Do I need to pay a web designer?
Websites that five or 10 years ago would have cost tens of thousands of dollars to design, build and develop can now be created for a fraction of the price.
The game changers have been an array of cost-effective web publishing software products that are function-rich and easy to build and use. Functions can be easily added like building blocks with zero knowledge.
Want a beautiful theme with groovy navigational devices? Easy peasy – there are literally libraries of choices that you can download.
Each package offers a few page templates (eg. home page, general information page, blog, contact us). They cost a hundred dollars or so (in some cases they’re free) and take just seconds to apply to your site.
So why would you use professional services to build a website. And by professional services, we refer to:
- back-end developers (who build web editing software)
- web designers (who design the graphical look of each web page type)
- front-end developers (who apply graphic design to the web editing software)
- writers (to develop compelling and authoritative content)
- UX experts (who measure and improve website ‘usability’)
- search engine optimisation specialists (to improve the visibility of your website on search engine result pages) and online marketers (to promote websites).
If you’ve ever undertaken a DIY project before, you’ll know that it can take much longer than you expect.
If you’re a complete novice, chances are you’re going to end up with something that’s not as good as you’d envisioned.
But there’s a more pressing issue at hand – ‘not knowing what you don’t know’ is a major weakness in any project, let alone building a website.
When your site is built, will you be confident that it’s the best fit for your business and budget? Will it help your business generate more income or leads? Or will it create efficiencies that can save you money and improve turnaround time for customers?
Have I missed something?
Working with a professional developer to scope your site at the very earliest stage means you don’t need to worry about missed opportunities due to your lack of knowledge.
You only need to tell them what business problems you want solved. They’ll be able to tell you the most cost-effective options and, importantly, what’s not technically feasible.
Even if you intend to build the site yourself using a basic site, it’s good to first work with a web developer to scope the technological requirements needed to help meet your business goals.
And during a DIY build, there’s always the chance you’re going to need a back-end or front-end developer to make the site work the way you want it to. So, it’s good to make contact with a developer at the earliest juncture to help you through the journey.
If you need functionality that’s not out of the box, you’ll need to work closely with developers. Examples of such requirements can include:
- database management (eg. storing information from electronic forms)
- overlaying information from different databases into one interactive device (eg. think of different types of data that can be made available on Google Maps)
- allowing members of the public to publish information on specific areas of a website (think Gumtree or Amazon)
- syncing web publishing software with a records management system or a customer relationship management system
- email notifications with specific triggers to customers or internal stakeholders.
Varying requirements may need different combinations of specialists. For example, a graphic designer may need to collaborate with a back-end developer if your requirements involve a new look combined with added functionality.
Or you may need a front-end developer to work with a graphic designer and UX specialist to ensure new interactive devices look good and can be operated effectively by the web user.
How will my website be found?
If you want a website that’s going to have a good chance of appearing high on rankings, you need to build a site that’ll be search-engine friendly site. This process is known as search engine optimisation, or SEO.
SEO needs to be a key focus during the building of a site. Without it, a website can be invisible on search engine results. It can be an expensive mistake that requires retrofitting by an SEO specialist.
Design, usability, content, information structure and software all need to be considered in tandem to create a site that will not only looks good and functions well for your customers, but also ranks high in search engine results.
There is no single formula for successful SEO and the requirements are ever changing as the algorithms for search engines are constantly updated and improved.
If you want to take ownership of SEO yourself, there’s a steep learning curve ahead of you. And you’ll need time to experiment to discover how to get the upper hand against your competitors.
A good SEO specialist will have a toolbox of tricks that can get you results in a timely fashion.
Yes, it’ll cost you. But weigh this up against the cost of lost opportunities trying to figure out how to make this promising (but complex) concept work for you.
Irrelevant information or too much content shows a lack of consideration for web users’ needs.
They want as little information as possible to make a decision as to whether to make a transaction on a site or leave it. Saying what your target audience wants to hear in a compelling way takes skill.
Wow. Look at that
While you might decide to build your own website with user-friendly web editing software, you’ll need to use compelling images to make a lasting impression.
And you’ll need to make sure images have low file sizes for quick download times while not compromising visual quality.
It’s worth investing in a graphic designer to at least choose your images. They’ll have access to libraries of stock images if you don’t have your own or you want ‘concept’ images.
Where to now?
Badly designed pages or hyperlinks with ineffective labels can send potential customers back to the search engine results page.
When potential customers arrive at your website, there has to be absolutely no mistake about what they need to click to get to the information they need – and to be able to act upon it.
So your information structure and page design needs to be tested and retested by users to ensure they can undertake basic tasks on your site.
That’s where graphic designers and user experience experts comes in. Together they make sure everything looks great and works the way the customer expects it to.
Marketing your site
The decision about whether to use specialists doesn’t stop when you’ve launched your site.
In fact, that’s where the hard work really begins. There’s a whole raft of ways you can market your website using paid advertising.
Knowing which combination of options is right for your site takes experience and skill. You can spend quite a bit of money working it out for yourself or you can get it done right the first time.
And the results of different strategies can be measured using web analytics software.
If you want to do it yourself, you need to know where the important data lies and how to analyse it.
When deciding which specialists to use, there are two options:
- choose your own
- go with a specialist company with its own team.
Whichever way you go, seek recommendations to create a short list of well-regarded suppliers.
To narrow down your choice, talk to each supplier to discuss your ideas and goals as well as their pricing. It’s important you find someone you can trust and communicate well with.
Build your own team
Choosing your own specialists can take time. You’ll also need to coordinate and quality manage individuals separately, which can also take up a great deal of time and present greater risks in regard to quality control.
However, it can be a cheaper option going with smaller specialist businesses with lower overheads than web companies.
Some individual specialists may purport to have skills in other areas. For example, some developers may say they have skills in design or usability.
Or some graphic designers may say they have skills creating user-friendly navigation structures or usability. You can easily find out their proficiency through references from their suppliers.
You can also use recommendations by supplier clients to identify the best person to coordinate the build across all disciplines.
A company with a team of specialists can offer a one-stop-shop model that makes building a website much easier – particularly those with more complex requirements. While a more expensive approach, risks associated with blowouts in costs, timelines and quality are held by the specialist web company.