Let’s get to the point. Most web designers are clueless about marketing. In fact, most web designers have one thought in their head when they design a website, and that is: “How can I make this website pretty and a great addition to my portfolio.”
Not all web designers are terrible, and some are extremely well versed in marketing and know that a website is there to bring in the customers and make money for the business. But people like that are in the minority, just like many people who work in marketing don’t know anything about direct response techniques and have never read one of the most important marketing books ever written: Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.
And when you come into contact with a “creative” web designer rather than a “marketing” web designer, it can be enough to leave you speechless, especially when the creative types think that what they do really is “marketing” and not the childish playing around with color and shape that it is. Not to mention the fact that it’s almost always a big waste of client money.
I met a creative web designer a few weeks ago, and it really was instructive and showed just how far some of these people are from knowing what really matters.
The first thing this designer did was begin to criticise WordPress, telling me that it was useless as a web design platform because it didn’t give enough control over the final look. The flaw with this argument is that some lack of flexibility can actually be good thing, because flexibility in the hands of someone who doesn’t care about commercial results can be a dangerous thing. Look at a decent newspaper, and you see that most of the basic design is the same for them all. Headlines, columns, readable type. They’re designed this way because it works. Following those basic design principles means the newspaper is easy to read, which is exactly what’s needed.
In fact, it isn’t even true that WordPress is inflexible. In the hands of someone who knows how to code, it’s about as flexible as any other program.
What this designer meant was she wanted to design websites that she liked, and not websites that the prospective customers liked, and which brought in sales for the business.
This designer also told me she knew all about SEO. She was certain that SEO was all about putting the right words on the page, and mentioning the important words a certain number of times so the percentage was perfect for Google. And she was absolutely right. Or would be, if we were living in 2003, which is the equivalent of 350,000 years ago in internet time.
This isn’t to say that having a page with the right keywords and lots of secondary keywords doesn’t help. It does. But just as important (in fact, even more important in many cases), is the number of incoming links to your site. Generally speaking, a site with decent links will beat a site without links, no matter how good the “SEO copywriting”.
This designer then went on to tell me she also knew about copywriting that would help promote the business. It was all about writing stuff that people wanted to read, and then they would come back to the site again, and eventually buy something. Copywriting was just a case of good grammar, spelling and punctuation.
While she was telling me all this I nodded and kept quiet, and when I got back to the office took a look at a site this creative web designer had built.
I wasn’t surprised at what I found.
The top half of the page had a huge graphic with images changing every few seconds. The images did nothing to sell the product, and the only way the prospective customer could find out any real information was to scroll down. This is a classic web design mistake, because the web is such a fast-moving environment that when someone doesn’t find what they want pretty much immediately, they just leave the site completely. And the customer could be gone forever.
As for the copy, it had almost every single fault it could have. It was mildly interesting, and the spelling was perfect. But information that would persuade a prospect to move forward in the sales process? Not a sausage.
There wasn’t a mention as to why this particular company was better than any other. There was no mention of levels of service, or guarantee, or anything about how the product quality compared to products from the competition.
The copy was filled with stuff about how long the company had been in business (as if that matters and as if anyone really cares)…. and then the copywriter had managed to use that perfect real sales killer: “We will not be beaten on price!” This is a sales killer because there’s always someone who will beat you on price, which is why it’s always a bad idea to sell on price, and which showed pretty conclusively that the person writing the copy didn’t have a microscopic clue about marketing strategy.
And, most importantly of all, the web page had no clear call to action. An effective web page should have one most wanted action for the prospect to take. That could be phoning in to arrange an appointment, downloading a report, or handing over contact details such as address or phone number. This web page had at least five options, and it’s a fact that the more options you give a person, the more likely they are to do none of them. The most likely action is to click the back browser and visit another website.
The final (and unforgivable) sin was the absence of an email capture form, which is the most common web design sin committed by those who are clueless. Letting a prospective customer leave your website without at least trying to get their contact details is a form of marketing suicide.
So, how do you know if a web designer is likely to waste your money? Here are a few tips which will help you recognise the “creative artists” who want to use your money to play around.
Ask if they will design the site in WordPress. If they start going on about how WordPress doesn’t allow them to be creative, you probably have an artistic type who doesn’t have a clue about marketing.
Look at the sites they’ve designed. Do the pages give solid information as soon as you land on the page or do they force you to scroll down and look all over the place before you find what you need to know? If fancy graphics and animation take up most of the page, be wary.
When you get to the information, does it give excellent reasons why you should do business with that company, or does the copy sound like the stuff you find on most other websites? If the words are the same old stuff talking about price and how long the company has been in business, take care.
Is there an email capture form on the site? If there isn’t one, the designer is committing a big marketing sin, and probably doesn’t care about lead generation for your business.
Is there a page specially designed and written for each product or aspect of the service? If not, the site is nowhere near as effective as it could be.
Does each page give one main choice for the prospective customer, one most-desired outcome. If the page gives too many choices, the designer isn’t thinking about the prospect and is probably just playing around with design.
There are many more aspects to creating a solid lead-generation site, one that brings in real sales and profits for your business. But remember the points mentioned above, and you’ll go a long way toward avoiding the worst of the bad web designers. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a designer who can actually help make sales for your business.