Your Web Designer’s Dirty Little Secret

Your web designer has a dirty little secret. Chances are they don’t know how to build a website that will be successful.

Why did you have a website built? Hmm…I’m guessing to offer the right information in order to help attract new customers. Your web designer probably is not a marketer, so how are they going to know how to build a site that markets your business? They’re not. What if you have a marketing person build your site. Might work, but do they have enough programming knowledge to build a site that will be usable across multiple platforms and generate good organic search engine performance? Probably not. So what do you do?

Find a zebra

If a white horse is a web designer with above average programming skills and a black horse is a marketer that has a good grasp of the new marketing practices that the Internet has spawned, then you need a zebra. You need a good mix of black and white. Unfortunately, zebras are rare. So what’s another good option? A barn full of black and white horses that work well together. Marketers that can help develop the site to accomplish the clients main goal of getting new business in combination with web designers that can optimize the marketers ideas and bare fruit. There must be a combination. A website development team without both halves is as useless as a kickstand on a unicycle.

Where do I find a zebra?

You do the same thing you’d do if you were hiring someone to run your business. They are going to be developing your online presence after all, and for many, this will be a potential customers first impression. You need to Interview. The problem with interviewing is that helps if you know the correct answers to the interview questions, and it also helps if you know the questions.

Mike to the rescue.

Below is a small set of 4 questions and good answers for each.

  1. What do you think a well built website should achieve?
    If they answer “get you business” I’d be immediately suspicious. Although that answer is correct, there is another answer that is the most correct and would put a smile on my face. The most correct answer is provide information to the user that the user wants to know, not what you want them to know.  If the user finds the answers to his questions on your site and that user finds the answers easily and quickly, you may get a phone call or email.  If they can’t find the answers to solve their problems, see ya.
  2. What do you think the value of a semantically built website is?
    I’ve asked this question when interviewing web designers to join my team and I’ve got immediate feedback just from their face.  If you get a look of What or Oh Crap, they don’t get it. Now, when we’re talking semantics we are referring to the programming side of the website.  Semantics means order, and it’s important.  A semantically built website has been proven by myself and others to do better in the search engines and offer better cross-media compatibility. Websites that validate to W3C standards are usually, but not always semantically correct, so listen for those words in their answer.
  3. How do you think I should promote my website after launch?
    Many companies experience little success with their website.  Most of these companies use what I call “The Flagpole Approach”, they build their site and launch it…and that’s it. This approach is kind of like running a flag up a flagpole and hoping that a breeze may come by and someone will notice it.   A website takes work and nurturing.  Are you going to be responsible for this work or is your web company? If the web company is, there is going to be some ongoing charges.  Paying the design company to maintain and promote your website is fine as long as they actually do it. Even paying for their help you still have work to do.  Join discussion groups and interact, utilize the social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. In other words, get that flag blowing, get it waving for attention.
  4. Do you hand-code your websites?
    This is one of my big ones, and I think this separates the Pros from the Posers (a poser, as my kids explain it to me, is someone who acts like they know what they’re doing, but doesn’t). There are 2 ways to program a website; 1. type everything by hand, or 2. use a piece of software to figure it out.  So why is one better than the other you ask? Imagine going to a  foreign country and you don’t know the language but you have to get around somehow.  You do have one of those little translation devices that will help you.  The device is good for basic translation so you can get on the right train or find a bathroom, but that’s about it.  This is using the software approach.  The hand-coded approach would offer a much different experience. The hand-coded approach would be the same as being fluent in the language.  You could find out the minimum info, but you could also have conversations with the locals, find the best restaurants, and the fastest trains. Hand-coding a website like learning a foreign language is harder and takes more time, but the benefits are much greater and you’re not constrained by the limits of your device or software.

I hope this information will help you in your quest for a zebra and there are many other questions you can ask, but this is a pretty solid start. One other not so small point is to look at the designers portfolio.  You have to like what this extension of your business is going look like as well.  Ask these questions and pick a designer who has designs that you like.

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