Web design is that mystery beast that business owners find themselves obliged to tackle and wrestle with. The quality of your website reflects your image as a business, and for some it is the central platform for trading yet I have seen clients go through hell and back to get their website right – being through a poor strategy motivated by budget or a lack of understanding of what is available and appropriate.
As someone who has a poor knowledge of mechanics, I have often found myself at a loss when faced with car repairs – not knowing whether I was paying too much for a poor service or investing in a good long-term solution. This is exactly what happens to most web design clients, especially start-ups with tight budgets. When we don’t understand the service being provided, making a decision becomes extremely difficult.
There are two things that are crucial in choosing the right service and investment when it comes to web design: understanding your purpose as a business and that of your website within it; and understanding what the service provider has to offer.
Because we learn from experience, and rather than boring you with a list of recommendations, here are a few tips on what not to do based on past experience with clients:
Be realistic about what you can achieve with your budget. Understand the purpose of your website and the appropriate investment required or spend double the amount fixing.
I once had a client (prior to Perfect Design) who needed a website with a complex subscription system and online payments – the client’s business relied on it for revenue but they pushed a rather small budget that certainly did not allow for a custom website to be built. Our big mistake was to offer 2 options – assuming that as long as we clearly explained the downsides of the cheaper option the client would be able to make the right decision. Our second mistake was to go ahead when the client requested the cheaper option. The client found the back-end of the customised template platform too complex to use and started requesting free work stating that it was poorly executed. We had to pull-up and resend contracts and email communications to remind the client of our specific warnings in regards to their issues. We parted ways and the client had to get their website entirely rebuilt within a couple of years.
I’ve learned a lot from this about what it means to offer good customer service – it sometimes involves saying ‘no’. If you, as a client, understand this as well, your chances of ending up with a solid website are much, much greater. If you want to do things your way, there is really no point in hiring a professional.
Don’t waste your money on hiring a professional if you think you know better.
I had some clients who hired me for branding design and web design. They had a business that traditionally relies on business from families and children. They started on the wrong foot when, despite my recommendations regarding the branding they decided to sketch exactly what they had in mind and basically ask me to just make that nice and more logo-like. Don’t get me wrong these are lovely people but I felt bad seeing them invest in branding without benefitting form what it can offer. Let’s just say the logo was a bit “out there” and included a mix of eclectic elements, some of which could be offensive to families with young children. The website was setup with a payment system that included online bookings, scanning at the entry of the business and coupons. Everything functioned very well but they closed after about a year in business.
If you sell services or products online, understand that your website will not “manage your business” for you.
With the few e-commerce websites I have discussed or produced for clients, I have noticed various degrees of surprise when they realise that the website still needs a human to manage the business generated online. Some clients get frustrated when they realise they have to learn how to manage the back-end of the website. Unfortunately websites, as automated as they can be made, still need a minimum of input from someone in your business, to track sales, to manage logistics if you sell products, to keep prices and stock up to date. Your website is like a shopfront that saves you the cost of a sales assistant but still needs a store manager. Yup, the computer ain’t gonna get up and move a parcel for you when the time is right.
Invest in a training session initially and you will save yourself some serious frustrations. If you don’t, you will find yourself trying to action something urgent and forced to pay your web designer to assist – the more you delay the more this will happen.
I hope these stories will testify for why you need to plan your website carefully & strategically. If you have any doubt or need help in taking the first steps, you can of course talk to us!