Building a website can be surprisingly cheap and easy. With the range of DIY website builders available, just about anyone can build their own website and start establishing their online presence.
However, when it comes to your business’s online presence, there’s much more to consider than just selecting images and fonts and sliding them into a website template.
Building a website for personal blog is vastly different to what’s required to establish a professional web presence that will draw in customers and start generating revenue. To really get the most out of a web design project, your website needs to be just one factor in a larger digital strategy.
To build a great website, you need to understand your target customers, you need a marketing strategy, you need to factor in the functionality that can deliver on that strategy. In short, to deliver meaningful ROI on a web design project, you need to understand who the site is for, what you want to achieve with it, and how you’re going to get there.
So, before you start thinking about the cost for web design or talking to a web designer, there are some key factors to consider first.
1. Understand the type of website you need
Different businesses will require different websites. For example, an online clothing retailer will require a bunch of ecommerce functionality that would be completely unnecessary for car mechanic’s website. Understanding the level of functionality you need will help to set the parameters of the project.
In broad terms, there are four types of commercial website:
• Informational small business site
A simple website that provides information about your business, products, services and contact information. This type generally doesn’t have any ecommerce functionality and doesn’t aim at generating conversions. Think of it as an online brochure for your business.
• Conversion-focused website
These websites are designed to display your business in a way that will encourage conversions (i.e. making a booking, submitting a query, subscribing, or generating a lead). Products and services are presented is such a way to encourage customers to take a specific action.
• Basic ecommerce site
An ecommerce site will be more complex than a conversion site. It will require greater functionality including payments, product database, shopping cart, shipping etc.
• Custom feature-rich website
For larger more complex businesses, these websites are the largest, most feature-heavy and the most expensive. Depending on your requirements, these sites can involve custom designed plugins or apps, enterprise level database integration, bespoke CRM functionality and more.
Having a general idea what kind of site your business needs will help you narrow down options and start planning with your web designer. Understanding the scale and scope of the project will also help to nail down the cost for web design from the outset.
2. Understand your customers
Before you start building the actual website, you need to understand what the site will need to appeal to your customer base. And that means understanding your target customers and creating a design aesthetic that appeals to them, understanding search behavior and intent, working out your digital niche, creating an SEO strategy and more.
Carrying out this groundwork will take time, resources and some digital and marketing expertise. But it’s worth doing. Understanding your customers will help you to design a website that specifically appeals to your client base. It will also position you to succeed when it comes to digital marketing.
There’s no point spending thousands of dollars on SEO and PPC campaigns if your website isn’t designed with your ideal customer in mind. What’s the point of drawing customers to your website if it doesn’t appeal to them when they get there?
A good digital agency will take the time to get to know your business and your customers and can outline what your website will need to attract the right kind of traffic and convert that traffic into revenue or meaningful leads.
3. Understanding the difference between designing and developing
Before you go into a website design project, it helps to understand the difference between designers and developers and the work they do. In general, designers are not necessarily developers, and vice versa.
Developers are generally great with code and functionality, but aren’t necessarily big on the aesthetic design or user experience (UX) side of things.
Designers, on the other hand, can build a great looking website that’s easy to navigate and will appeal to your target customers. A good designer will know how quality web design plays a psychological role in driving users towards an action (i.e. driving conversions).
The online attention span is extremely brief, so a good designer will also understand how to quickly convey to users the most important aspects of your business in a clear and simple way.
Remember that designers and developers both do work that is integral to the success of your website.
4. Marketing and support strategies
No matter how great your new website is, it won’t start magically bringing in the dollars without a good marketing campaign. Even if you absolutely nail the design, the ROI on your website depends on your ongoing digital strategy and the expertise of your digital team (whether in-house or agency).
Ideally, you’ll want to understand the marketing capabilities of your new website from the outset. You’ll also want a digital marketing campaign designed and ready to go so you have a targeted focus when you launch your new site.
With any new digital project, there will always be bugs that need resolving. Make sure that the team responsible for building your website is ready to provide post-launch support and trouble shooting.
Working with a quality digital agency from the beginning will prove invaluable at this point. Getting your marketing and tech support from the team that actually designed and built the site means that they already have a clear understand of the system and your business objectives.
5. Don’t be driven by cost
When it comes to web design, there is always a strong urge to go cheap. You may be tempted to hit up an offshore website builder or a freelancer. And fair enough. This will save you money up front.
However, often these types of designers will not guide you through the process and will generally build you a generic site based off a simple template. In most cases, you will get none of the pre-design customer research, none of the marketing strategy, and none of the post-launch tech support you need to make the project a success.
In the long run, these sites will end up costing you a lot more in terms of time and money as you will need to fix poor work, retrofit essential functionality, and cobble together marketing and SEO strategies based on whatever functionality you site ends up having.
If you’re getting ready to embark on a web design project, you should think of building a website less as an up-front cost and more like an investment. As such, before you build your site, you need to understand how it will function, and that means how it will generate revenue. A website that doesn’t convert is an expense. A website that converts is an investment.