Who Needs a Web Designer Nowadays?

Jennifer Shaheen, The eMarketing and Technology Therapist
yourwebsiteDoes anyone really need a web designer any more? With programs like Microsoft’s Frontpage and Apple’s iWeb, who really needs a web designer anymore – right?
If you’re a startup or small business owner, creating your website yourself is a great way to save money. Here is something to consider: by doing it yourself, will your website be able to bring you the success you’re looking for?
Website designers, developers and marketers, depending on their background and their approach, bring something very important to the table that no application can give you: experience. In the past year, many of the web standards approved by the W3C.org have changed, and what works on Internet Explorer does not guarantee that it will work on FireFox or Safari. Let’s examine the areas you need to familiarize yourself with if you are going to tackle a website on your own or hire a professional.
The design of a website involves many different elements ranging from color choices and font options, to the best placement of the “Add to Cart” button to ensure sales. We refer to this as working with screen real estate. You may feel that you have a good grasp on colors and fonts. You researched web safe fonts and web-safe color choices for your design. That is just the beginning. What about deciding where to put your call to action on the page? Where do you put the button that says “Buy Now” or “Register Here”? What color do you make the button? Is using a button at all really the best way to go? What words will have the strongest impact and compel your visitor taking action? All of these items will affect your website sales, and your web template from Frontpage or Apple will not have the answer to these questions.

As you can see there are many things to take into consideration when designing a site. But design in this world is also related to technical concerns, especially when it comes to layout. Designers need to keep in mind monitor sizes from 15” to 21”, from square to rectangle. How do you create a design that will look similar on all of these screen types?
But technical concerns don’t stop with screen sizes; they grow into more issues like screen resolution. For example, the display setting for a computer can vary, 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768. What size do you design for? And of course, behind every website there is code, there is no way around it. But will that code work on every browser? For example, programs like Dreamweaver and Frontpage provide you with wizards that automatically generate the code to create mouse-over buttons or animated movement. What will you do if you get a call from a customer explaining that they cannot see a button you created? Do you know how to change the code to work properly in various web browsers? For example, Microsoft’s web browser Internet Explorer can see code in different ways depending on if you’re running version 6 or version 7 . JavaScript and style sheets frequently need to be tweaked to work properly in multiple browsers.
Creating a flexible website means not only understanding how a website looks on screen, but also how it looks when it is printed. If you want a printer friendly website you have 2 options. You can design the site on the screen to look like it would on paper, however, this option is limiting. Or you can add a script to tell the page to call up a printer friendly design when someone clicks print. Either way, technical issues need to be addressed during this process.
How your web site looks and functions are very important elements. But a third ingredient to a successful site is marketing. Why did you need to build a website? Many times the reason behind creating a website is to market your business and get potential customers to reach out to you. However, this is the one area most neglected on a website. You have to create calls to action to get visitors to take the next step. These action items cannot be hard to find elements on page; they need to grab your visitors attention. You also want to define conversion goals for your site, and create pages that help you determine your conversion rate. A conversion is an action you want your visitor to take such as filling out a contact us form or downloading a white paper.
How many people want to be found naturally or on the organic side of Google and Yahoo? This web marketing strategy brings us back to the two other items we have discussed: design and technical issues. Did you know that how you code a web page can affect where you rank in a search engine? Keywords in a title tag or a meta tag are not enough to get your site to page one on Google. There are many things that play a role in the success of a search strategy and properly coding a web page along with strong copy writing skills are just the beginning.
When building your website you need to stop and think, what are the goals you have for your site? And, what is the impression you want to make on your customers? These two internal questions will reveal your answer – do you have the capabilities to do it yourself or will you need to hire a professional? There are many template programs out there today that will save you money and may even give you the look you want, but take the time to examine more than just the design. Think about the other elements. Additionally, if you are looking to hire a professional, ask them to discuss their approach to developing a website. Discuss the three key areas and see if they are the right fit for you. The keys to a successful website are the design, technology and marketing – without each key you can not unlock the door to web success.
shaheen headshotJennifer Shaheen, the eMarketing and Technology Therapist, has more ten years experience working with small to mid-sized businesses on their eMarketing and Web-development needs. You can learn more about her by visiting her Web site, TechnologyTherapy.com