Developers and techno geeks across the globe often come up with some fantastic and life changing innovations on a daily basis that make a huge difference to someone’s business. However many others out there in the technological world end up getting stuck with the idea that because it’s there, and a lot of people use it to good effect, it suits every business that they come into contact with and that their customers MUST have it.
To my mind that constitutes everything that is wrong with web design, and this list just serves the purpose to highlight why not taking the time to learn about your customer and not asking the proper questions can cause problems.
1. How about a section for your latest news?
Google, and therefore web designers love websites which are regularly updated with new content. With the advent of content management systems which allow customers to log in from work and create a new web page it has also become a very accessible way to help promote your website and increase visitor numbers.
Sounds all well and good during the initial design phase, but did you think to check that your customer has the time, knowledge and resources to keep the site updated regularly? No? Well unfortunately that lovely section set aside in a prominent position on your client’s new website might end up a bit like this.
Looks rather unprofessional doesn’t it? Well unfortunately it is not the customer’s fault, it’s the fault of the designer. However it doesn’t convey that image about the designer, it conveys it about their customer!
If you’re going to offer a news section, make sure that you explain that it needs to be updated regularly to maintain your customer’s online image as an up to date, knowledgeable force within their industry. And make sure you give them some advice and training on how to use a news section to its full potential….
2. Twitter, Facebook… you NEED them!
Working within the independent tyre industry, I can safely say that the above is not true.
To build a brand as a major manufacturer in new and emerging markets this tool is essential. But ask yourself this, how many people are likely to become fans of John’s Tyres facebook page, the guy in the greasy garage on the local industrial estate?
Answer = (Total Number of Staff / 0.4) + a couple of their friends.
Unfortunately for some businesses the product they sell is not sexy, popular or catchy and as such it is just an essential that you need from time to time. No one want it, but they get it when they have to. And furthermore they don’t have time to spend thinking what they can put on their Facebook page as an update.
At the risk of sounding like a heathen I am not suggesting that we abandon Facebook as it is a wonderful marketing tool, but for some businesses a simple “Like” button will suffice.
3. Contact forms are an essential
Most websites in the UK now have a ‘Contact Us’ section with a nice neat little contact form which asks for all your details, and lets you send your enquiry through to the business you’re looking at.
Doesn’t it get you annoyed when no one responds to you for hours, or even days? I know that there are very few things that make me look to take my business somewhere else.
You provide your customer with a lovely little contact form on their new website, but did you think to ask whether or not this customer regularly checks their email? Oops, well in that case you’ll have plenty of potential customers who feel ignored and go somewhere else never to return again (unless the competitor was terrible that is).
If your customer has people in the office constantly, concentrate on creating a site that says ‘PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL US’ and highlight the importance of their staff turning that call into a sale. And bin the idea of a contact form if necessary.
Remember the golden rule: Members of the public generally contact you because they want something, and quickly.
4. Copy and paste content aaannndd … DONE!
It is not unknown to have a customer who wants to write their own content for their website.
In many ways this makes absolutely perfect sense, because no matter how much research you have done, they know their industry inside out. However, there is also a danger here as your customer may wish to include content which serves little or no purpose to the website, and in some cases has a negative impact.
Take this section for example. The brands of many global companies are built on a rich history, heritage and tradition and placing some of this information on a website is fine. However, what did you think of when you read this particular example? I saw a company in decline, struggling to make ends meet, potentially cutting corners. Now not for one minute am I suggesting that this company cuts corners, and I know for a fact they offer a good service but isn’t it bad that I thought that? After thinking that would you take your car there? Now that is not an image you’d want to present to your customer.
Obviously there will be occasions when the customer demands that their content go into the website, warts and all. In this case it is the job of any good web designer to do their best with what they are given by rewriting and optimising as much as can be allowed, but not just to cave in without explaining the impact it may have upon the customers website and the negative perceptions it conveys.
5. Overselling on looks
A website that looks good helps to sell your business. Fact.
Well actually, a website that looks good and gets plenty of internet traffic helps to sell your business.
Some web designers are suited to certain types of customer. If you’re strongest skills lie in producing lots of fantastic images in Photoshop, and creating a template that can only be described as beautiful then perhaps your websites are going to fall down on the number of visitors they receive.
It is a mere fact that fancy design features and images cost more money. But do they add any value to what your current client is trying to achieve? If the answer is no, then why are you selling them a website to them that contains features that provide no value yet cost them money?
It is important to stress at this point that I am not suggesting you should provide your clients with a plain, boring site with no features that gets lots of web traffic, because no one will be impressed enough by the website to use their business. However it is important to work with a client to strike the right balance between text and design.
A general rule as a starting point is;
Product – Focus on Images
Service – Focus on Text
Of course this is a little basic, but at the end of the day a service tends to be intangible, and therefore benefits have to be highlighted through the use of the written word. A product is something visible, and whilst many products also bring with them a plethora of benefits, the product itself is the focus, although each case should be judged on its merits.