In an earlier post I described how SaaS (Software as a Service) website builders offer better value for businesses than self-hosting a WordPress site. Many of these services promote themselves as DIY (do-it-yourself) solutions with no designer or developer needed. So when do you need a designer and when should you DIY?
The Template Fits
DIY if you know what you want and a template fits your needs perfectly.Templates will take you a long way if your content is mostly photographs. Your main design decisions are about colors and fonts. You'll find plenty of inspiration online to guide you.
You have Time
DIY if you have time to:
- Source stock photography or hire a photographer yourself.
- Learn how to process your images for the right balance of quality vs file size.
- Research and implement current SEO practices for your content and metadata.
- Learn a little HTML and CSS to make structured content like tables or lists match the look of your site.
You're a Startup
DIY if you need a website to assess your businesses viability. If you are still defining what you're selling it's too early to pull in an outsider.
Setting up your site by yourself is a valuable education. You will get more comfortable with the technical constraints and be able to have an educated conversation with a designer for your second iteration.
DIFM or Do It For Me.
Hiring the right expert to build your website will save you time and get you better results than DIY.
Scope Refinement: Focus your resources where it counts.
A Website Designer will help you refine the scope of the project. Discussing what your business does, who your customers are, and your website's purpose with the designer will help prioritize needs, and direct the selection of the right services and the creation of a reasonable feature list.
A Website Designer can also prepare an analysis of competitor features and design patterns. Different business markets develop a common baseline of clientele expectations until someone breaks the mold with a new look, new services, or redefines the market around a new clientele.
A Website Designer who understands SEO can prepare an analysis of common search terms that identify customers in different stages of the purchase funnel. Researching the vocabulary used in successful competitor sites is a practical way to identify current baseline terms.
A Website Designer who understands Analytics can identify established patterns of visitor behavior on your existing site. Your new site should not disrupt successful traffic without a good reason.
Tip: Get a Project Schedule
You should be made aware of the project schedule, deliverables, and milestone meetings needed to make decisions about content, features and appearance in a timely manner.
Making it Pretty
A Website Designer should have a sense of the visual style that's appropriate for your website. For an established business the logo and fonts on your business cards and photos of your business are a good starting point for designing the look of your website or discussing changes to an existing one.
Tip: What Contributes to the Appearance & Content
Rebranding Refreshing your website's entire look can fall under the re-branding. Start with your logos and color palette for signage, decor, and stationary, before your website unless you're 100% online business. These other items have more restrictive constraints that can make some choices more expensive than others.
Logos A logo-mark displays your business name in a graphic form that differentiates you from competitors or other businesses with similar names. Logo design is very subjective, time-consuming for a designer to understand your business, and the final product will be used by your business in a lot of contexts so expect to pay for quality from a specialized graphic designer. Be aware that trademarking and ensuring originality of more minimalist logos can be a very expensive undertaking. The simplest approach is to display your business name with a font that conveys the appropriate mood. It worked for Google.
Photos For many businesses good photographs are the clearest way to communicate what you are selling. Get the best photos you can afford of your products, business, and yourself. Don't discount stock photography to convey mood without showing specifics.
Copy Great copy communicates well. But it's hard to find someone who can write in your voice or understands the language of your customers. A web designer might perform do light editing and make SEO suggestions but is unlikely to be the best person to create original copy for scratch.
Consistency over Several Services
A Website Designer will help you provide a consistent online presence. Your clients will likely interact with your business over several services besides the marketing website. The degree to which they can be integrated will range from showing logos and matching some colors, to creating the illusion of a single website by precisely matched interfaces with HTML and CSS code tweaks.
Tip: Communications with Your Team
Talk to your designer and developer simultaneously. A designer discussing developer features without a developer present can be a red flag. To avoid expensive surprises, the developer should be an active participant in your conversations about the websites's features and functions.
Making it functional
A Website Designer should understand the technical constraints of the medium. Your website's fonts and photos need to travel to a wide range of devices with different connection speeds. According to Google, most mobile visitors give up if they don't see something from your site within 3 seconds.
Tip: Look at Past Work
If you're not in a visually oriented field yourself picking someone from the style of their portfolio will look like a straightforward way of getting the same results. Visit a designer's own site and their examples from a computer and a phone to see how they prioritize performance and appearance.
Smooth Setup & Professional Results
There are lots of i’s to dot and t’s to cross when setting up a website. Just having a second set of eyes reviewing your website will catch things you've overlooked.
The real value of having someone experienced setup your site is freeing your time to make decisions only you can make and letting the designer build the site to a professional level.
A good designer will have a process in place which uses proxies like work in progress, stock images, and rough prototypes to guide decision making. As the project progresses the proxies will get closer and closer to the final finished product.
An experienced website designer will save you from dead-end work in technical area like:
- Processing photos to get the maximum impact with different services.
- Structuring content and creating metadata for best SEO practices,
- Installing and configuring widgets or plugins to integrate multiple services together,
- Setting up your categories and tags to make the best use of a template's presentation of collections of products and blog posts.
- Setting up product shipping and taxation
- Setting up Analytics.
- Connecting your name registry and hosting.
Talk to a Designer
If you've read this far consider a turnkey approach to your website with VeryCleverDesign. Your beautiful new website will be up and running on time and budget.