Running a digital design agency, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the whole idea of web design. Most are quick to think of it as a purely creative-meets-technical thing that they know they need, but they aren’t sure why. Most clients I meet with for the first time just want “a cool website.” Sure, they may have a list of features they know they want, and an overall look they desire, but beyond that, they haven’t thought too much about it.
This overall desire to put something up on the web, coupled with a relative uninformed view of what a website can actually do for their business explains the success of all those templates and D.I.Y. web options you can find out there.
While it sounds like a no-brainer to go after a pre-built site that you can customize on the cheap, and launch today, these types of websites are missing the point completely:
A website doesn’t do any good if it doesn’t contribute to the success of your business.
The Importance of Discovery
People really misjudge web design for something much simpler than it actually is. Not just creative, and not just technical, a finely-tuned website is actually a strategic marvel, combining business strategy, marketing, goal setting, psychology and user behavior analysis.
When I meet with a new client, I guide them through the discovery process in order to determine what they actually need, rather than just stopping at their stated needs. Stated needs are a fine place to start, but they are usually just symptomatic of a bigger problem that needs fixing.
This process can take three or four meetings, each with its own agenda. In order to properly diagnose the pain points, and come up with a workable solution, your web partner needs to know all about your business: its goals, its competition, and its audience.
The reason for all of this digging is simple: you can use what you uncover to put your website to work for your business. These days, having a purely informational site that people can browse with no clear call-to-action is a missed opportunity. A real website, that’s based on a strategy can increase online sales, phone calls, or qualified leads.
As the web expert, it is my job to come up with solutions that my clients would never think to ask for. As Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
The Problem With Templates & Web Builders
If you go online right now and look at twenty or so websites, you would find startling similarities between them. They are starting to look alike because they are all being marketed the same.
Cash-strapped businesses are lured in by the promise of a professional-looking website right out of the box.
The problem is that while these sites may look professional, but it’s all just window dressing. No strategy went into it, only slick fonts and images. They didn’t do any research on you or your industry. They don’t know who your customers are, or what they need to see and read to properly entice them.
All they’ve given you is a box to put your stuff in.
It’s 2016 and we are now fully aware of how a well-thought-out website can improve a business and contribute to its overall success. While it is certainly a cheaper option, going for a one-size-fits-all option isn’t going to do much to pull its weight. If you step up to a custom site that takes all of your goals and works them into an online strategy, you will find that it will not only pay for itself, but will continue to provide to your business’ bottom line for years to come.
Wes McDowell is the creative director and chief web strategist at The Deep End Web Design in Chicago. He loves keeping up to date on the topics of web design, usability and internet marketing, and enjoys sharing his knowledge through blogging and his podcast.