Nowadays, we do more website redesigns than new websites. Every business only has its first website once, and then every new site is redesigned.
Unfortunately, many of the websites we are replacing did not have long, fruitful lives. These sites were recently completed — by other agencies or freelancers — and fell far short of our client’s expectations.
They’re often brand new. Many are less than a year old.
Some of the sites we fix were originally built cheaply by cutting corners. Others are pretty flashy and expensive but lack basic functionality. All of them were created by other agencies or freelancers who failed to meet the clients’ expectations.
This is unfortunate for any business owner, and I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you might avoid this issue altogether.
Who to Hire: Designer or developer? Freelancer or agency?
Think of hiring someone to build your website the same way you would a contractor to work on your house or a mechanic on your car — with some basic understanding, a little insider knowledge, and the right questions, you can get what you want and not get burned.
Websites are similar — to get it done right, you need to hire the right person (or people). I wouldn’t hire a plumber to do my electrical, and I wouldn’t want major work done to my car at an express oil change. So let’s look at some different roles and what they do.
A web designer determines what a site looks like. Their goal is to make the site look good and create the overall visual appearance through colors, fonts, imagery, and layout. They can do this in Photoshop, directly in HTML and CSS, or by customizing a pre-made theme. To continue the home improvement analogy, think of them as interior decorators.
A freelancer might have some skill and familiarity in both disciplines, but they’re likely to excel at one or the other. Take note of whether they call themselves a “developer” or “designer” — that will give you insight into their expertise, process, and priorities. It will also indicate the type of site you’ll get: One designed to look good or one designed to function well.
A web firm or agency should have designers and developers on staff who will collaborate and combine their expertise to build your website. Using an agency increases the chance that your site will be designed and developed well. It will also give you access to some other essential skills that often go overlooked when websites get built.
What Else Makes a Website ‘Good’?
Making sure your site looks good and works well is essential. But those aren’t the only qualities that go into a well-made website. It would be best if you thought about what a visitor will do when they arrive at your page and how they might come there in the first place.
A mistake we often see businesses make (whether we’re making their site or not) is wanting to create their content. On the surface, it makes sense — who knows your business better than you?
But ask yourself: Do you know how to craft copy that will stand out from the competition? Create clear messaging to sell your brand? Entertaining and informative content to keep your audience engaged? And do you know how to make it all fit seamlessly with a design and flow well with the site’s functionality?
Doing this — and doing it well — is a highly-specialized skill, just like web design and development. Even if your content is already written, it can constantly be improved and optimized by a professional copywriter and content creator.
A site may be immaculately designed, flawlessly developed, and feature great content. But if no one visits it, what’s the point? Attracting, retaining, and converting customers is a whole other skill set for building a website.
This can include instilling good SEO practices to make your page appear higher in searches, marketing content to show off your expertise, and translating analytics to see where visitors come from and the path they take through your site.
And the best time to implement these practices is while the site is being built. They should be part of the plan from the beginning and baked into the design and development. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone launch a site than come to us for help optimizing it. It can be done — but never as efficiently or effectively as doing it from the start.
What’s Right For Me?
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding on how (and who) to build your website. While every instance is unique, the are some common pros and cons for each, as well general circumstances when one may be preferable to another.
Hiring a freelance designer
- Your site will be visually appealing
- It can often be done more quickly and less expensively than using an agency.
- Will likely use pre-made templates and themes that can lead to technical issues
- Requires you to provide and optimize the content
You may want to hire a web designer if…
You need an online presence for your brand that looks good, only needs to convey basic information, and requires no complex functionality.
Hiring a freelance developer
- Capable of building robust functionality for your site
- May be able to optimize the technical implementation and speed of the site
- Risk clunky design that will turn off users and poorly represent your brand
- Requires you to provide content and be more involved with visual direction
You may want to hire a web developer if…
Your website requires more complex and customized processes, and visual appearance is less of a concern.
Hiring a firm or agency
- Marries design, functionality, and content
- Can think beyond the initial site to SEO, analytical and marketing processes
- Longer process than just hiring a freelancer
- More expensive (Starting around $1.5k for a freelancer vs. $10k for an agency)
You may want to hire an agency if…
Your website is a vital component of your business in attracting, converting, and retaining customers, and you need help navigating evolving technology and marketing trends.
Of course, making a fully-formed and good decision is much more nuanced than this. So if you require help building a comprehensive web experience (or need help fixing your current one), get in touch. We’re happy to go over your needs and help you make the right choice.