We spend a lot of time talking to companies about their websites here. Over the last four years, we have talked to over 500 prospects in many different industries from young startups to established corporations. We have pretty much heard it all. Unfortunately, a lot of people make the same mistakes. Although we recommend that you perform your own research, interviewing and due diligence, we have outlined some common mistakes people make so you can learn from them.
Not Having a Plan
When you start looking for a web agency, you should have a well-defined project plan. At a minimum, you should have a rough sitemap or website architecture (list of pages and subpages), content strategy, functionality requirements and some sample websites that you like. You would be surprised how many people call us with absolutely no idea of what they want and then proceed to ask us how much to build this website without any specifications. Without a clear understanding of what you are looking for, it would be impossible for a firm to quote accurately.
Starting With Way Too Much
Over the years, social networking and crowdsourcing websites have become increasingly popular. A lot of prospects that come to us wanting to build these types of websites do not understand that every screen interaction needs to be custom designed and developed and so they require a lot of time and budget. For these complex eCommerce websites, it is better to build them out in phases so you can get something up in the short term, earning some revenue by growing your user base and getting some feedback, before spending more money on web development. If you try to do everything all at once, you may never launch.
Confusing Web Design with Web Development
Most clients do not know the difference between web design and web development. Web design is creating the look and feel of your website usually with Photoshop mockups. Web development the process of coding the website according to the mockups designed and hooking it up to a content management system like WordPress so it can be editable. You need both web design and development to construct a website properly from the ground-up. Unless you are hiring a web agency with both a web designer and a web developer, most freelancers cannot do both jobs well as one is a left-brain (problem-solving and mathematical) activity and the other is more right brain (creative) focused. Read more about how web design is not the same as web development.
Forgoing Web Design with Pre-made Templates
If you are shopping around for a WordPress website, you will encounter millions of pre-made themes for a measly $45 – $65 that boast optimization for mobile devices, a myriad of features, infinite scalability and industry relevant designs. Many companies opt to hire a web developer to setup and customize a pre-made theme for them hoping to save some budget on their website. However, you will likely spend the same amount if not more that if you did custom design and development because pre-made themes are more difficult to work with and your content never fills out the theme the same way as the demo does. Finally, most of these pre-made themes are often slow-loading because they are stuffed full of features, the majority of which you will never use. A custom website engineered from the ground-up will always yield a higher conversion rate and load faster than a customized pre-made theme.
Looking for Web Designers for Your Industry Only
A frequently asked question is whether we have worked in a specific industry before. For a great web agency, the process will always be the somewhat similar with discovery, industry research and an understanding of your brand. Except in highly regulated industries, web designers who position themselves in niche markets almost always forgo these initial steps. Furthermore, there could be a conflict of interest when these specialized web designers may also be working for your competitors.
Asking “Are You Local?”
We often get asked, “Where are you located?” This question should never be asked in the first place because where we are based has no bearing on the quality of our web design and development work. Just because you hire someone in your backyard does not guarantee that they will automatically deliver a fantastic website to you. You should select a web agency based on their track record, portfolio, skills, and experience and not because of their posh office in downtown San Francisco.
Not Investing in a Responsive Website
A responsive website means that your website layout automatically adjusts based on your screen size to allow for legibility and minimal panning and scrolling. Mobile traffic has officially surpassed traditional laptop and desktop traffic in 2014 so business owners can no longer afford to ignore mobile users anymore if they want to survive in the long run. Read more about why you need a responsive website.
Not Choosing WordPress
Gone are the days that you can create a website and just forget about it. Google needs you to consistently update your website with relevant and unique content catered to your target market if you want to rank well naturally. WordPress is a user-friendly content management system (CMS) that allows you to do that quickly and easily without any web development knowledge. Even though there have been a lot of CMS’ that have emerged over the years, WordPress is clearly the industry leader powering 50% of the world’s websites. Certainly half of the Word Wide Web cannot be wrong!
Copying Another Website
So many people don’t take the time to properly define their website goals, brand messaging, and target market and just copy another website. Don’t get us wrong, we are all about checking out the competition and seeing how other similar companies position themselves but I am talking about the people who just want an exact replica of someone else’s website. Take the time to answer some of these key questions integral in creating an effective website design:
- Who is your target market?
- What matters most to your customers?
- What makes your product / service unique?
- What is your value proposition?
Take full advantage of their expertise and give them the creative freedom to design something custom tailored to your brand and target market and try not to micro-manage them.