We see web design horror stories all the time. People who have entrusted one of the most important aspects of their business to a developer, often paying big bucks, and they come away with an inferior result. Sometimes they realise it right away—what’s been promised isn’t followed through with. Other times it becomes apparent down the track—either when they’re trying to update aspects of their website themselves and find it near impossible or when the investment they made doesn’t pay off in return. We fix or replace websites for disgruntled customers all the time and know how heartbreaking it is when you realise that you haven’t got what you paid for. Not even close.
Not only does investing in the right website designer save you thousands of dollars, it can also help you earn thousands more. So how do you avoid web design horror stories? And how do you know if a website developer is going to do a fantastic job from the get-go?
Building a quality website is an investment, so if your spending over $10k you need to know our top five rules for designing websites to help you sift through the cowboys and find the hidden gems.
1. A good website designer should ALWAYS start with a plan
Not having a plan is essentially a fast-track to a web design horror story. It’s not up to you to plan your website—your design team should take care of that for you. What does a good plan look like? It starts out with a planning meeting where your design team get a feel for what you’re looking for and also guide you on the best way to move forward. Some of the key things that should be discussed are:
- What’s your strategy for how you are going to connect with your online audience?
- What are you going to have on your website?
- What is important to show your customers?
- How will you get the customer from A to B?
- How many pages are there going to be?
- What functionality do you want?
These questions need to be addressed at the start of a project, not on the fly halfway through and definitely not at the end. Changing your mind along the way will cost you a fortune. If your website design team are not planning with you at the beginning, it is a huge warning sign that they are not going to do a thorough job—or do not enough care about the outcome.
2. The branding should make the business shine
One really important element to avoiding a web design horror story becoming your reality is the way you communicate your message to your audience. This is essentially what your branding is. In regard to your website, your branding is showcased through polished visuals and compelling messaging. Everything should be done with intention and purpose and directed to your target audience. A great website designer will highlight the importance of your branding and messaging and offer guidance in this area. Some additional questions that you should cover together during your planning meeting in regard to branding include:
- Who is your target audience?
- What kind of brand personality best suits your business?
- Which colours best represents your business and product?
- What tone of voice best reflects your brand personality?
- Are there any other customer touchpoints that need to be considered?
Audit your messaging and brand identity at the beginning of your website project to ensure you are communicating in the right way to your desired audience. And if your website designer is not having this kind of conversation with you, it should raise a red flag for you.
3. Don’t ask a website programmer to design, it’s not their strength
A great website needs front end design, user experience and, of course, programming for smooth backend functionality. You will find that programmers are not great designers and designers are not great programmers. You really need the synergy of both for the best result. It’s essential to make sure that your developer has a front-end designer on their team as well as a back-end designer.
Before your designer even thinks of getting stuck into the website development, every single page should be visually designed and mocked up.
Simple things like using grids and making sure things line up, colour and font choices (you’d be surprised what is happening out there) make an incredible difference to the end product and you will need to see this mocked up before you proceed. Do not do this on the fly, it will be a very frustrating experience for you and the designer will never seem to quite nail what you are after. The entire process should be transparent, and you should feel comfortable that your design team are listening to you, communicating with you about where things are at and ensuring they get your approval before making any big decisions. You wouldn’t get a house built without seeing what you’re getting first would you? Don’t do it with a website.
4. User experience is vital to an effective website
First of all, your website needs to respond on ALL devices. The majority of people are accessing the internet on the go and on their smart phones or tablets. Responsive design means that a website changes in size and structure depending on the device it’s opened on. It seems like a no brainer but the number of websites still being created that are not taking into account mobile devices is staggering. ALL websites being built in 2020 need to be built for all mobile devices and browsers.
To give you an example, each page we create is tested on four different browsers and over five difference screen resolutions. That’s over 20 checks per page. As you can imagine, this gets time consuming, but it’s a vital part of the process. So if your website quote is cheap, they are probably not giving your website the attention to detail it deserves and you’re on track for a web design horror story.
5. Make sure they set you up to be found
There’s no point having a website if you can be found. A great website developer will set you up for SEO (search engine optimisation) which will give you a position on search engines that you can steadily build on over time. It’s about getting the foundations of your copy and keywords correct so that when people search your services they can find you. A copywriter who is guided by your developer is perfect for this. With the right keyword research, the right tone of voice and the right messaging you will be set up for success! If your website developer is not thinking about this, they are not doing their job properly and you are getting ripped off.
Price does NOT determine quality and value
Just because you received an expensive quote doesn’t mean you’re get bang for your buck or a quality job! There are many ways to cut corners—from using templates to outsourcing the design or programming to cheap designers overseas and of course by not setting aside time for proper planning of brand, messaging or website design, not taking the time to prepare mock ups before the build and not designing responsively.
Another great way to check if they are what they say they are is to check out their website. Take a look at their previous work and any testimonials. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, ask a friend or a fellow business person—we’re always happy to help too! Word of mouth is often the best form of advertising. If you go by recommendation, your designer will be tried and tested already. But it’s always good to do your research as well to make sure for yourself that you’re happy with their style and approach.