Or Why You Should Fire Your Designer – Or probably not hire one in the first place.
By reading this post, you will be able to save thousands of dollars on website design. Actually you can have a complete website that look better than what your designer would probably end up doing completely free or less
Here’s the deal… Someone wants a website and they go out and hire the first and best designer. Often it’s a friend or friend of a friend, and sometimes it’s even a family member.
It is however not limited these segments. Everybody who can open up Photoshop call themselves a designer, including tons of people on the usual places like elance.com, odesk.com, guru.com etc.
I see this pattern again and again. “I want a website but does not know anything about it, so I’ll have someone else do it” On paper that might sound like a great idea (I mean, I’m all for -outsourcing-)
The sites they end up creating is usually “ok looking” but nothing more. The site owner ends up paying them per the hour so they usually end up spending a lot of money because design is subjective and they want
Often I see people pay $1000-$5000 for these kind of website designs
After having this amount of money you should now have a killer website, but a lot of the time, that’s not the case!
The problem is that all websites have a goal. They want to hit a certain people segment, they want to sell products, they want to generate leads, they want to establish a brand etc.
When you simply tell a designer to do a site, you never get through these thoughtprocesses. Your designer might be interested in who your potential audience is and will modify colors and style to this, but doing a complete
“information architecture” as it’s called is seldom done my entry level designers (and you as a client do not want to pay for something that you don’t know exists).
5 Things That Are Typically Wrong With These Sites
- No clear benefit statement (why should the visitor want to stay on your site (or take action)
- No clear call to action (what do you want the visitor to do?)
- Way too much text and bad imagery (I feel like stabbing myself with the nearest pencil whenever I see two shaking hands).
- Overdesigned websites
- Bad navigation
It’s Partially Your Fault!
Basically you are trying to purchase something that you know absolutely nothing about. You basically do not know what to ask for. Imagine going to the grocery store and telling them that you want a box with something
inside. The problem is that you basically do not know what’s inside the box and let the grocerystore make that decision. And remember that we’re not talking about a pound of butter here… We’re talking about thousands of
I Can Tell You How To Get A Professionally Looking Website Free
I’ve done several online businesses and most of the time I end up spending less than $100 on the entire website (that’s including the design :)).
It’s basically a three or four step process.
- Use WordPress
- Know what good design looks like
- Select a free or paid theme
- Optionally: Have modifications done to your theme (like getting a real logo)
You’ve probably already heard of WordPress, it’s basically a content management system (CMS). There are other systems out there (too many to count actually) and I’ve also seen designers recommend some custom
developed (or perhaps no CMS at all).
All you need to know is that you should use WordPress period!
- It’s search engine optimized out of the box
- It’s typically a “one click install” with your webhosting company meaning that you can click that button yourself and thereby remove the need for a programmer/developer)
- It’s so widespread that you can get thousands of plugins or extensions to the system so if you like some special functionality chances are that it’s most like already developed (and in most cases free)
- There are also so many people who know the system, so if you actually did want to outsource small tweaks, it’s really easy (and cheap) to get people who know the system.
See this is where mediocre webdesigners/developers fail, they tend to focus on features of the CMS itself, forgetting the ecosystem that the system is part of, and the whole lifecycle of your website (like who can work on it, and when should it be updated. I’ve seen numerous sites made on some proprioraire system where the developer stopped working on the system years ago and he was the only one knowing the sytem)
I know that you got a good friend/cousin/even a son who’s telling you that you need Joomla, Drupal, Mambo, INSERT ANY NAME HERE, etc. Don’t listen to them! They might enjoy playing with tech stuff themselves but most of us really just want to start a website and focus on content (I’m really a programmer at heart and still do some consultancy some of the year – so I should know).
Know what good design looks like
Sorry to say, but you probably need a little education. Design is subjective, what I find attractive you might hate and the other way around.
There is basically no wrong or right when it comes to the design itself, BUT. There certainly is a right and wrong when it comes to archiving a certain goal online.
The three things that your design MUST HAVE
1) A clear big font statement telling your visitors exactly what the benefit of your site or product is
It’s hard getting visitors to a website, and when they get there you most often only have their attention for ten seconds before they leave again. It is vital that the visitor in that 10 seconds. By guiding the visitors’ eyes by having a big ass font clearly explaining why they should stay on the site you give them a reason to spend just a little more time!
2) Super clear navigation in the top with no more than 7 menu items (and preferable less)
Some years ago a lot of sites used left navigation and even other kinds of strangly positioned menus (I’ve even seen menus in the bottom of the page!). If you take a look at every major website outthere (and there are of course always exceptions that prooves the point) they all use a simple horizontal top navigation. No need to reinvent something here. Go with a simple horizontal menu in the top. Don’t try and make anything fancy here.
The goal is to make it easy for your visitors to find information on your site, everytime you make something “fancy” you’ll probably end having frustrated visitors.
3) A clear call to action, big buttons are awesome
Now if you’ve managed to get the visitors to stay a little more than ten seconds, you probably want them to do something. Even if you’re just having a blog and not selling anything you probably want them to stay a little long. So look at the end of all my posts, they contain “Related posts” in order to keep you a little longer.
But also if you’re selling something, you either want to get the visitors to buy or at least get a lead that you can sell to at a later stage.
So make it clear to your visitors what to do if they’ve bought your message and want to know more or even buy something from you. Don’t be afraid of big ass buttons so the visitor doesn’t need to look all over your website (again, if they need to spend more than ten seconds looking for a “Buy Now” button or “Get In Contact” or “Signup For My Newsletter” button, you’ve probably lost them).
There are of course tons of other things you could look for, but if you just look for these three things you are ahead of 95% of the competition!
An example is the Extatic theme that I’m using for one of my sites:
Select A Free Or Paid Template
A template (also known as a theme) is a predesigned web design that is being given away or sold.
The last many websites I’ve started have been using standard themes (mostly costing me less than $20).
The main strength with themes is that you can instantly see what you’re getting and decide then and there if it’s something you like and feel will appeal to your target audience.
You don’t have to wait months for your cousin to make you that first draft you end up hating but use anyway because you do not want to spend two months more waiting for another
Just remember to look for the three things that I outlined above 1) prominent placed (big ass) headline, 2) Simple horizontal navigation and 3) clear call to action and quickly discard the theme if it does not live up to these criterias.
Get Your Design In 5 Minutes Instead of 5 Months
So you might ask where you can find these free and paid themes, well let’s start with the free themes.
and you will get thousands of hits.
The problem with this is that you can spend days looking through all of this. If you want to filter this a bit, you can also look at someone like Smashing Magazine who creates long lists of free quality wordpress themes, I’ve found a theme or two in the past this way:
- 100 Amazing WordPress Themes 2009
- 100 Amazing WordPress Themes 2010
- 100 Amazing WordPress Themes 2011
I usually go with a paid theme, basically because there is more quality than quantity (the opposite is true with free themes).
My primary source of quality commercial themes is ThemeForest.
The weakness of using a theme is that you do not get something uniquely designed for you, but this very overrated, it’s rare that I find someone using the same theme as me and most of the time I’ve had a logo developed or perhaps changed the colors a little (most paid themes makes it easy to customize it a little usually through the administration interface).
So if you’re Nike you probably don’t want to buy a theme (I’ve seen how much money then spend on branding!) but if your a small business this will give you a way better result in the end.
Customize the theme
One thing you most often will lack when you use a theme is a logo. On this blog I’ve chosen a theme where I did not have to have a logo. It’s just the title of the blog in some smart font (but I might have a logo designed at some point)
There are several ways to get logos designed. I’ve heard several people use 99designs.com but I usually just head over to fiverr.com.
I usually make sure that I have the theme in place first, this way I can show whoever I hire on Fiverr what the logo should fit into.
By following this recipe you can basically have a website up in a couple of days (where you spend most time writing the content) instead of using months. You’ll also be able to do this on a budget And most of the time,
you will actually get a better result in the end.
Big companies often spend a lot of money, get multiple design drafts and many numbers of iterations over the design
I’m not a designer, but have been in the online industri a long time, and know quite a lot about the mechanisms that happen online, including user behavior.