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 Multiple fonts are used and the scrolling txt seems very outdated.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.
Branding is a massive part of of who we are. How you dress, the things you like, the way you present yourself, these all make up our own personal brand. As a business it becomes your logo, corporate colours, your website. In a digital age these are the things we use to tell the world about who we are. More and more relationships survive based upon our digital personas more so than our real life identities, so what is your brand saying about you?
You might love cool, crisp corporate design. The professional formality of a serif font, the icy blue tones we have all come to associate with high-end banking establishments, lawyers and accountants. Unfortunately, you have decided to run an artisan bakery... doh! The image you give off must be relevant to you market. Of course you want to stand out but you also have to make your customer feel comfortable, let them know that not only do you understand the market you are selling in but also that you understand their needs.
While it may say all the right things this cold corporate logo really doesn't hit the mark for the Knead It! audience. Cold, and corporate just doesn't fit this companies profile.
So you have agonised over your brand, you've tried every font the internet has to offer and every colour from puce to chartreuse. You now have a brand guidelines that is the size of a small encyclopedia (double sided)... but you don't bother to use it. If your audience never meets you in person, your brand is your handshake, your face, your signature, the one thing that makes you identifiable from the rest of the digital universe. Brand is king, and that great big world out there are your subjects.
Stand out from the crowd. Don't look at million other businesses/bloggers/products that exist in the same market as you and follow them. Take what is great and good about them and add some of yourself to that. Create a brand you are proud of and that will get you noticed. Talk to people and get their opinions on your ideas, might be that they see something different in there that you don't, or maybe just can add that little something that will really make it shine. But always be careful, things can sometimes be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The Dirty Bird logo was memorable for all the wrong reasons - Kind of image to be associated with an eating establishment?
A-style logo - definitely showing some kind of style there. Intentional or in error? Discuss.
So you have this amazing new brand which everyone is gonna love. You're on to a winner. So you get your business cards printed, you build a website and you make some social channels, and the world comes running.... errr, nope! Get out there. Shout about your brand, interact, get your face noticed. You need to find people as much as they need to find you. Like, comment, share. Make yourself an integral part of the little corner of the digital universe that you want to master. Soon you will be recognised not just by what you do but also by who you are. If someone loves your blog post they will seek you out, they may spot your trusty logo in a forum, or your brand colours all over that facebook post. The more your brand is used to more confidence you instill in your following, and confidence builds trust.
So what if that one instagram post goes out without your logo carefully nestled in the corner, no one is gonna notice, right? I once worked for a company that created a viral game, it went crazy. Being shared all over facebook with thousands of people playing and sharing their scores, it was a massive success. The only problem was it had gone out into the world without any branding. Instead of receiving all this great free advertising and collecting up the wealth of likers and followers that the game attracted, they just had to sit back and watch it take flight. Watermarking, branding and placement are all tools in your arsenal to make sure that you get the full credit for that amazing stroke of internet wonderment.
So whether you are just starting out or your brand is centuries old, it is never to late to inject that fresh enthusiasm into the way you project yourself to the world. Start small and build up, Rome wasn't built in a day, but every step should aim to be a positive one.