A well-designed website is easy to use and works every time! Creating your own website requires skill, time, a decent budget and a willingness to experiment with “look and feel”. If in doubt, call in the experts sooner rather than later. Here are some tips for your website design made easy.
What not to do, in my experience …
The first time I ventured into e-commerce, a web designer who happened to be a family friend built the site for me. It cost very little, which at the time was a big plus. Fast forward 18 months, however, and the old adage that you get what you pay for was proving to be true. While the back end of the site was simple to update, every time a comma was entered, the site crashed. Ordering was clunky and not customer friendly. In fact, my “bricks and mortar” customers hated it! Over the following six months, I made not one online sale. So that was the end of e-commerce site number one.
The second foray into e-commerce was much more successful. The site looked great, hosted a lot of traffic and was easy to update. It worked like a dream.
While the site wasn’t cheap to build, it offered an attractive series of design templates to choose from and an IT expert to assist. The biggest plus was that the back end worked like a simple Word document: it was a breeze to update and modify as the business grew. I also had an exceptional designer, who was happy to do a series of “work arounds”, so I didn’t have to spend a fortune.
The concept of the website was terrific and I had a library of top-notch content. To my delight, I received an offer too good to refuse, and I prepared to hand over my creation to my buyer. It was at that point I discovered that the intellectual property that had gone into developing the website wasn’t owned by the company I’d paid to create it. It was owned by a third party! What?! Several years of paying website maintenance and hosting fees turned out to have been nothing more than rental on a site I would never own, could never sell, and with a domain I couldn’t even move to a new web host. Hard lesson learned.
Wisdom over time …
In my latest foray into web design, I decided to build my own WordPress.org site. I’d had some experience with WordPress and found it easy to use, I thought I’d give it a go. WordPress.org is a different beast however. While I would highly recommend it for creating your website, be prepared to either immerse yourself in learning or get someone to do help you!
Determined not to revisit past mistakes, I made the call early. I invested time in talking to fellow business owners and friends until I found the perfect designer.
Sarah from A Lined Design. Hope she doesn’t mind me giving her a shout out!
What I love about Sarah, and what I have learned along the way in this process; work with someone who gets you and the design process will be a dream. It goes without saying that choosing a good designer is important.
A good designer …
Top tips for picking the right designer:
- Find a designer that listens;
- Your designer should understand your vision without imposing theirs, but should also be happy to offer an opinion;
- A good designer will ask you to set out your expectations for your website and then provide you with a written job brief up front. This forms part of the contract between you. The brief sets out what is involved in the job; plus the expectations for both their part of the job and yours. It also sets out a timeframe for completion;
- Any designer pitching for your job should provide a detailed quote. The quote should set out what’s included in the job and what’s extra; including hourly rates for any additional work performed;
- Quality designers work professionally, quickly and always with the brief in mind, making suggestions to ensure your brand message is consistent and comes across clearly;
- You designer should test and retest your site to make sure it all works, and be happy to fix things that aren’t working;
- Most importantly employ someone who makes the process easy to understand and fun! Never feel silly for not understanding how coding works, you’re not a professional designer!
With a good designer in place, you’ll have more time to concentrate on what you are good at. Trust me when I say it will be worth every cent.
Before committing to website design …
- How “tech savvy” are you? Be honest: it can be harder than you think! If creating your own website is above your pay grade, play to your strengths and get some help.
- What is your budget? Before hiring an expensive designer think carefully; websites rarely need to be custom built now. You probably don’t need to build a product from scratch initially. Try using a theme template instead. Look at Themeforest, Squarespace and Wix, to name a few.
- What sort of site do you want to build? A blog? An e-commerce site? An information site? One that offers appointment-booking options? A landing page? They each have very different requirements.
- Have you decided on your branding and logo designlogo design.
- Do your research. Before you commit to using a freelance designer, web design company, or other option, ask the hard questions so you’re well prepared.
- Consider WordPress or WordPress.org. This is not an advertisement for either, but both provide you with options to customise your site. With loads of compatible plug-ins and themes, there’s the option to change, pivot and scale your website depending upon your business and how it evolves.
- As already mentioned, there are also “do-it-yourself” options like Shopify, Wix and Squarespace. However, a number of the web-hosting companies like Go Daddy and Hostgator also have templates to assist in building your site from scratch.
- Your SEO (search engine optimisation) helps drive traffic to your site. It has to be on the money and preferably is in place from the get-go. The terrific thing about the majority of “do-it-yourself” sites is that you can get plug-ins or assistance with this as you create your site. If SEO is just too much to tackle at the start, don’t panic; there is always the option to add this later.
So, the two keys to help to create a wonderful product. The first is doing your research before you start. The second is understanding your limitations.