For the average layperson, web design (also referred to as web development) is a broad term that covers all aspects of a website, including the visual elements, content development, the user interface experience, website optimization, and the backend technical nuts and bolts. As the customer, it helps if you can have all of your website development needs managed through one point of contact. However, you should be aware that a true web designer may only possess experience and skills for one aspect of web development, for example graphic design, but lack true skills in the other technical areas or vice versa.
Does this last sentence leave you scratching your head saying, “Wait a second. If their true talent is graphic design, who’s going to take care of the copy, the techie stuff, and make sure that the various SEO elements are in place so people can find my site?” Good question.
Creating a website that works requires developing many elements. While your current web designer may propose “managing” all development services for you, can they prove that they have the up-to-date knowledge and experience to create all of the aspects I mentioned above?
Here are four fundamental questions to ask.
1. Do they recommend you start by developing a strategy?
Having a website that effectively conveys your brand is critical. In a Web 2.0 world, your company’s website, also known as a branding site, is a primary touch point for your target market. Because of its importance, you will obtain a better ROI from your site if you develop a strategy before you approve any design work.
You may define a website that works as one that attracts ideal prospects and converts them into customers. Whether you’re investing in a new website or you’re updating your current site, a true, holistic web specialist will recommend that you work together to develop a strategy with goals and tactics as the first step in the process. If they don’t, they lack experience or prefer the trial-and-error approach.
2. How are they proposing that your website interacts with your overall marketing strategy?
What social media profiles do you have? Do you engage in HTML email marketing campaigns to stay connected to your customers and prospects? Your company’s brand includes many online and offline elements that must work together to create a consistent customer experience. Your branding site is critical to your overall marketing strategy. It often acts as a hub with your other marketing driving traffic to it. Your web designer should recognize this fact and alter their recommendations for design composition and grid structure, keyword phrases, copy, calls to action, and inbound and outbound links accordingly. You need to consider the bigger picture. Do you need your web designer to manage all aspects of your brand online once your new site goes live? If so, make sure they can provide you proof of their experience and success.
3. What analytics and reporting do they provide to help you measure success?
To track success, you need to have a baseline starting point to measure against future results. An entry level designer won’t take this step. A middle of the road web designer will take what data you may already have, as well as perform some research of their own to assess any deficiencies your site may be experiencing for achieving your goals. They should install code that will allow them to track behavioral trends and report back to you the results, followed by recommendations for modifications on an ongoing basis. The web designer you need will do this, but they won’t stop there. They know that a successful website includes the necessary SEO elements, writing copy that converts, and create the strategies for bringing the traffic to your site so you have results to track.
4. What proof do they have of their experience?
Would you hire a web designer whose website didn’t show evidence of the results they’re promising you? Their branding site should clearly convey their value proposition, capture your attention and provide an intuitive navigation, with pages that load quickly. You should see evidence that their site ranks well using services like Alexa. And it should include easy-to-find links to their social media profiles where they are active. You should see copywriting, SEO, and search engine marketing service offerings in addition to their web design services. Creating a website that works takes a holistic approach. Make sure your web designer has the experience to cover all of the necessary aspects.
Ultimately, you need to be aware of what you’re getting when you partner with a company to develop your website. Are you hiring a true web designer with primary skills for designing the look and layout of the site? Are you partnering with a web developer that specializes in the back end operations and front end navigation? Or are you partnering with an online brand builder that is a talented blend of both specialties with other services that allows you to not only create a solid website, but can also bring the traffic back to it?
For more information about our bundled online brand building services, visit us online or call us at (410) 366-9479 ext. 2#.
Dina Wasmer is President of Incite Creative, a marketing and graphic design firm that provides brand-building services and strategies for small-to-middle-market businesses and non-profit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, Dina is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore teaching typography and graphic design principles. For more information, log onto www.incitecreativeinc.com or contact email@example.com