22 Mar 2010

Small businesses: having trouble with your new website design?

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I’m writing this post because I’m now starting to lose count of the number of smaller businesses that have commissioned an agency to create a new website and have then ultimately been unhappy with the outcome.   It seems to be happening all over the place.

The overarching reason for this can actually be boiled down to one thing:  The quality of the new website is directly influenced by the client’s knowledge of building websites and website strategy.

Notice I said “client’s knowledge of building websites” not the “agency’s knowledge”.

Most smaller businesses can’t afford to spend thousands and thousands on a new website, so a low price is important.  However, with a lower price comes possible compromises on the agency you choose – and those compromises will have to be compensated for by you, assuming you have previous knowledge of website strategy.  If you don’t have previous knowledge, you could be in a ‘blind leading the blind’ situation.

Let me explain.  If you have a larger website budget you might go to a larger and more expensive website design agency.  For this higher cost you will get a) an account team that will put their heads together to tackle your business and how it should be represented and positioned online.  Then b) you will get a designer that will translate that ‘positioning’ thinking into a website design, style and structure that pleases the eye and aids the user experience.  Then finally, c) you will get a developer who will build your site – i.e. the coding nuts and bolts that turns the positioning, style and structure into a real website.

Here’s the problem… with a cheaper agency, you often only get ‘c’ – the developer.  The thinking behind elements ‘a’ and ‘b’ are down to you.  And if you don’t tackle them, then the developer will have to, and that’s a recipe for an unhappy client.  Without knowing it, you will be asking a developer to act as a business consultant to position your business in the most appropriate way and as a graphic designer so your site’s style comes together with the right look and feel.  Not many developers have that kind of range of skills, and if they did, they wouldn’t still be developers.

So, unless you want to engage the services of a company like ours, you must be prepared to learn about website strategy and design so you are more likely to get the end product you hoped for (or of course dig much deeper in your pockets for the services of a large agency) .  Essentially someone has to do this work, so it’s a question of whether that’s you, or someone else.

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Marketing and business growth specialist.
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