Years ago (early 90s), building a website was an incredibly time-consuming and complex process. You designed a site in Photoshop, chopped it up and converted it to HTML; it was highly skilled, meticulous, technical work.
The majority of the time, effort and expense of the website was spent on graphics and production. Marketing and message was secondary (or was the responsibility of the client, not the web designer); the site was designed to show off the business. Web design was the purview of graphic artists and coders.
This is how many people (including designers) view web design and the role of the web designer; let’s call this “Traditional Web Design.”
If you hire a Traditional Web Design firm, you may be missing out. Here’s why.
Today, with new insights and new tools, anyone can get a website up.
There are all sorts of simple, inexpensive (even free) web design and graphics programs.
I’m over-simplifying – but today you don’t need expensive HTML editing software or custom graphics to build a website. Yes, custom coding or graphics may still be required. However a “Modern Web Designer” focuses instead on what’s most important to his/her client – communicating their message and getting it to the appropriate audience, in a way that shows “what’s in it for them.” (In that sense, “Internet Marketer” is a more appropriate title than “web designer.”
Web design becomes less about graphics and code and more about copywriting and SEO (search engine optimization).
(By the way, whether someone is labeled a “Traditional” or “Modern” web designer has nothing to do with their age or length of time they’ve been in business. It’s based on focus and skill sets – graphics/production vs. marketing/message.)
If you want a good return on your web design investment, your site has to get traffic (visitors) and they have to do something (buy, donate, sign up, call.) That’s it. Your site design should support and complement your message, not the other way around. Web searchers are impatient and sophisticated; you need to give them what they want immediately, not “dazzle” them with a Flash intro or bore them with self-serving company history.
Website Success = Traffic X Conversion
Most web designers still do it the old way While they may use modern software or tools, their focus is quite limited; it’s still on building the site itself, not building a marketing tool.
I’m not sure why this is so. Perhaps part of the reason is personal preference; they simply like technology or graphic design. They find it challenging or fun to puzzle out code or create a brand-new look. I know one designer who simply disagrees with me – his job is to build the site, and he expects clients to hire other people for the other tasks. And frankly many web designers are not equipped to offer copywriting or SEO services; they’re difficult skills to master.
How do you know if your prospective web designer has a more traditional web design approach or a more modern web design preference? Here are some clues:
Web design, the traditional way, is focused on one skill set – getting a site built. In some cases that may be all you need. And yes, building a website WELL is not as fast or simple as I’ve made it sound. Just because you CAN do it yourself doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
But if you truly want your website investment to bring in new customers, you need a modern website designer who’s skilled in copywriting and SEO in addition to site design.