Article #33, May 31, 2005
Don't Do It Yourself!! Some basics on website design
If you already have a website, how's it working for you? How much money are you making from it? When's the last time you updated it? If you don't even have one yet, what are you afraid of?
There are some things you should know about website design, and you need to understand a little about the internet world before you start, but when it comes right down to execution, Don't Do It Yourself! You may find yourself spending 100s of hours in education and correcting your own errors. So, unless your time is worthless, just learn the basics and hire a professional.
I do not recommend you just hire someone without knowing a little bit about web design yourself. Although most of the designers are honest, there are those that are not, and I want you to spend your precious money wisely.
The first thing to know is the difference between a graphic designer, a web designer and a web developer. What you can count on:
- a graphic designer is an artist and may have a specialty (logos, home pages, business cards/stationary, etc.) And, according to allbusiness.com's Buyer's Guide:
- a web designer designs the look of the 'front end' of your site - what the visitor sees
- a web developer makes sure everything works properly - the 'back end'
You may need someone with all these skills and they are not difficult to find. Just make sure you hire the right person - ask her if she can do it all.
Of course, it's not just that easy to create a successful website or I wouldn't be writing about it!! On top of artistic and technical expertise, I suggest you also hire a designer with marketing expertise. This may not be so easy to find! Here are some questions to ask:
1. What marketing training do you have?
2. How much business has been generated for websites you have designed?
3. Once it's finished, how do I bring visitors to my site?
If you find this to be impossible, and that may be the case, it might be worth your while to hire a group of professionals. In chronological order:
- You may need to start with a coach with small business expertise (like me) to select and fine- tune your marketing foundation (target market, benefits). This might be less expensive than paying a marketing consultant to do this work for you.
- Hire an experienced copywriter to write website content. This is especially important, even critical, if you plan to use your site to sell. If your site is informational, look at others' sites and write it yourself.
- Hire an internet marketing consultant to make sure you have all the components necessary (photos, copy, location of everything) and to explore your internet advertising options.
- NOW hire the web designer and developer to make it all work attractively. The designer can be a different person than the developer.
- Test, test, test. Test the design on several types of computers on both dial-up and other internet connections. Too many graphics will turn off visitors if your site it too slow to load. Make sure everything works - every link, sign-up, payment function, info-gatherer, etc. Do this yourself before you make final payment.
This is not the absolute word on designing your website; it is based on my experience. If you can't afford all of this, then you'll need to do plenty of research to do some of it yourself. Here are some tips:
- Check out what others in your industry have on their websites - especially people who are successful!
- If you're selling a service, put a professional picture or caricature of yourself on your site
- Keep your target client in mind. Before putting anything on your website, ask yourself if your ideal client would benefit from that information
- Know what you want your visitors to do when they visit your site
- Put contact info on every page - twice if applicable
- Site needs to be easy to navigate and easy to read