If you’re considering embarking on a website design project, you’re most likely venturing into unchartered territory. Or, at the very least, headed down a path you only travel down every five or so years. Because of this “path not taken”, the road is many times bumpy and it is easy to get side tracked or completely lost along the way.
Each week I receive a lot of incoming requests for web design quotes and proposals. I ultimately work with a lot of different small business and personality types. Regardless of the industry, business age, or business owner, many entrepreneurs and small businesses tend to run into the same roadblocks and they typically kill their projects in six quick and (unfortunately) efficient ways.
1. An Unrealistic Budget
Many times an entrepreneur or small business owner will set a budget for website design well before they have researched market conditions to see if their budget is realistic. They decide on an amount they can pay and not necessarily an amount they need to pay to obtain their marketing goals.
I frequently get long lists of functionality requirements from people who claim to have limited or no budgets for the project. While I typically receive five or so of these per week, I am still surprised each time I open my email to find one.
As a possible technology partner, I am hesitant to engage with someone who has a large list of needs and has no means by which to pay for the execution of these requirements. It isn’t that I don’t want to help, it is more the fact that these statements show a lack of research and time spent in planning the website project.
I know website design isn’t something people deal with very often, so by definition, the project can be challenging. Let’s compare it to something most people are familiar with – buying a car. If you’re shopping for a car, you generally know your budget and you tailor your needs to match you available funds. Most people don’t head over to the Lexus dealership and upon walking through the door, announce they have a budget capable of purchasing a 1975 pinto. You can’t purchase a car that way and you can’t court a website designer that way either.
2. Undefined Functional Requirements
For every “I have no budget” email I receive, I also receive emails that tell me they “hate their existing website”, need help, and want a quote or proposal. I am happy to provide a proposal, but on what I’m not sure. Proposals for web design are based on complexity of the build, template variations, quantity of content to build out, and functional requirements. If I know answers to none of those items, I will struggle providing an accurate quotation. In all actuality I won’t quote. I’ll send the requestor an email asking for more project specifics. If they won’t and/or can’t take the time to provide detailed responses, I won’t take the time to provide a proposal.
That may seem harsh, but I’m protecting you as the client and me as the developer. Nothing makes me happier than a prospect that pops up with a detailed RFP or list of needs. I take that back. I’ll be even happier if you’ve already shopped around and spoken with web designers. That means you are educating yourself and you are making a strategic decision. This is good for me and it is really good for you.
3. Vague Visual Requirements
I’m an opinionated woman who knows what she likes. Whether it is my own company’s website, my car, or my home – I have strong opinions on what things should look like. This kills my husband at times, but it does provide value in business.
I have clients and have talked to many prospects who tell me they really don’t have any idea what they’d like their future website to look like. It just needs to be new. Great! How about purple and pink poke dots? No I didn’t think so. But I won’t know what is good unless you can articulate what you do or do not want or like.
As your website design I want to create a website that makes you happy. Really that is what it boils down to for us creative types. I need you to help me understand what does make you happy and then we will both be happy with the final project.
Deciding what type of websites you like is hard, but it is possible. Most people do spend time on the internet and it is really a matter of stopping yourself when you see a website that makes you happy. Stop and think what it is about the home page or inner pages that you find appealing. Is it a lot of white space, the color scheme, the content placement, or the clearly defined navigation? Once you start answering those questions, you’ll be able to define what type of website you want for your own business.
4. Reused and Stale Content
I’d say about one third of my website design clients end up telling me to “just use the existing content”. Or in other words, “I’m happy to spend thousands on web design, but I don’t have the time to write fresh content.” To these clients they need their website freshened up. To them, fresh means look and feel, but not words. To the visitors of their website, fresh means both look and feel and current content.
I always find it hard to believe that a business can leave website content that is five years old in place and not have it be, well, wrong. My business has changed substantially over the last three years and as a result my website content has changed too.
If you are taking the time to have a new website designed for your business, take the time to rewrite and/or update your existing content to make sure it matches the brand you want to project. Your online image is about visual and contextual elements, so take this opportunity to position your company in the best way possible.
5. No Call to Actions
A call to action is simply an action, step, or process you’d like your website visitors to do when they arrive to your website. Every website should have some semblance of a call to action. It could be a newsletter subscription, a lead submission, a purchase, or a white paper download. It could be as simple as a phone call. Regardless of the complexity of the action, know that there is, in fact, a desired outcome for every website visit.
Good website design requires that we know these call to actions before we set forth on the design itself. We want the website home page and sidebars to present these call to actions in the best possible manner. We want the website to work for you. Working means encouraging visitors to perform your most important call to actions.
I typically don’t expect prospects or clients to come to me knowing what call to actions they’d like. But I do need them to work with me to figure them out. And I won’t accept “we don’t have call to actions”. If you want people to visit your website, then you must want them to do something while there, so we do in deed have call to actions.
6. Ignoring SEO
When I first started my consulting firm I would force SEO on people. I just felt so passionate about the benefits of search engine optimization, I wanted the world to drink my SEO Kool-Aid so they too could get oodles of free traffic from organic search.
The problem is that some people feel they don’t need SEO. They believe in pay per click campaigns or telemarketing or some other method to drive traffic. They simply don’t see the value in SEO. In many cases it is simply because they’ve never done SEO right so it hasn’t produced any tangible results. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.
Earlier this year I adjusted our website design packages to allow for web design projects without SEO. It was hard for me to do it, but I realized that I couldn’t change the mind of ever WordPress user in the world. Some people really only want a custom WordPress theme and they don’t want my full-blown website development projects. Even though I’ve made a bit of a compromise, I still 100% believe in the power of SEO. And as a business owner who uses a company website for marketing, you should too.
If you are spending the time and money to redesign your website, take an additional week to do keyword research, content creation, and some on-page optimization. Good SEO will make a difference and it will absolutely help in delivering a faster ROI for your web design project.
The Take Away
The take away is simple. Before you spend a lot of time and money on website development, or even just a custom WordPress theme, spend a little bit of time on introspection, education, and research. The small delay will help make sure you and your website designer are on the right path and it will help guide your project towards a successful outcome.