I was glad to recently read an article in the New York Times that I could have written myself.

What I mean is, the article was spot-on in describing how having a well-designed website can help boost sales by increasing conversions of surfers and turning tire kickers into inquiries and, ultimately, customers and clients.  Because isn’t that what having a website is REALLY all about?

BEWARE OF WEB DEVELOPERS WHO WENT TO ART SCHOOL

While I have nothing against people who went to art school or design school I don’t believe that web development should be driven by design.  I believe that web development should be driven by marketing.  Maybe Madison Avenue ad agencies or entertainment companies need to out-razzle dazzle each other with flashy web sites that undulate, spin and dance across the screen in all sorts of unorthadox ways that just scream out:  “See how clever we are?”

But back in the real world where I reside, where most of my clients are unwilling or unable to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars just for design concepts before programming and development even begins, we like to use budgets a bit more strategically.  For instance, we’d much rather deploy $1,500 for an ongoing email marketing and list building campaign than to sink that same $1,500 into a custom website design.  The reason?  These days there are so many fabulous, high-end, really good templates out there it’s really hard to justify the added expense.

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about grabbing any old freebie template and importing the client’s content.  I’m talking about working with high-end premium templates that we thoroughly customize so that the final product looks markedly different from the template.  I’d rather put our programmer’s efforts to work bending and shaping the templates then creating a site from scratch.  And here’s why I know our strategy is the right one:  we always mention to our clients that we’d be happy to create 2 – 3 mock-up designs that they can select from and then we’ll custom build the site from one of those approved original designs. We don’t want them to feel locked in to using a template or make them think lesser of our work because we’re using an existing design.  The reality has been, however, that when we tell them that the original design concepts, etc., will cost a a few hundred dollars more, nobody wants to pay for the design!  And from my stand point that’s just as well, because NOT having the design in the budget makes us more price competitive overall, plus, I find it’s easier to help the client decide on a design when they can actually see an almost unlimited selection of really great templates before any coding begins.

BEWARE OF WEB DEVELOPERS WHO CAME FROM PRINT

Again, I apologize in advance if I offend any of my web dev colleagues who came from the print world, but often the brochure mentality is inherent in what they do.  Granted, I know several, successful web design firms with print backgrounds.  But they’re successful because they are grounded in branding and direct response and have built on their expertise and are willing to adapt and evolve.  Because these days, websites should be all about interactivity with social media, search engine optimization, clear calls to action and lead generation.  And to strategize those types of tactics within a website, the one-way nature of old-school print creatives usually just doesn’t cut it in today’s highly interactive web.

BEWARE OF WEB DEVELOPERS WHO CAME FROM IT

At least with web developers who went to design school or those from the print world you’ll probably get a good looking website.  But IT people have no business building websites for other businesses just because they can.  Many IT companies that offer websites approach web development as if they were making an instruction manual and you know how those typically look.  Marketing?  What’s that?

BEWARE OF DABBLERS

And lastly, avoid do-it-yourself freebie sites builders for all the reasons we’ve described HERE, and even more importantly, don’t use your nephew, or that nice boy down the block or that friendly college student that’s friends with your daughter.  Aside from the fact they know diddly squat about MARKETING and even less about business in general, what happens when you need help with that same website and they’ve moved, grown up or gotten a real job?  Exactly.

But getting back to the New York Times article, which was the original inspiration for this blog post, one of the simple truths mentioned in the article that struck a chord is something that we’ve practiced and preached during our over 6 years on the business:  hardly anyone fills out those contact us forms.  Why?  Because they don’t inspire confidence.  Who’s the form going to?  How long will it take them to respond, if ever?  Make it easy for prospects to learn how your business can help them.  Best tip of all?  Do it old school and put your phone number on the top right of EVERY single page.  And get ready to answer those inquiries when the phone starts ringing!