If there was anyone left who doubted that you need a business website, the Covid pandemic almost certainly converted them to the cult of online business. Everything from stay-at-home orders to justifiable fear meant vast quantities of shopping moved into the digital realm. Any business that didn’t embrace online ordering and digital meetings faced the risk of extinction.
Of course, that also meant a lot of businesses that never dealt with website designers before suddenly hired them. With a little more website experience under your belt now, you probably realize that your designer didn’t tell you everything. If so, keep reading for five secrets your designer won’t tell you or may not even know.
- Cost Isn’t Always a Sign of Quality
There is a mindset that says anything of quality will cost you a lot. If you’re talking hypercars or custom jewelry, that’s probably still true. When it comes to website design, though, it just doesn’t hold up as well anymore.
No, you probably shouldn’t go shopping for a design that only costs you $20, but you probably don’t need a designer that’s charging $5000 for most websites. Why?
For starters, there are a lot of highly competent web designers out there. It’s not a commodity service, yet, but you can find reasonable pricing for good site designers. Next, most small businesses don’t need complex sites.
Unless you’re taking actual orders from a live-linked inventory database and processing payments, your site will mostly involve static content. Every page will consist of very similar design elements. That means that most of the work is done once they nail the home page.
This is why content management systems that offer free and low-cost themes attract so much attention from business owners. Those resources fill the essential needs.
- You’ll Need Lots of Testing
Do you know what scientists do when they discover something new? They rush it into production, right? No.
They test and then retest. They do this to make sure they can replicate a process or a material reliably. Well, your website is essentially an ongoing experiment.
You must test things that affect search engine ranking, such as:
- Load speeds
- Mobile Friendliness
- Image Optimization
Search engines consider these factors signs of a good website, so you should adopt them as website design tips.
You might wonder how you can test something like usability. There are a couple of ways.
You simply ask people to go to your site. Give them a few tasks, like placing an order or finding key pieces of information. Then, get their feedback on whether they found any of it difficult.
You can also rely on software solutions, such as session replay and website analytics. Session replay solutions let you look at the visitor journey on a case by case basis, although you won’t know which visitors. Website analytics help you understand the bigger picture of visitor activity.
- Site Design Won’t Drive Traffic
Don’t take this the wrong way. Good site design will help keep visitors on your site. If your site looks like something from 2006, visitors probably won’t stick around.
When it comes to the question of how to drive website traffic, though, attractive design elements aren’t the answer. There are some competing schools of thought on driving traffic.
Some people advocate rigorous digital advertising on search engines, other websites, and even newsletters that accept ads. Others advocate a content-driven approach called inbound marketing. This approach focuses on delivering content of quality and specific value for your target market.
In most cases, businesses adopt a hybrid approach that reflects their resources. Businesses with plenty of marketing money will often lean more on advertising with a secondary goal of quality content. Companies with less working capital will often sink their marketing dollars into producing high-quality content with less aggressive spending on ads.
- Design Is Not Branding
Business owners hear a lot about branding these days.
You must build your brand. You need a brand story. Define your brand values.
That is all good advice. Yet, when it comes time for a serious discussion, a lot of businesses focus on the graphical elements of branding. They worry about their logo or the color scheme.
Those visual cues of your brand do matter. Yet, they aren’t a substitute for figuring out what your brand is all about.
Let’s say you leave it in the hands of the designer with some vague comments about socially responsible business or a customer-first mentality. You essentially tell the designer that they can build your brand collateral based on their own assumptions.
Instead of getting branding elements that represent what you think the business is all about, you get ones that represent the designer’s ideas about what your business represents.
- Don’t Overvalue Uniqueness
One bit of marketing wisdom that most business owners adopt is that you must differentiate your business from your competitors. Experts advise that you must ask, “What makes my business different or unique?”Again, that’s great advice for when you’re figuring out your brand.
That doesn’t mean uniqueness will work to your advantage on your website. Why do people go visit fast-food restaurants when they travel? Why do they always use the same shampoo or dish detergent?
It’s about familiarity. People trust what they know. That applies on a website as much as it applies to what kind of pasta sauce people buy.
Your site should look different in terms of what colors or images you use. Beyond that, though, your site should closely resemble the structure of other websites in your industry. It encourages trust because it’s what people already know.
Website Designers and You
Website designers aren’t looking to take advantage of you in 99 cases out of 100. They are specialists in a particular area, so they see websites through that lens. They don’t always consider all the tasks beyond the layout and creation of graphics.
As a business owner, you must think beyond those specific tasks. If you’re not sure exactly what you’ll need beyond the design phase, look for experts who can help you analyze the big picture questions for your site.
Looking for more website tips? Head over to our Technology section for more posts.