Effective Web Design: 10 points to discuss with your web designer if you want a website that will make money for your business!
– By Mitchell Gannaway
Whether you decide to use Web Design Africa or another company to design a website for your business, cause or idea, we have created a short checklist of factors you should bring up with your chosen Web Design Company before your website is built. Done right, your website can be an effective asset that will help you generate an astounding amount of new business. At worst, your website will just be a flashy business card that gets lost in cyberspace and becomes a black hole in your wallet that never generates a return on what you spent on your website.
Here is a list of 10 important considerations for effective web design that you need to take into account before forking out your hard earned money on web design.
1. Planning and Research
Does your web design company understand your business, what services you provide and what goods you sell? Researching your business and the industry it operates in is a very important step that needs to be undertaken to determine how your business will actually be positioned online relative to what your existing online competition looks like.
A web designer needs to take the time to understand what your business offers and in turn, how to align that with what your potential target market is looking for online. This will determine what type of pages and content to create for the website and what keywords to use to make your website more visible to search engines.
Based on the initial research done, effectively planning on what pages and what content, images and words to use on those pages can take place.
A website hosting service stores all the files, data, images and content that is on a website and makes sure that your website is accessible to the world. Some web designers might have their own hosting solutions and others might outsource hosting. Each of these hosting solutions has different merits.
What you need to find out about your website hosting is how much it will cost (from day 1 and perhaps a year or five years down the line). Additionally, find out if you can transfer your website with ease to another provider if you ever decide to change hosts for whatever reason.
Cheap hosting packages might seem appealing at first but over time could cost you visitors due to poor browsing experiences. There are also a lot of technical aspects to consider when hosting your website. You might not understand the technical jargon but at the very least get a web designer that is prepared to discuss and explain in layman’s terms any questions you might have with regards to hosting.
3. Content Management Systems (CMS)
A CMS is a platform used to manage the content on a website. What happens if your Web Design Company closes shop tomorrow and moves on to a new business venture? Will you still be able to update and change your website with ease and without it costing you an arm and a leg?
This is why it is important to find out what CMS your website will be built on. Firstly, there are open source CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla , Drupal, just to name a few. Open Source (Software whose original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified) means your website is built on a platform that is usually widely available.
It is generally easier to make changes, get support and help for any website problems you might encounter in the future, without necessarily having to pay additional money to your original web designer and potentially being held hostage by that company for any future changes you might want to make.
A proprietary CMS is a platform that has most likely been custom built by your web designer. Should something go wrong, you are more likely going to have to rely on your original Web Design Company to fix such issues, as getting help from anyone else besides them could prove very difficult and costly. Proprietary CMS platforms are useful for certain situations BUT if you’re a small business owner, this is probably not the best way to go.
4. What is the full scope of the Web Designer’s service offering?
Besides working on the aesthetic features of the website, it is important to find out what other additional services your Web Design Company offers. Will they design your Logo? Will they help you with Search Engine Optimisation; will they help you turn your visitors into customers and sales leads (a process known as conversion)?
Can your Web Design Company help you with online advertising (media buying and Pay Per Click marketing)? Some web design services simply end with the pretty website BUT there is so much more to web design than just a pretty exterior! Find out exactly what you get and what extra services will cost you. This will save you forking out on a website that will forever be lost in cyberspace, never to be seen by the world!
A cheap, once off cost, web design service might seem like a bargain initially but it is likely that such a service will not have all the necessary ingredients that will actually make your website successful. With websites, always bear in mind that you will almost always get what you pay for! The only true way to gauge the value of a website is the return you get on your investment in that website. Hence, a R1000 ($100) website that gets no visitors and hence no sales leads and needs to be ‘fixed’ at a later date could prove to be a lousier investment than a R100 000 ($10 000) website that makes that money back in several months and then some.
5. Responsive Web Design
This refers to building a single website that looks and works great on different devices such as desktops, mobile devices and tablets. In other words, a website that adapts and is ‘responsive’ to different screen sizes and web browsers. In 2015, Google now sends more traffic to websites from mobile devices than from desktops (Marketingland.com). However, the vast majority of websites that exist on the internet today are not Responsive.
It would appear that so far, this has not been too much of a problem as yet for websites that have been on the internet for years. HOWEVER, recent 2015 updates to Google’s algorithm on how it ranks websites will heavily penalize websites that are not mobile friendly. So, bottom line, if you want your website to be ranked highly in Google search results, it has to be responsive!
Responsive websites keep visitors – who are now more likely to visit your site on a mobile device than a desktop – happy, and on your website longer. User engagement and the average length of user visits is an important factor search engines consider in their ranking algorithm! Surprising, not all web design companies have adapted to an increasingly mobile online environment.
Make sure your web design company will design a website that is RESPONSIVE! Also consider that if a new website is being built from scratch, charging you extra for Responsive web design in 2015, is a close equivalent to selling you a car without any wheels and an engine.
6. Traffic generation strategy
Traffic (visitors to your website) is the lifeblood of any website. A website without visitors(targeted visitors) might as well not even exist! Believe it or not, many web designers will create your pretty website but not provide you with any actionable information or a plan on how to actually market that website and get new visitors.
There are many different ways to generate traffic to a website and what works for one niche might not be ideal for another niche. For example, Search Engine Optimization (discussed in more detail further below) might be a great solution for a website that is in an industry with relatively little online competition but, what is a viable, cost effective, traffic generation solution for a website that is in an extremely competitive online space? Will paying for advertising instead be a more effective solution?
There are a myriad of questions you need to ask when it comes to actually generating traffic for your website. Make sure you ask these questions and at least get some sort of viable and sustainable traffic generation strategy that is unique to your website and the niche it operates in.
7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This refers to steps taken to increase the number of visitors to your website by making sure that your website is well ranked on the list of results returned by search engines such as Google. SEO can be grouped into 2 main categories, On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO refers to creating content on a website that is optimised for search engine visibility. On- Page SEO should come with every web design package but it’s surprising how often some web design companies place very little effort, if any at all, into this and actually charge extra for even the most basic On-Page SEO. How effective On-Page SEO is in getting your website to rank highly in search engine results depends on a lot of variables, with the level of competition in a particular niche being one the most important variables. Thus, the need for Off-Page SEO.
Besides looking at the content on your website (On-Page SEO) search engines also look at external factors to determine how to rank pages on a website in their search results (Off-Page SEO). These external indications (such as who references and links to your website) help search engines determine how popular and relevant your website is with regards to a particular topic. Off-Page SEO can get very complex and can be a very time consuming process that offers no guaranteed results. This is something that is likely to come at an extra cost over and above what you pay for your initial web design and depending on how competitive your niche is, it could be an on-going cost that requires constantly creating new content for your website and marketing that content.
Make sure that your web designer is willing to take the time to discuss SEO and make reasonable recommendations on what the best, most cost effective way of getting visitors might be.
8. Conversion strategies
Getting visitors to a website is one thing, getting them to actually take the action you want them to take (for example, purchase a product online, give you a call, provide you with their email address or subscribe to your newsletter) is something else. Will your web designer design a website that looks pretty but achieves nothing?
What steps, strategies and action plan will they provide you with to actually make sure your website achieves its goals? Conversion strategies can get quite complex, expensive and time consuming. At the very least, ask you Web Design Company if they are a results orientated business or if they will simply leave you to fend for yourself once they have designed your website?
9. Easy to Use Websites
How easy will it be for visitors to find what they want when they are on your new website? Will your website be easy to navigate or will visitors exit your site in a hurry, frustrated that they cannot find what they are looking for? Does your web designer build pretty websites but neglect the practical aspects of making the viewing and navigation experience of the website great for visitors? Simply look at your web designer’s website to judge for yourself as to how easy it is to find what you want.
10. What happens after the website is built?
So, your website is now complete, what happens now? What is your web designer still responsible for? Further above, we touched on several aspects (SEO, Conversion, Content Management Systems) you still need to consider if you want your website to achieve something.
Other aspects you need to get clarity on are new content creation strategies, how easy it will be to expand on your website as your business grows, website backups and contingency plans to recover your website, should some malicious hacker get into your website and deface it with porn picturesL. Get some clarity on what your web designer is still responsible for or what they will help you out with once they hand the final website over to you!
Avoid nasty surprises once your website has been completed. I touched on this briefly with regards to asking your designer what CMS platform your website will run on. You also need to find out what your web designer will charge you to make changes to your website and/or fix any future problems you might encounter.
Additionally, try to get a good idea on whether you will be held hostage by your Web Design Company, that might insist that only they can fix whatever problem you might have BUT you need to pay their exorbitant R5000 ($500) an hour rate. Services such as SEO, creating new content for your website, are necessary components of any website BUT are usually charged separately from the actual web design. Make sure that you have a decent idea of what the different components of your website will cost you going forward!
The list above is by no means an exhaustive list of what a web design shopper needs to consider when shopping for an effective web design company. However, we believe that most of the more important considerations, with regards to effective web design, that one needs to take into account have been touched on.
A particular web design company might just only focus on designing your site and leave you to figure out how to actually make that website a success. At the very least, get a web design company that won’t only design your website but can provide you with a workable, viable plan to make sure that your website actually has a chance of reaching its full potential and achieving the goals you have in mind.