This content is taken from the book “Love At First Site”
Sitting on a return trip flight home from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, I (the author) was sandwiched between a young mother and a business woman. I struck up a conversation with the young mother on my right who turned out to be a graphic designer. Speaking with the graphic designer about the type of work she does, the conversation was eventually directed to websites, which I am always interested in getting people’s opinions on. I asked, “Do you do much work with websites?”
Her response was a very blunt one. “Web designers are a pain in the ass!”
Wow, I thought. This will be an interesting flight…
The stressed-looking business lady seated to my left overheard this and coincidentally it turns out she was also struggling with her website at the time. Before I was able to get two words in she passionately professed, “I have had the WORST experience with web designers also!”
Intrigued, I let the two ladies continue to share their horror stories which consisted of being bitterly disappointed with unresponsive support, bad communication, slowness of delivery, crappy design and being locked into proprietary (closed) platforms.
Five minutes of back and forth passionate banter ensued while I sat silently in the middle biting my tongue, taking it all in. Once the business lady and graphic designer had finished venting, they turned to me and asked “What do you do?”
I confessed I was a web designer and thought to myself, how has this profession been lumped in the same category of politicians and used car salesmen?
One big disappointment – why is this so?
The market place is awash with badly educated, young brat web designers using the wrong tools and horrible design. The general industry perception is very poor and rightly so. Unreturned phone calls, broken promises, unexpected bills and blown out deadlines. There seems to be a certain cavalier attitude with web designers that they can almost get away with anything. Every day there is a new story of a trail of destruction.
Partnering with the wrong company can be costly in both time and money. This chapter is designed to ensure you find the best company that will realise your dream of a great looking website that will drive results for your business.
There are so many different ways to get your website built. You can try to build it yourself. You can use a ‘work from home’ freelancer or a fresh out of uni kid. Alternatively you can find a freelance web designer operating with low overheads in a foreign country on a service such as elance.com or odesk.com (where you hire a programmer on an hourly or project basis). The other option is to partner with an established digital agency. It’s a very important decision. And a sizable investment. The wrong decision can be costly.
Small business owners are best suited working with an agency due to the different skill sets a team can bring to the table. By working with an agency with a team, you reap the benefits of each person focusing on their individual skills such as project management, design, development, copywriting, photography and video. This gives you the leverage of a team and no single ‘break-point’.
For a small business the ultimate goal is to minimise your risk. A solo freelancer may have all the skills you require. What happens if they get hit by a bus or just decide to stop returning your phone calls, will there be someone else to fill their shoes?
It’s also more likely that a design agency has employee management protocols in place where annoying facets of customer service like unreturned phone calls and slow progress are jumped on by the boss. Being able to query something with a supervisor is always a good backstop for the progression of your project.
How to get the most out of your digital agency
There are many things that a small business owner can do to get the most out of a digital agency. By doing your research (such as reading this book) you are off to a great start. It will really help you to provide a clear, concise brief on the project and clarify in your mind what success looks like to you. You should ask lots of questions prior to contracting an agency and the list at the end of this chapter will be very helpful.
You have been hurt before, will you ever be able to trust again?
Sounds like a cheesy dramatic love story but so many businesses have been burnt along the way by poor providers it is hard to have confidence again. The best type of introduction is via a referral. Ask your family, friends and extended network about the providers they have used and ask for relatively detailed feedback on the work completed.
The biggest measure of a good digital agency is their portfolio of work. Is there a consistent creative flair across all their work? Or do all their samples look the same? Ideally each of the examples should be handcrafted, unique and bespoke to each client’s brand and they should not have a templated feel.
The second most important factor is, are they practicing what they preach? Check their blog and social media profiles to see how often they update their posts. This is a good indication of whether they are exercising market leadership within their industry.
Finally, pick up the phone and test their support and communication skills. Can you easily get hold of someone to speak with or does it take them two days to return a phone call? Are they forthcoming with information and able to answer all your questions? Do you feel reassured that they understand your brief and requirements? Communication in a friendly and comprehensible manner will be key to your success because if you don’t understand what’s happening you’ll struggle to make the right decisions. A good, reliable team that communicates in plain English does exist – so keep on looking.
The issue of cost is a tricky one. On the one hand, you have a client who is trying to get a product for the lowest possible cost for the best possible solution. The flip side to this is a digital agency that is paying staff and trying to maximise profitability while still delivering a great product. It should be win, win for both parties. Don’t forget that the agency has considerable overheads to cover, especially if you are employing a company with several staff who have the different skills your project will require.
The reality of the situation is, like most things in life, you really do get what you pay for.
Prices can range from hundreds of dollars for a cookie cutter ‘templated’ solution through to tens of thousands. The problem being that no two solutions are the same in terms of design, process and customer experience.
The simple fact is that a well designed, high performing website should bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of work over its lifetime (if done correctly). If we accept that fundamental premise then an investment of between $5,000 to $10,000 seems like a small price to pay for a very profitable sales machine.
It comes down to the value proposition presented by the digital agency and how much a client can pay. It will be a trade-off between the expected ROI and the capital investment needed to generate that ROI. Every business has input costs associated with the preparation of its goods for sale and website design is just one of many. A good agency will be forthcoming with ideas and completely transparent. Like all relationships, trust will be a big driver. The prospective agency should go through a detailed scoping and discovery phase with you. A common understanding and agreement needs to be reached between both parties on what will physically be delivered.
Just like any big project, you need a plan. I am sure you have heard your grandfather once say “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. A good digital partner should guide you through this planning process. Be clear in your mind on what you want before heading in to this process and you’re more likely to achieve success.
Putting pen to paper and clarifying your vision for the website is a great process to go through. It will force you to solidify your ideas and get them out of your head. The end result should be a thorough and informative document that crystallises your purpose and objectives. Think of this as your website wish list.
This can then be used to elicit proposals for your new website from different web designers. The clearer you can say what you want by investing ‘think time’ up front, the more likely you will end up with a website that works for your business. To put it very bluntly, “crap in, crap out!”
An added benefit to creating a briefing document is that it is a tool to pull a stray project back on track down the line. It keeps the web designer accountable if they don’t deliver or want to increase the budget further down the track.
So what should you provide to your digital agency before starting a new web project? Here are some suggestions that will give the web designer a detailed snapshot of your business.
Download the Love – Blank templates you are free to use and distribute. You can get these all here: https://www.fivebyfive.com.au/book
Overview of who you are
Your target audience
Your current website
Your new site
Other important things
Look and feel
A sitemap is a visual tree-like structure used to map out how each of the pages will hang together. It is a good process to map out each of the pages that will make up the site and list the different features of functionality required within the website.
In my experience you can never ask too many questions in life. Specific to the web design process this is a good measure of how forthcoming and helpful your new web designer will be. If someone takes the time and effort to answer each one of your questions thoroughly it is a good sign they have your best intentions at heart. They will invest the time to educate you on the web design process to ensure you feel confident.
You don’t have to ask every one of these questions but pick and choose what is relevant to your business. They will also trigger further ideas.
Don’t get stuck in a bad relationship. This is the fork in the road. Big decisions to make. The wrong one can be costly in both money and time. Ensure you are comfortable with your choice of web designer by doing a bit of extra leg work up front. Trust me, you won’t regret this.
In Chapter 3 we focus on the software that will be driving your website. Yawn, I hear you say? Stay with us, this is important stuff!
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