Like any purchase, the decision about who to trust with your design means focussing on the needs of your business. In this blog we’ll cover some of the factors to consider before making your decision, including:
- Should you choose a ready-made package (template design) or a custom design?
- How much functionality do you need? Should you build an online shop, write a blog, or stay basic?
- Who should maintain the site – will this be done in-house or through an external company?
Why Should I Hire a Professional Web Designer?
Anyone can teach themselves how to push buttons, but a professional web developer/designer knows that their livelihood depends on keeping up with web trends and usability issues. In addition to having an expert’s opinion on everything from usability and SEO to colours and code, your site will be unique. Going forward you will have an expert on hand to help maintain the site and allow it to expand and grow.
Ask yourself what you want to get out of your new site: do you need to attract business, recruit new contractors or give your audience access to useful information? Useful questions to ponder at this stage include:
- What is the purpose of my website? How will you persuade your audience, and how much will they need persuading? How often will you have to update the content on the site to keep people interested? What extra information could be useful that could help establish a rapport with your customers?
- What do my users expect from me? What will your customers expect to see when they enter the site? Why have they visited the site and what will they expect to leave the site with? What will convince them to add you to their ‘Bookmarks’? Most importantly, what could make them leave?
- What is your mission statement? – How do you see the company progressing in the next few years? How could you make yourself even more useful for your customers? How do you make your money, recruit membership or encourage sponsorship in other mediums?
You may also want to add your own questions that are relevant to your business; the more detail you go into at this stage, the better chance you have of making your site a success.
Your Target Audience in More Detail
After considering your objectives, it’s time to start asking what your audience needs in more detail. After all, without knowing who they are, it’s unlikely that you will be able to fulfil their needs and, ultimately, get them to buy your services or products. Again, the more detail you go into at this stage, the more chance you have of investing wisely.
- Who is my target audience? Where do they live? How much do they earn and how much disposable income do they have? What other websites will they use?
- How old are they? What is their marital status? Are they likely to have children? Are they likely to have any specific jobs or hobbies?
- When will they look at your website? Are they looking for information, or do they want to buy something? Will they already have a specific product in mind or will they be browsing for ideas?
- What do they surf on? Do they have an iPhone, Blackberry or other mobile internet device? Do they have an old or new computer? Do they share that computer with anyone else? Which browser do they use?
- Where in the world are they? Which country are they in, and will they be in a specific part of that country? Do they speak multiple languages?
- Will there be any other markets, aside from your main users, who may also be interested in the site? For example, if you run a charity, will there be a requirement for the press to have access to specific information such as press releases and media? Will your main audience have partners or family wishing to buy your products as a gift? How will you cater for this secondary audience?
While asking these questions, ask how added functionality could help your audience. If you already have functionality in mind, what concrete benefits does this have for your customers? How will it help them reach the conclusion to buy your product, sign up to your newsletter or call your office?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes; visit similar sites, monitor your colleagues’ online behaviour and think in ‘real world’ terms. Some of the answers to these questions may not be obvious at first, but asking them at an early stage will prevent any wasted space on your site, and/or investment in functionality that looks flashy but has no real benefits.
Who Will Maintain the Site?
Even once the site is created and live on the web, maintaining it still requires a lot of time to stop it looking dated. E-mails received through the website should be checked daily and responded to within 24 hours. It is imperative that it also adheres to strict search engine guidelines and updated regularly. You should also consider:
- Who will write the content? Will you write this in house or employ a professional copywriter?
- How will you make sure the site is up to scratch on search engine optimisation?
- Who will handle functionality and make decisions about what is worth adding to the site?
- Where will you obtain content and images? Should these be bought in, re-used from the previous site or will you create new content?
The Bottom Line…
All websites are an investment, whether they are done from a template or designed from scratch, and should be treated as such. When was the last time you put your trust in a website that was poorly thought-out, out of date or just didn’t show you the information you needed? Website users are notoriously impatient and will go somewhere else if they cannot find what they need.
Functionality can increase site traffic, boost customer satisfaction and show off your expertise in a way that your content cannot. It’s all about building trust.
Take the time to consider what your customers want from you, and include a clear ‘call to action’ on your site. Using the best language, getting your code right and using SEO best practices are also all important. It’s these factors and knowing how to get them right; that’s the difference between a website that ‘just looks good’ and one that pays for itself in sales.