Updated: Feb 24, 2019
No one sets out to hire a web designer thinking that said designer will ultimately destroy their website. And it isn't like the web designer wants to destroy your website. But believe me, it happens in small businesses all the time. 64% of small-business owners say finding the time necessary to update their website is a major challenge, which is why companies look to hire a designer to help them with their site.
And this is where things go south. Companies look online and find a firm that can "create/fix/update your website for <insert small fee here>!" Sounding like a good idea, the small business owner takes this seemingly small risk. What the small business owner doesn't know is their website can cost them 5-10 times as much year after year when they use a designer. This is why most business owners stop updating their site. Within 12 months or less, their site completely stops getting traffic. Here are 4 tell-tale signs that your next web designer is about to kill your website (and your wallet) and how to stop them.
Problem 1: They Ask Few or No Questions About Your Business
"How many pages would you like?" That's usually the first or second question. The next several questions are about forms, email integration, color schemes, fonts, logos, low level integrations, etc. But there are few if any questions about your business. Why are all of the questions about website functionality? Because
that's what they know. They don't understand the fundamentals or importance of developing a good buyer persona. If they did, they would know that it takes more time and skill than they have. It also requires more cost on their part...cost that far exceeds the fee they charge.
And this is the other reason they don't ask, nor will they ever want to ask. Their goal is not to increase their cost in order to get to know your business. The goal is to get you to sign up as soon as possible, get you online, then charge you as much as possible for every little change (more on this later).
But understanding the buyer persona is a critical, mandatory first step in any website design project. Many times, the client themselves have no understanding of their buyer persona, so you need to spend time uncovering the end customer's demographics, patterns, motivations and goals. Without this clear persona development, it doesn't matter if you pay $400 or $40,000 for you next website, it is simply not going to entice your potential buyers to do anything. Your current customers will lose interest in your site and no new customers will visit.
Like Sy Syms used to say back in the day 'an educated consumer is our best customer'. Check out a few resources and get up to speed on what a persona is and why it is important. Then make sure your next web designer starts with asking you questions about your customers habits and goals first, then yours...THEN eventually about your website's functionality. Here are a couple of good resources for persona research:
Problem 2: The First Thing You See Is A Proposal...With An Hourly Rate
Web Designers will often not even wait to give you a proposal before telling you how much money you are going to spend (initially). I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this formula on developer websites:
X Number of pages
Y Dollars per page
Z Hours of time for some amount of money, with the option to purchase more hours
Other costs (domain name, email, extra storage, etc)
X and Y don't look too bad. Neither does Z...until you ask one question. What exactly do you get for that block of hours? You don't know. In fact, you will never know because unless your web designer sits in front of you every time he or she sets out to do anything, you aren't going to know how quickly (or slowly) they work. And even if they did, are you an expert in web design? Once the "cheap" site is finished, you are going to need to do updates. If you don't, your site will eventually stop getting visits and eventually languish on the internet.
Ask one simple question. "Will I be able to make any modification I want to the website?" If they say no, run away. If they say "sure, you can make updates", ask them to show you how you can make updates. And don't ask how to change text, add a picture or create a page (those are easy). Ask them how to dynamically add and change any content in a few seconds. Ask them how you can integrate your content with your other critical applications like email, social media, accounting software, project sofware (Trello), event management software (Zoom, Event Brite, GoToMeeting) and marketing sofware (MailChimp, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, SalesForce, et. al.). If they "have to get back to you", tell them that you will get back to them.
Problem 3: There is No Mock Up or Proof of Concept Until AFTER You Buy
Our company's lineage dates back almost 15 years. In the early years, our clients were Fortune 500 customers that made six and seven figure purchases of solutions and software. As part of the buying process, a proof of concept that showed a fully functioning proof of the solution in their environment was a mandatory box that had to be checked prior to any purchase. This was 100% non-negotiable.
However, I have customers tell me time and time again that while they get wire frames, storyboards, and color palettes they rarely ever see a working website until after payment is rendered. So we are all clear here: A wire frame is NOT a website. A story board is NOT a website. A WEBSITE is a website. If your designer cannot show you what YOUR website is going to look like and feel like BEFORE you make a purchase, ask yourself this....when was the last time you made a purchase of more than $100 without at least seeing it function or trying it on first?
Well this fix is pretty easy. Tell your next web designer that you will not buy anything without seeing a working model first. It doesn't have to be perfect and certainly not complete, but it should show you a vision of what your future site will look like. It is also the best demonstration of your designer's competence.
Problem 4: The Website Is Built for Them, Not You
Cheap web designers aren't here to make money off of the initial website build. The model is to entice you to buy their services so they can get your website up as fast as possible. Once you are online, their next task is simple....charge you for every little thing. Need to send contact form data to Mailchimp? Pay me. Need to add a new page or update a blog? Pay me. Need to integrate a website page's data with HubSpot? Pay me. All of this is on top of your initial cost AND on top of your monthly recurring hosting fees.
If you are wondering why 64% of small businesses stop maintaining their websites and anywhere from 30 - 50% of small businesses don't even bother getting a website, now you know. This services shakedown is the true dagger in the heart of most small business websites.
Your not a web designer by trade. You have very little time in your day. So whatever you do, you need to make sure your next website is putting hours back in your day, not taking them out. It doesn't make sense for your website to create or generate more work for you to do. Your website should update MailChimp, HubSpot, ServiceNow, SalesForce, and spreadsheets...not YOU. Sending reminders, emails, Slack Chats or doing database updates are things a machine should do...YOUR MACHINE. Don't think it is possible? Come back later and see how it is done or check these in the mean time to see how we do it for our customers:
Thanks for stopping by. If you want to learn more about how we help you avoid problems like this, go here and set up a time for a free call or send us an email to ask a question. Otherwise, we look forward to you coming back soon and seeing what else we have to say!