Four Secrets Mediocre Designers Don't Want You to Learn About Effective Website Design
Have you ever found yourself hiring a designer who promised you the sun, moon, and the stars, but what you got was a headache and a mess of a website that drives no sales?
You're a business owner. A job-creator. A go-getter. You're no expert in design, but you know what's excellent and what's garbage. You know when you're being taken for a ride. All you wanted was a website that would position you as a thought leader or a market leader among your competitors, and help you achieve your business goals on the worldwide web. Instead, what you wound up with left much to be desired - in terms of look, feel, and function, and it really wasn't worth the $1,000 - $10,000 or more you paid for it.
The most gut-wrenching part? Now it's all "once more, from the top." Now you have to start anew. You can't leave this horrible site up online for the world to see, not one more day. Your brand is on the line, after all.
But you're admittedly nervous. I mean, what if the next attempt yields the same craptastic results? What if the process is just as much of a nightmare with a new designer as it was with the first? What if you end up tossing money into the toilet again? You're getting heart palpitations just thinking about it, aren't you?
Take a breath. We won't let you go through all that. Not this time. Because this time my friend, you're gonna be in-the-know. We're gonna prepare you, and no mediocre designer will ever be able to take advantage of your lack of expertise ever again. Here are some tips you’ll need to know if you want to be sure you find the perfect designer for your business’ needs and goals.
Secret #1. Unless your website is functionally challenged and your branding is off - you don't need a redesign.
The actual design of your website (the colors, the positioning of pictures, whether you have five categories on one page or one category on five pages, etc.) is only one part of the bigger picture in designing an effective website. What if your message isn't clear or effective and you need to have all of your website copy rewritten? What if there's a disconnect between your brand image and your target market? What if your marketing strategy is ill-conceived and rife with gaps? What if there's a barrier to entry that's preventing your audience from making the sale with you and you haven't addressed it? Ask an expert who specializes in The Big Picture. You need someone who can look at all the elements of your website and figure out the good, the bad, and the ugly to identify what’s off and how it can be more effective. Yes, the design and layout of your website could use some work. But unless your copy, your visuals, and your brand is on-message, too - you're not going to get much out of a redesign. They might take a look at it and, holding back laughter, tell you that everything's wrong with it. But who knows, you might find out that there's nothing wrong with your design at all, and some website copy changes, a branding strategy, and a marketing push does the job. Boom, you just saved yourself a nice chunk of change. Secret #2. Websites don’t always need to cost more than a used car.
If you've spent your life savings on a website, I hate to tell ya, you did it wrong. There are many designers out there charging you insane rates for mediocre websites, blinding you with fast talk and technical jargon.
Ain't nobody got time for that. There are other options.
Prices for websites obviously vary widely depending on what your needs are. Yes, the rule that you get what you pay for does, by and large, apply. But that doesn't mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on a website. Speak with a designer and ask to see their previous work. Ask them about their experience working in various industries. A well-rounded designer with a well-rounded background may be able to speak your language and provide insight that a niche designer in an industry unrelated to yours can't. Check out websites you like and find out who designed them, if you can. If there's a particular style that you love (whimsical, quirky, fresh, corporate, contemporary, luxury, etc.), find a designer who can work within it. You'll save thousands, and quite a bit of headache. We promise. Secret #3. Branding is a very specialized, unique skill-set. And not all designers do it well, or at all.
The vast majority of the designers you will ever encounter have no skill or expertise when it comes to developing brand identities. In fact, it's rarely ever a service that's included in their packages or quotes. Some may be good at developing design that reflects your already-established brand identity (whatever it may be at that time), but unless you've worked with a brand developer or have already had a marketing agency handle this for you, you won't be able to supply them with that crucial information. They're just going to chug along making an awful lot of assumptions about your business.
They'll assume who your target audience is, they'll assume what appeals to your customer base, they'll assume the types of products your customer base would use to find you and those like you online, they'll assume things about what makes your product or service unique, and they'll assume what your marketing message is. They'll assume your brand or product's personality and style, and they'll assume the type of experience your customers or clients will have once they actually become customers or clients.
And making all those assumptions is just a road to confusion, page re-dos, headaches, and general ruin for your project. And all that time you’ve spent pulling your hair out with a mediocre designer is time you could have spent adding value to your bottom line.
You'll save yourself a lot of stress and disappointment if you 1) work with a branding specialist before you work with a developer (which , hello, more time and money), 2) have your branding specialist work with your developer (which will still cost you more), or 3) make the choice to only hire a developer who understands branding, can demonstrate it in their previous work, and can develop a website that reflects your brand identity. A rare breed, indeed - but well worth the search. If you don't do one of these three things, you will absolutely attract the wrong kind of people, hand a check over to the wrong kind of designer, and your entire website will be a waste of money.
Secret #4. Design isn't just an art. It's a science. Design is merely psychology, illustrated.
Yes, the way your website looks and feels matters. There's a reason why we all aren't on MySpace and LiveJournaling right now. And yes, there are design essentials that are fundamentally important to make sure that no matter what your brand personality is, your website looks clean, professional, interesting, and engaging. Yes, pretty colors are nice. But color psychology is nicer - at least to your bottom line. Your designer should already understand the associations people make with specific shades and tones. They should be well aware of the types of imagery that will catch people's attention, the types of imagery that will resonate and appeal to them, and the type of person any particular image will appeal to. A great designer can put themselves in the shoes of your demographic and know exactly what's going on in their minds as they arrive at a website and navigate through what you have to offer.
Any great designer gets The Point. Above anything else, The Point is to harness the ability to influence a website visitor's psychological state of mind and perception of your business. Your visitors already have a pre-conceived perception of what a reputable, trustworthy, incredible brand looks like. A designer's job is to make sure that the finished product of your website meets their standards while still maintaining a level of freshness and a unique identity.
The more your designer knows about how people behave, how they react to different visuals, styles of copy, and other elements, and what makes them break the barrier and inquire about your product or service, the more effectively they can implement persuasive selling strategies to your website. All you want is a website that looks like it was made in this decade and can capture interest, hold it long enough to encourage action, and increase your sales, right? I know. It sounds simple, but the mechanics behind making that happen are nuanced, intricate, and complex. Now that you're in-the-know, find a website designer who will genuinely work for you.