Would Our Web Designer Sell Us A Junk Design?

Junk just gathers dust
Web designers are in the business of selling web designs. That is the first principle of business for a web design firm, as it is for many other types of businesses. There is nothing new here except that the whole purpose of a web site is to create business for the owner, and a site just gathering dust does not do that.

No one says that a web design needs to create direct sales for any business but it must connect with the business owner’s market and engage that market. If the site doesn’t connect with the market it is just junk collecting dust. It may be a beautiful piece of work but it’s still collecting dust.

Part of this problem is our responsibility as small business owners. We didn’t go to a web designer and say, “I need a web site designed for my web market.”

Instead, most small business owners say, “I need a web site designed for my business.”

Our market doesn’t care about us
The difference is about the focus our words create and the intent that gives to a project. And when the focus is on our business it is not on our market. Thus, we end up with something we are thrilled with even though our market is not impressed and doesn’t care.

What our market cares about is their problem, not the looks of our web site. They are not going to share our web site with others because it looks cool, but they will share when our business web site helps them and educates them about our industry and how to make the best choice for their needs.

Are we being educated on our marketing options?
The chances are that our web designer doesn’t really want to go there. Instead they jump right in to giving us a good look at their portfolio and suggesting how they could customize and come up with something totally original for us.

And our fault is that we go for this – not knowing any better.

But it’s not really our fault. We go to experts to get the best information and all too often we are talking to a professional that has a conflict of interest. This is where the web designer is advising us about the very product they sell. We may never get clear information about what all our choices are.

For instance:
If the conversations never touches on the low cost, or no cost, of “Pull Marketing” then we are not getting all of the available choices.

If the conversations never come around to discussing the differences between a demographic market and a virtual market then we are not seeing our real needs.

If the conversations never get around to discussing how to define a marketing profile for our web market (not just guessing about our virtual market) then we are not getting to use the best of what a web site can offer our business.

And there are more if’s that the web design industry does not talk about. Web designers don’t talk about our market other than to ask us to describe them. It is so much easier for them to design something for us. So most small business owners end up with a beautiful site that is headed for the scrap pile from day one.

To design for our web market a design firm would need to know how to discover things about our virtual market that even we don’t know. They would need to know about virtual markets and why they are different. Web designers need to know our market’s shopping habits, what our market values the most and which values we have in common with our market. But web designers, trendy or not, don’t give us any of this.

The solution is in market segmentation
This is just another term for psycho-graphics. Segmentation divides a whole geographical or national market into 7 segments where each has a psychological profile that describes the segments shopping habits, values, likes & dislikes as well as general beliefs. These are better tools to work with on the web.

Reverse engineer
We could also stand back from our own business and ask that business a few questions to discover things about the market it serves.

  • Doesn’t our business provide solutions for a market?
  • Doesn’t our experience include the pain and distress our market feels?
  • Can we name our market’s biggest problem?

Once we have put words to the solutions we provide and for who we provide them for then we are well on our way toward knowing who our web site should be designed for.

We do not have to accept trendy web designs that have no appeal to our market. These just sit and gather dust. We want a site that engages our market and this means engaging our market.

Read that last line again. It’s like saying, “If nothing changes… then nothing changes.”

If our web site doesn’t engage our market it’s just junk

No matter how beautiful and pleasing it is to our eyes.

And it is our job to make sure that our web designer is going to think about our market and what would be best for our market but we shouldn’t really expect this to happen. The reason for this is that there is no one that knows more about our business than we do, but we need to stop listening to the professionals who are only thinking about us.

A professional web designer may not deserve all the blame for junk web site, except that they are the self proclaimed experts and they expect that we will listen to them. Therefore, the first rule of hiring a web professional is to not let them design our web site.

There is, of course, a great deal more to learn about our virtual market and how they think, what their shopping habits are, what their values are and what they believe in. There isn’t room in one article to cover the web as a virtual marketplace or market segmentation to develop a market’s profile. You will find this information in other articles.

Finding a Digital Agency: What to Look for in a Web Design or Web Development Agency?

Narrow down your digital agency selection using our handy top ten tips on choosing a web design agency.

1) Check out their own site

Do you like it? Does it sell to you? Does it contain all the types of skills that you’re looking for e.g. good web design, well designed user interface, well built, works on mobiles. Does it impress you?

2) Ask to look at their portfolio

Are the case studies recent? Do you recognize the company names? Do a Google search and check that the companies exist and have the same website that the agency designed. Do you like the website designs they have produced? Ask yourself: Do they represent the company well? Would you use this website? Do they have experience of website design in your field? Do the website’s meet their objectives?

3) Check References

Ask the web agency if they can send you references or testimonials from customers. And when you get these testimonials, make sure you check them out. Call the clients up and check that the testimonials are real.

Finally, ask how long the agency has been running. Age doesn’t always matter, but it does help to identify experience.

4) Capabilities

All agencies will be good at some things and not at others. Find out what they have experience in and what they do well, they often have a bias to one content management technology or another. Often, it’s helpful to get the CV’s of all staff employed. The best agencies will have a balance of online marketing, development and creative. If you have specific requirements – make a list and ask the agency what their proficiency is in the specific skills.

5) Availability – Service levels

Check that they can meet your needs. Quite often companies have a client account team in the UK but their main development team may be based elsewhere. Make sure you get a phone number not just an email address (and not a premium rate number either). Ask the web design agency what the turnaround time is for responding to emails.

6) Resourcing

You want your web design agency to be big enough to ensure that if your account manager is off sick or on holiday your business is not forgotten.

Do you prefer a larger, higher resourced agency or a smaller, more flexible agency? The general rule would be to find a web agency that’s resourced to reflect the size of tasks and projects you require. If you have 1000 employees but your actual marketing and development budget is reasonably low, you are only likely to need an agency of 5-10 employees. If you have 100 employees, but you are heavily reliant on outsourced projects, a larger agency may be more suitable. No one size fits all!

7) Age of agency

Age doesn’t always matter, but in this industry it can be an important factor. The web has seen many changes in a relatively short space of time, if a website design agency has been in business for five or more years it have obviously been managed well. The internet has seen the boom and bust of many company’s; those that live to tell the tale are obviously being run well.

8) Are the staff approachable and professional?

It’s important that you connect with the people managing your account. The best results will be created when you forge a partnership with your web agency.

Do they provide an off the shelf package, or do they tailor their resources to your needs? Do they use a lot of jargon or explain things clearly? Have they provided relevant suggestions suitable for your business? Far too often, company’s try to sell you products that you don’t need and are not tailored to your needs.

9) Check out the agency’s terms and conditions

This is quite important and helps avoid problems further down the line. Here’s some helpful questions to ask:

  • Are there any hidden costs, like set up fees or holding fees?
  • Can you make staged payments for your web project?
  • Are updates and maintenance included in the website design fees?
  • Are bug fixes charged for?
  • Will you get a copy of the source files?
  • Who owns the source code?
  • Who owns copyright of the design?
  • Are the files back-up?
  • Will it work on smartphones?

10) Do they outsource their work?

Check to see if your project will be developed in house or if it will be outsourced. Ask to meet the design or technical team. If work is going to be outsourced, find out where, are you able to contact the team? There are many cases of company’s who have an account management team, and an outsourced development team. It’s common for technical development to be done off shore as resources abroad are cheaper. The problem with this scenario is guaranteeing the quality of the work produced. Does the account management team check the back end code? Does it meet current guidelines and legal requirements? Can they be flexible enough to meet your needs?

Want a web agency with a difference contact Alchemy Interactive

Web Design in 2010-2011 – Analysis

As we’re coming to the middle of this year, everyone is trying to analyze the recent trends in web designing and web development. However, in this article, we’ll see what web designers and developers are trying to utilize with the new features to create impressive designs. We will also try to look into the factors that are driving this change.

1. The days of static design visuals are dead
With the online technology that is available today, web designers are coding websites more creatively than using simple images and html/css. Clients have come to expect a higher level of functionality and interactivity as they visit more and more websites that utilize things like Ajax, and JavaScript. Whilst CSS3/HTML5 has started to step on the toes of JavaScript, JavaScript itself has started to inch into the territory of Flash. JavaScript has just finished a major revision of its specifications for the language. Once browser companies adopt these standards, web developers will be provided with more tools to improve their capabilities in creating web applications.

2. Grid-based designs, Mobile Designs, Retro Designs are gaining popularity as well.
But Grid based is used mostly in portfolios, product pages and big blogs; they almost never appear on corporate websites or in online shops. With the huge amount of data present, classifying information based on context rather than content will be paramount for companies which handle large amount of data (financial, social, etc).

3. Print Design influence
Traditional techniques from print design are increasingly being applied to the Web, be they layout techniques or rich versatile typography. Web Designers are taking layout and design inspiration from print. This includes lots of whitespace, large type,use of a grid and clear hierarchy of elements. The layouts of these websites often resemble those of print magazines or posters, with striking headlines, multi-column text, highlighted quotations, indented text, supporting imagery, side notes and footnotes.

4. Faster and better Web browsers
Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera has offered more choices to web users. But, well, it is part of a web designer’s job to make sure that texts are easy and nice to read on all major browsers and platforms. With browser wars is in full force, Techniques for progressive enhancement are more commonplace than before, giving users of modern web browsers a better web experience than those who will not or cannot use them. This has surely drive competition in web designing.

5. Growth of community-oriented Platforms
In many ways, the growth of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has led the web to be much more community-oriented. Along with these changes will come increased focus in getting information in real-time. Twitter is one of the examples that give immediate and breaking information on the sites. With more and more growth of such social media platforms and more people participating in the creation of information on the web, the way in which we obtain information has shift from being from a singular source, into a more community-created source.

6. Interactive Designs
Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions. There’s a lot more emphasis now on site usability and creating sites that are minimalist in design and easy to navigate (perfect use of CSS and a grid based layout). Horizontal scroll bars have been out there for a decade, but today it feels that they are gaining a new context. The move to horizontal scroll bars is probably an attempt among some designers to provide a more distinct user experience. One way to make websites more responsive is through “keypress navigation,” which hasn’t been widely adopted so far. But lately we’ve observed more designs implementing this effectively. Web designers of Web applications are paying significantly more attention to the way in which functionality is presented and are trying to improve the user experience with more interactive and responsive solutions.

7. Slab Typefaces
These are relatively new as in the past logos and headers were smaller and more understated by web designers. However, combined with the trend toward larger headers, slab typefaces demand the reader to take notice.

8. Rich and strong Typography
It has played a major role in Web design for years now. Bold, strong, heavy headlines can effectively convey the purpose of an e-commerce website or portfolio, while subtler headings help structure content and improve legibility. Obviously, the big change we’re seeing today is richer, more versatile typography. Oversized logos on an equally oversized header and Footer. We’ve further noticed that Web designers are extending their font stacks, adding increasingly more fall-back fonts in case a specified font is not available.

9. Recent trends
like embossing, PNG transparency, rich user Interfaces, Font replacement, Huge Images, Modal boxes(A modal box is like the pop-up’s more sophisticated They serve as a user-friendly alternative to classic JavaScript windows), Media blocks, The magazine look, Carousels (slideshow navigations, in which the content rotates vertically or horizontally), Introduction blocks(place the most important message of the website right there and thus make sure that readers get the message as quickly as possible.) will continue to grow in this year.

10. More Personalization
As web designers look for more ways of attracting users and prospects to their websites and generating business online, personalization is emerging as an important component of managing the web experience for site visitors – and delivering business value. Be simple, invisible complexity, big and bold, art and creativity, bigger picture. Web Typography is going to reach some new heights in 2010-2011. JQuery, Mootools as well as CSS3 are evolving and reaching new levels of quality and ‘interactivity’. Everything seems to be moving forward to larger elements which focus the attention.

If you haven’t checked out CSS3 and HTML5 websites yet ( like http://www.12thi.com ), you should really look into it because they will change the way you design and code. You can take advantage of the new features to create cleaner and more efficient layout.

It is possible that we have missed some other great trends and factors. Why don’t you contribute some interesting information here? Please don’t hesitate to share it with us in comments.