As far as I can tell there are two ways to ask this question. “WHY do I need a web designer?” and "Why do I need a web designer?”.
I deduce that the person asking the latter of these questions most likely has a computer at home or in their office that they use every day, so why on earth would they need to pay somebody in to design them a website? They may or may not have had some experience with Microsoft Paint or possibly even PhotoShop too! But this a web designer does not make. The fact of the matter is that most of us live in houses every day of our lives but would not be able to successfully design and build one. In the world of business time is money and to me it would make no sense to waste a large period of your time building something that would be far inferior to something that a professional could do better in half the time.
The real question should be “WHY do I need a web designer?” as the answer to this is very simple. In the UK there are only 10% of the population that do all of their shopping in physical stores, which leaves a whopping 90% do at least some shopping online (source). A well-designed website is a good start to getting you a piece of that pie and the best way to get a well-designed website is by using a web designer.
I have been designing and building websites for a number of years now but not so many that I have forgotten how mind-numbingly complicated everything seemed to me when I started. On the surface it is very easy to design a very nice, clean and pretty site but I can assure you that that is only the very beginning. I spoke in my last post about designers’ skills being valuable and nothing highlights this point like web designers.
“I don’t need a Web Designer – what’s the worst thing that can happen?”
If you have the self-belief and drive to undertake building your own website then I applaud you but I think it’s only fair to show you some examples of what could happen. Below are screen shots and links to two websites that I found on a list of the most ‘over the top websites of 2014’. Have a look at them for yourself and then ask yourself “Based on what I see hear would I trust this person or give them money?”
As you can see there is a lot going on this page. The navigation on the left is hard to read due to there being an image of a car underneath each of the words. There is little continuity to the colours used or indeed the image sizes. Multiple fonts are used and the scrolling txt seems very outdated.
Fonts...fonts everywhere. Generally I would always adivse to stick to one font or two (title and body) at the very most. These mavericks went a little crazym as you can see. Every colour clashes and the background is just off-putting. This site looks like it is from 1995 but it is clearly still being maintained. The mind boggles.
Even without my insight you can see some of the issues that these examples have, but it is always easy to see the problems in others work. Despite this, it can be very easy to fall into the hole of adding things to your design that you (or others around you) think are a good idea. A web designer is impartial and experienced in these matters. A good one knows that your homepage is your store front, your handshake, and needs to be making the right impression to your potential audience.
“What do I need to do before hiring a web designer?”
There is no correct answer to this, speaking as a web designer I would happily take a panicked call from someone who didn’t have a clue about what they were doing or what they wanted and advise them. That said it makes things a lot smoother if you have a clear brief in your head of what you want to end up with – maybe a list of websites that you like and what you like about them. Do your homework, look at potential designer’s own website and find someone whose style fits in with what you’re looking for. Ask for recommendations from people that you know as word of mouth is the most reliable way to get the truth about a service. Make sure that you think you can get on with the person you intend to hire as, from experience, designing and building a website can get stressful as it is a very personal thing for both the client and designer.
“So, as a web designer, what makes a ‘good website’?”
Design is a subjective thing but within that there are certain tropes that tie all well-designed and built websites together.
Good, high quality images.
Allow some budget for stock imagery and custom graphics as no matter how well designed a site may be, there is no hiding a poor image. This stretches across the board and should include product shots (if you are an ecommerce site), banners and social icons. Quite simply good images look better than bad ones!
A straightforward navigation setup that promotes a good user experience (UX)
A whole industry is growing up around UX and with good reason. Your user needs to have a good experience and a good web designer knows this. They need to be able to get to the information they want in the quickest possible time. We want them to be able to easily and intuitively explore your website, so we need to consider their journey from landing until they finally leave.
A considered user interface (UI)
Basically it has to look pretty and be functional. It has to make you want to stay on the page because it is so nice to look at but it also has to be easy to understand how to get to where you need to go.
Responsive functionality has been considered
Today, a large proportion of browsing is done on mobile devices so responsively needs to be considered and not just be an afterthought. Your site needs to look as good on the small screen as it does on a desktop for all of the same reasons.
The design reflects and is in keeping with your brand
As I said before, your website is your shop front so it needs to fit in with what you, your company or your service is saying. There needs to by synergy between the name of the company, the colours used in the logo, the service they provide and the design of their website. When all of these things are in harmony it really works!
In conclusion, you need to ask yourself “Do I need a web designer?” Not everyone has the budget for an all singing, all dancing site but, to be honest, not everyone needs that. I would go so far as to say that there is a website to suit every pocket. I would say though that as far as web designers go, you get what you pay for. Don’t try and go for a cheap option as you may end up paying twice, so please make sure that you do your homework.
IF you have any questions regarding something you’ve read here or just a general inquiry, we offer a free consultation so please feel free to drop us a line and we will see if we can help you.
It all started a pretty long time ago... way back in 1994 would you believe! I was 11 years old and decided I wanted to be a graphic designer. I had recently started my new secondary school, not the best I will grant you that, but the place that would start my journey down the creative path. You see, as I came from what was considered a "deprived" area the school had recently received quite a lot of money and had been given Technology college status which meant, a shiny new graphic design studio among other things (I also got to try my hand at engineering, pneumatics and ceramics, but that is a very different blog covering the fact that I am a rubbish girl).
It captured my imagination. I got to create stuff that solved a problem by using creative thinking. I had to give reasons why I used colour, type, shape and form. It opened my eyes to a new big world out there that I had never really thought of being part of, it gave me my career path, graphic designer here I come!
It is safe to say I have always been a bit of a creative type, while my little brother would save up pocket money to but the latest thundercat or wrestling figure I would buy books, pens and paper. My shocking stationary habit exists to this day and my collection of pro-markers is now something I enjoy with my own kids (supervised of course, they are my babies, and not really for children :D) I loved art, photography, museums, books, whatever I could get my hands on really, and my parents indulged me. Music was another big influence, with bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, the Move & the Who being played at home it meant I dodged the bullet of the likes of the Vengaboys and early 90's pop forever frying my brain.
So you weren't academic then?
Actually I was, I was a complete swot. My parents got called aside when I chose subjects like graphics, art, media studies & history instead of more preferred subjects like double science and languages. I was going to be wasted taking creative subjects was the general opinion. The lack of understanding for the creative process and the level of knowledge that came with it was amazing. Why would I want to be a graphic designer when I could be an accountant or a lawyer? (Nothing wrong with those professions, but they probably wouldn't let me wear my Doc Martens to work each day like I do now). I probably use more math in my role as a web designer than I would have done in most other jobs I could have chosen, today alone I have worked on a site in german coding to meet their commercial needs, and had to apply knowledge of history, culture and fashion to put together a design for a client. Sounds like a pretty rounded education to me.
So where next?
From school I went on to my local art college and believe it or not only touched a computer around five times in the whole two years I was there to do any design work. I hand rendered type, used a grant enlarger (do they still exist?) and learnt all the fundamentals that came with being a designer. Learning the hard way made sure that it stuck in your head. If you had spent two days drawing a layout by hand you were gonna be damn sure you had thought long and hard about every alignment point and piece of content. It was hard work but it laid the foundations for skills I use every single day.
Onward & Upward
From there was a university degree in graphic communication, in the very orange Wolverhampton University SAD (it must have turned my brain somehow). We explored typography, film, semiotics, conceptual design, philosophy, so much I can't even begin to cram it in here. Making you see things from all perspectives, to analyse each element with equal importance & to use creative skills to solve a multitude of problems was where I wanted to be. We probably didn't realise it at the time but out lecturers were pretty amazing too, I still refer back to things they said and told me about now over ten years down the line.
Into The Big Wide World
And so off I went. I guess I have been pretty lucky as things go, I have been able to work with huge household names and I have see small businesses grow from the corner of a back bedroom to being a global brand. Being a graphic designer has meant I have interacted with people I would never thought possible and has taken me out of my little corner of the Black Country and out into the world.
I do what I love and I do it every day. I think people struggle with that, the fact that I don't switch off, I look for inspiration everywhere, I encourage my children to absorb the world around them. Because after all, a world without designers would be a pretty boring place.
Books that formed my journey