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Why Businesses Commission Websites in Completely the Wrong Way

I always find it strange when asked to tender for a web design project with accompanying design concepts. Although many agencies consider this standard, to me it immediately demonstrates the primary concern is design. What about good usability? User journeys? What about ensuring your visitors have the best experience? And how exactly do you want the site to earn its keep? This all needs to be researched in the initial stages of a web design project as it helps to produce a design that will work effectively for their business. Yes branding and ‘looks’ are important, but an agency’s ability to design ‘on-brand’ should be evident from their portfolio examples.

Amongst a lot of start-ups and SMEs, return on investment is not often something that’s discussed with regards to their websites, strangely. Most other marketing efforts are tracked and analysed for effectiveness, and if it’s not effective, the campaign is adjusted.

So why isn’t it the same with websites?

A website can sometimes be seen as a ‘must have’ hurdle to the start of any business, an initial, unwelcome outlay. Some think they have to have one, but are unable to do research into the ‘why’. Without that understanding, a tender document and ultimately the website can only be judged on face-value; it’s appearance. However we all know that beauty is skin deep.

Websites (if done professionally) can be a hefty investment, so it puzzles me that there’s not more of a focus and discussion around the true value of a website to the business and how exactly they want to utilise it to improve the bottom line.

We personally don’t comply with requests for proposal mockups because our focus is on the return on investment. Yes we can create a top notch, on-brand design too, but our priorities are about making sure the user experience is honed in and converting as many leads as possible which always has to come before any work on the design.

“websites can be beautiful from the inside out, if you let them”

The request for a mockup does have an element of ‘spec work’ about it too, which, yes, I do resent. It happens in no other industry that I can think of. But it’s more the fact that it diminishes the multitude of skills that go into creating a successful website down to be purely about design.

I’d be far happier to be quizzed on our UX (user experience) methodology and approach to conversion analysis, for example, as it would be far more indicative of a company that really wants their website to achieve something for them.

I totally get that there are those big brands out there whose marketing efforts revolve around their brand ‘experience’ and that’s what helps sell their produce off-line, but they’re in a very unique and fortunate position, one which has undoubtedly taken decades to reach. For this I agree that the design is the focus, but user experience is still vital even here.

So my advice to anyone thinking about investing in a website is to make sure it’s an investment that will end up paying for itself, and measure it. Continuously. Then you’ll know what needs to be tweaked along the way to ensure you’re achieving your goals.

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