that this guide talks about, give us a call or request a free consultation. Or, if you are just visiting this guide as a resource for all things related to web design from a business owner’s perspective, thanks for stopping by, and we hope you enjoyed the information found here. And always remember, as the stress of business gets you down and you are curious about how to grow: that nothing makes a good business succeed like a good business leader. But a great website sure helps.