Why Web Design is as Important as your Product
Straight out of college Jeremy Khan wanted to start a nationwide business. The greatest weapon a young entrepreneur like him has is the web. But it takes more than a simple text website to get attention. If the design is how companies create brands, then web design is how new brands get noticed.
As the plans for Khan’s company Oral Fixation, a hip mint outfit, moved forward he knew it needed a website that would make his mints stand out among all the rest.
Luckily his schoolmate Jonathan Harris was an accomplished web designer, who eventually went on to create ten by ten an artistic alternative to Google News. When Khan brought Harris on board as a partner, he knew his website would be top notch and competitive.
“I wanted to create a site that people would repeatedly come back to and get sucked into,” said Khan. “That’s very much what happened with this site.” Today Oral Fixation is up, running and selling on both coasts.
So what’s the lesson here? Not all of us are lucky enough to have web designer friends, who go on winning design awards and their news profiles. But that doesn’t mean we can’t own a website that is just as high in quality as Oral Fixations.
Web designers are in abundance, especially since the dot-com bust. Some freelance their work, others join larger design companies, but all have their price. And while that price can sometimes burn your pocket, a smart business owner knows that a good website is an investment. The rate of return for a sleek website is almost always worth the initial hurt. A good designer creates a clean interface, high search optimization and gives your clients a way to find the information they need about your business. If you don’t think a bad website can hurt your image, check out the old website for the 90’s hip-hop group Kriss Kross.
Of course, expensive web design isn’t an absolute necessity. If you run a small business, you can rely on eBay or simply start a blog, making web design a point and click procedure. But don’t expect your product or service to get recognized. For that, you need someone to give your business character, and that takes to design. You can always try to learn web editing software like
Dreamweaver yourself, but beware the risk of spending time reading a Dreamweaver for Idiots book and creating a website that just doesn’t make the cut.
Making the Choice
If you do decide to hire a designer, make sure you know what you are getting. Don’t settle for the first person knocking on your email mentioning they know HTML. If you have the money to spend, ask for credentials. Serious web designers went to school to receive a degree and would appreciate that you are looking for someone who knows the business. Check out their past clients and get a feel for their style. If the sites you visit have broken links, aren’t easy to navigate, hard to read and difficult to spot relevant information, you probably won’t want to hire that designer.
As alluded, finding a web designer isn’t hard. A simple Google search using “web designer” will bring up more hits than you’ll ever want to scroll through. And you aren’t limited by location. If you are comfortable, developers can work via email just as well as in your office, so don’t limit yourself.
So how do you narrow it down to find the right web guru for you? First, decide if you want a freelancer or a larger company. Larger firms seem more impressive, but don’t forget that they have an entire network dedicated to giving you that impression. Freelancers are lone wolfs of design, but the right one can be committed and give your site the particular attention you want. Larger firms are a safer bet. If you don’t want to worry about a potential mishap or unprofessional situations, a company is a way to go. But, depending on the size of the design firm, after the initial meeting and discussion of your site’s needs, you might feel shuffled along through the whole process.
Whichever you choose, expect to pay the price related to the level of education and experience of the designer(s) you’re snagging coupled with your site’s needs. If you don’t have high expectations for your site, don’t get an expensive designer. But if you want a full site with archives, message boards, routine check-ups and redesigns, you will have to shell out more money. In the end, you are going to get what you pay for. You won’t be able to find a bargain like you do for shoes; web design is a service, not a product. When was the last time you heard of an electrician or a lawyer “on sale?”
Getting to the Gritty
After comparing different prices, you are comfortable with and styles you find appealing, narrow the research down to a few solid choices. Once at that stage make sure you can get specifics from your designer. See if they can lay out a timeframe. Make sure this is the kind of project they have experience with. Larger firms will probably have someone who is an expert in every skill and technology, while a freelancer might take extra time to learn new programming languages. Ask for referrals from past clients and check up on them. Finally, don’t agree to anything until you look at a contract.
A professional designer should have a standard contract waiting to be sent. You want to make sure that your interests are included in that deal. The last thing you want is to be tied to a contract that doesn’t assure you will get what you are paying for. The agreement should include what work is going to get done, when work will start, an estimate for a date of completion, a particular pay timeline (it’s not uncommon for a deposit, midpoint payment and completion payment depending on the size of the job), and who has the right to the site’s final design. If you are trying to create an initial logo using the web, this is something that can’t be overlooked!
There you have It
The design is everywhere and likes it or not; it affects what you do and how you do it. Everything from where the men’s shoes are placed in Macy’s to the clean cut design of Apple computers designs are consciously created to get the results intended by the company. The web has created an entirely new medium for design and a new caste of designers itching to do just that, get you the results you want. Whether you are just starting out or trying to update a fortune 500, you need to be on the web, but only if your presence will reflect the positive attributes of your business.