Getting a website can be a complicated ordeal. Although, in the digital age, it’s a must for most businesses. If you’re on the fence about hiring a Web Designer, I’m sure that you will reach a decision by the end of this article.
I’ve been a Web Designer for six years now. Working with businesses of varying background and scale, I know which benefit the most from my services. I’ve also found businesses that would get no value from a website at all. Before we decide to hire a designer and grab our corner of the Internet, let’s make sure we’re in the first group.
Who Needs A Website?
Any business that will receive value from being online could benefit from a website. There’s a big difference in receiving value, and getting it online though. Some of the benefits of an online presence include:
- Increased brand awareness
- A larger pool of customers
- Brand recognition
- The ability to gauge interest in a product or service
- Your best pitch to a potential customer at any time
- Immediate answers to any question a customer may have
Notice that the first half of that list is achievable offline also. Many clients come to me to address problems like these. But, they aren’t doing the right things in person to fix them.
- Do you have a consistent brand?
- Is your customer service satisfactory?
- Do your customers refer you to new customers?
- Are you showing growth?
If not, these aren’t problems that a website will fix. A website is a tool that will leverage the rest of your business. With a larger audience and more leads, your business will have more room to grow. If your business is performing poorly, a larger audience won’t do you any favors.
Think of a website as an investment. An investment in your business. Would you invest in a business that wasn’t seeing returns? If your business is not generating money, don’t expect a website to fix that. Please, put the money you would spend in a business coach instead.
But, let’s say that your business is operating well or you expect it to. You know what value you need and that you can get it online. What next?
Establish Your Goals
With any project, you need to have set goals in mind. You should derive these goals from the value that you need. This way, the path to success is clear and you have a blueprint to get that value. If you have a plan that leads nowhere, you’ll get nowhere. A client that comes to me saying, “I need a website because it’s the thing to do,” will never see any value from it.
Often, I help clients identify these goals to get the best results. Let’s say that the value you need is a larger audience. But, getting an audience is a small, vague goal. I would ask you questions like these to get the bigger picture:
- What would that audience do for you?
- Who is your current audience?
- What are the goals of your current audience?
- How do their goals align with yours?
- Why should they pick you over your competition to receive that value?
With these questions, we establish:
- What we want the audience to do (eg. click, buy, sign up)
- The people already using your product or service so that we can target content to others like them
- The value your customers are looking for to bring it to their attention
- What your customers want to see from you immediately
- Ways that you stand out to bring attention from your competition
- These make your goals larger and actionable. We have the action we want a user to take; an idea of who the user is to focus the website; the focus for the landing page; your hook to sell them.
- Identifying goals like these gives you an idea of what your website will do. With this in mind, we can move to functionality. This is where we’re no longer deciding if we need a website, we’re figuring out how to get it.
What Does Your Website Need To Do?
Your goals —not trends— should determine what functionality your website needs. With smaller goals comes less functionality. This means that small goals will only need a small site, and you may be able to get away with a page builder app. At this point in the process, I sit down with a client to figure out what functionality will reach their goals.
Let’s say that you’re only looking to grow an audience online -a small goal. To do that, you need a landing page with your business’ information and social media links. Since you’re only looking to establish your audience, there won’t be much functionality. It is something that you could do on your own with a page builder.
What if you wanted multiple pages, a sign-up form, and a map to your location? That would add more functionality, but it’s still doable with a page builder. It would take a little effort, and a good part of your afternoon, although I’m sure you could do it.
But, let’s change your goals a little. What if you were looking to attract more women in their 20’s that enjoy outdoor activities? The functionality doesn’t change, but the size of the goal does. It would be ideal to leverage the experience of a designer to make an appealing website for your target audience. Without a solid understanding of design and user experience, this may be difficult.
Or, let’s say that you want visitors from your Facebook page to get a special sign-up form. You also want your Google Maps map to show up in your company colors. Here, the functionality grows and so do the goals. To achieve these goals, you would need an understanding of code — like a Web Designer.
While your goals are small and achievable by things that you can do on your own, a page builder is great. And, when you’re starting out, those goals will be small. You won’t have much of a business to invest in or leverage. As your business grows or develops larger goals, a professional will give better results.
How Do I Know When My Goals Are Too Big For A Page Builder?
You can get a lot done now with an online tool to build websites. But, they have their limits. When your needs reach a certain point, those limits can hold you back also. Here are some goals that a page builder may not reach:
- Focused and attractive branding — You are able to customize your website, but you’re still working from a template that thousands of other people are using. If you want to stand out with branding that appeals to your ideal customer, a page builder won’t cut it.
- A user flow to increase sales — A Web Designer with an understanding of user interface design is going to know how to make a web page that makes customers click. They understand the behavior of users and know the best methods to keep their attention.
- A/B testing and tracking — Using an analytics tool, you can see how your users go through your site, and which products are generating the most interest. But, tools like these are hard to use with a page builder.
- Dynamic content — Although page builders offer some, the majority of web content that changes depending on the user’s conditions (time, date, logged in, logged out, repeat visitor, etc.) are things that only a Web Designer is going to be able to do. If you’re looking to enable more interaction on your website than your competition, you will have to hire a professional.
Something else to keep in mind is growth. As your business grows, your goals will also. With growth, there will be a point where your goals are no longer met by the features that a page builder can offer. If you’re going to reach a point where your goals require more functionality than what a page builder offers within a few months, it would be a better idea to get a custom solution from a Web Designer. This way, you have the foundation to build on and you save time in the long run.
What About The Cost Of A Web Designer?
This is everyone’s hangup. If you could hire a professional for the same price as an online tool, why wouldn’t you? There are times where it isn’t in the budget to hire someone to do the job. But, you need to meet your goals.
As I have stated above, a website is an investment. No different from buying a truck, a new computer, or set of tools. You’re going to use these things to generate more money than you put into them. But, sometimes you only have the money for a little pickup truck, when you actually need a box truck. What should you do?
Just like with the truck analogy, your website goals may exceed your budget. For both scenarios, I would recommend pulling back your goals. Focus somewhere that a small pickup truck (page builder) can handle until you’re ready for a box truck (Web Designer).
Although, any money you spend on a Web Designer (or any professional) is tax deductible. You also shouldn’t pay any sales tax, as you’re purchasing a service, not a product. Also, to reduce the financial burden, the United States Small Business Administration often offers grants for things like getting a business website. Keep these things in mind as you’re establishing your budget.
By now, you should understand your goals, how to achieve those goals with a website, and which route to take to get that website.
What if I’m still unclear about my goals, or how to achieve them online?
Set up an appointment with a Web Designer. Yes, you’re going to get the whole sales pitch. But, a good Web Designer can help you figure out your goals and tell you what you need to achieve them. And, a (decent and honest) Web Designer isn’t going to take your money if you would get more value elsewhere. At the least, you would understand their plan and can decide if that’s worth it on your own.