One of the questions centered on choosing the design for their house.
They revealed that they looked at hundreds of plans and model homes. They took photographs of elements in one house design and elements from another. They looked at tons of stone tile floors, wood floors, bamboo floors, etc..., before finally picking out their favorite.
After they pieced their dream home together, they went to an architect who helped them put their ideas onto a plan. The husband said it took them 3 years from the time they decided they would build their home, just to get the blue prints drafted/created from the architect.
That took 3 years… thousands of hours of planning and preparation… mind you, the first brick hasn’t been laid yet… it took 3 years of research and planning to get their “plans” created… their blueprints.
Now… the opposite happens when most business owners decide they want a website. What typically happens is that a business owner wakes up one day and decides he or she needs or wants a web site. Once that decision is made, he or she begins looking for a web designer. They may get a referral from a friend, or they may research one out for themselves.
Once they find a designer, they’ll typically call him or her up (or email them) and say I need a website, how much do you charge? How many pages do I get? Can I make changes on my own? How do I take credit card payments? I hear paypal is free to get, I want to use that? Can I see some of your work? Oh… those sites look great! Can you make me one like that? Content? What content??? I thought you all provided the content? Can you help me with the content?
Unlike the homeowner who custom builds their house, many business owners are unwilling to take a proactive role in building their site. Web designers design… that’s what they do. They are contractors you hire to take your vision and make it a reality. The problem is that most business owners don’t have a vision, nor a purpose for what their web site is suppose to do.
If you don’t know the purpose, how do you expect the designer to know? Keep in mind; these are designers who build websites from many different industries every single day. Today they’re building websites for a dentist, and tomorrow they may be building a web site for a mortician. It’s impossible for these designers to be an expert in your industry. That’s why it’s extremely important you take a proactive role in how your website should be built, laid out, designed, and written. YOU are the EXPERT in your chosen field of business – not the designer.
A builder can only build a house if he has solid plans… not an idea, or a hunch, but solid plans, or in this case, a blueprint.
I’m not saying that a web designer can’t help you… but you should have the bulk of this stuff (research, planning, and content) done before you even talk with the first designer.
Once you‘ve laid out your plans, an experienced designer should be able to offer some advice and suggestions, or some alternatives as to what can, and can’t be done. But a designer shouldn’t be creating your website for you… he/she should be building what YOU specify.
In my opinion, the ultimate success, or failure, of a website falls squarely on the business owner, not the designer. Why? Because the only thing a designer should do is build what you want them too… and if the site fails, it’s because of something you did or didn’t do. Remember, you’re the expert in your chosen field… the designer isn’t an accountant trying to sell their accounting services online… a designer isn’t a quilter trying to sell a line of quilts online. A designer isn’t an expert on jewelry, nor is he/she an expert on herbal treatments… so he/she can’t adequately draft your marketing message for you… they can’t because they don’t know your prospects/customers like YOU do.
Here are some things you should do before you hire a designer:
Define the purpose of your website. But before we discuss that, let’s define what a website is. A website is simply another piece of media that allows you to get your marketing message out. There are a variety of media that businesses use every day to get their marketing message out… for example, we have radio commercials, tv commercials, newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards, fliers, postcards, direct mail, custom pens with company names on them, business cards, etc…
Radio ads are a great example of what businesses use to get their marketing message out… the ads typically directs you to call a phone number (or go to a website). Same with val-pak and money mailer ads – they may have you clip out a coupon to take advantage of a great carpet cleaning deal or whatever.
The same applies to a website… it’s just a different type of media. This type of media gives you the opportunity to get your best marketing message out about your product or service. The beauty of a website in comparison to the other media is that it has an interactive component to it. In other words, you can get your best marketing message out now, and provide additional information (by clicking here or downloading this or that). Once your case has been made, you now have the ability to instantly charge them for your products and services online (and in real-time).
With this media, you can test different components of your marketing message in just a whim, versus other media where you may have to wait months (like magazine ads) before you can tweak, change and get the results back.
A website allows you to instantly get targeted traffic coming to your website. If you know who your prospects are, you can instantly start routing those targeted prospects straight to your marketing message (website)…
Sorry for carrying-on… Sometimes I get side-tracked and get off course, but now I’m back… as I was saying, before you hire your designer, figure out what the purpose of your web site is.
Is the purpose of your website to generate leads? Is the purpose to provide information? Is the purpose to sell products/services? What’s the purpose? Once you know this, it makes the content piece much easier to write because you’ll be writing with that “purpose” in mind.
Once you figure out your purpose, then you should start to define your market. Who is your customer or prospect? How can you get your marketing message in front of them; where do they hang out at? Where do they hang out at on-line (forums, websites, communities, video sharing sites, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, etc…) Where do they hang out at off-line (clubs, local associations, tradeshows, etc.) How can you get your message delivered to them (newspapers, magazines, trade journals, direct mail, website, etc.)
Now that you have a purpose and know who your market is, start working on the content. I know it’s more easily said than done. But keep in mind that chances are, you know more about the subject matter than your designer would ever know. The content is one of the major components of the website. If you fail here, you’re pretty much done. I’ve seen poorly designed websites make a fortune because the site did a great job in communicating with their prospects.
There are billions of websites online and only a small percentage of them actually make any money. I’m sure many of you heard stories where people paid $15K-$30K for a website and haven’t made the first dime. This happens all the time. It happens every day. Will you be the next victim, or will you take charge of your business?
I have no problems with web designers just so you know. They’re needed just like builders are needed to build houses. But the difference here is that builders follow a blue print. They are guided by a plan, and web designers should be following your blueprint, not their own.
You wouldn’t let a builder browse through a book and pick out a house with all the features and perks he and his wife likes would you? Then why do the same thing with a web designer?
I’ve ranted on long enough so I’ll go now
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