Websites. We all visit them nearly everyday. Most of us probably think we know what makes a website a “good one.” But the process of developing a website is fairly complex. From understanding the technology available to best suit the strategy behind your business’ website, to simply knowing how much website you actually need. Your personal likes and dislikes may not necessarily translate into what makes a “good website” for your business. Perhaps that one website you love with all the cool animated transitions, and little to no written content, isn’t really the type of website that would be “good” for your business. At the end of the day, a “good website” is one that is effectively serving the goals of the business it represents.
In the past nine years we’ve designed and developed over 250 websites. Through these experiences we’ve heard a number of similar refrains from clients about where their current website went wrong and in how little time they began to recognize the website they thought was everything they needed had some serious issues. One of our primary jobs as website designers is to consult with clients and try to make sure we steer them away from ideas that may have a detrimental impact on the function and success of their site. It is why our process is consistent and thorough, and also why we are so up front when discussing the risk to benefit ratio when considering the balance of form, function, and beauty. Here are 3 of the top mistakes to avoid when your business is looking to redesign your website:
1. You don’t know who your website audience is
One of the first questions we ask any client looking to launch a new website is if they know who is truly using their site? Next, we ask for the evidence. It is easy to make assumptions about our customers, but in the year 2022 it is actually even easier to prove who those customers really are with data. And proving it is essential. What pages are visitors going to most often? How did those visitors find your website? Are they exploring numerous pages of your website, spending a long time on a particular page, or bouncing within 30 seconds of arrival? These analytics can tell us a lot about how your website is being used and in what ways we can improve the user experience. From this data we can learn if potential customers are more interested in specific services, your business reputation, or in the expertise and experience of your staff.
There are an endless number of digital tools that can be used to track who is using your website and why. Heat Mapping is the most granular and can really dial into the flight-path of each user who interacts with your website. This can be incredibly impactful if you have many different audience types using your website for a variety of reasons. Some of these tools are free and some can cost quite a bit, depending on the depth of data you are looking to cultivate. If all that you have is Google Analytics, then so be it. Anything is better than nothing. The most important thing to remember is that if you are considering a website redesign in the next three to six months then it is extremely important that you start tracking that data now. Because the more a company like ours can know about the behavior of your website users, the more effective the solutions we can provide will be.
2. Opting for a subscription-based website
It’s so tempting. And there’s just so many of them now. Subscription-based website services through developers working in Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are very popular, and new options are springing up all the time. Subscription based websites often look nice in the end, and they don’t require any sort of up front investment. For certain small businesses starting off on a shoestring budget that can be very appealing. So what’s the big problem anyway?
First, you do not own your website. They do. Before choosing a web design agency or service you must ask some important questions. Can your website be transferred to another hosting service? What about your domain name? Do you really want to be married to a service you decided on during your first year in business? Will that agency or service even be around in 5 years? Could they jack up your monthly rate once a near term contract date expires? Take a close look at any agreements you sign. You may be surprised at what devils may lurk in the details.
Next, this low cost service may be more expensive than you think. You’ve met with an agency to redesign your website. It sounds great because there is no bulk payment up front or at the end of the project. You just pay them $500 monthly until some undisclosed time, because many of these agreements continue on in perpetuity. That sounds fine in theory, because the other agency you spoke with quoted you $20,000 and wanted half up front. Like most small businesses the thought of using up your cash on a website, or financing it, seems unwise. That is until you crunch the numbers. If you signed that agency deal for $500 a month with the intention that your website would last at least 5 years you may be shocked to see that over this period of time you have now spent $30,000 on your website instead of that $20,000 you were initially quoted by the agency with a more traditional project based type of service. It’s a great business model for web design agencies. Not so great if you are a client trying to find a cost effective website solution or partner.
At Catapult, we are as much about forging relationships for the future as we are about making that sale and helping that business grow now. Talk to your agency about your budget and your goals. You may find that you only need a basic one page website now and want to upgrade to something more expanded in the future. Or you may begin to understand that your website will be a cornerstone of your business and is as worthy of an expense as your office space or staff. So the larger up front investment makes more sense. Just because you can’t afford a full website now does not mean there are no lower cost solutions available to you that don’t trap you into an agreement you wish you’d never made. But you have to talk to that agency first and be up front about your limitations, your budget, and what you can live with. It is only then that an agency like ours can offer recommendations that don’t put your website, and in turn your business, at risk.
3. Not prioritizing & cultivating your email list
One of the most valuable, yet underutilized, assets a company has is their email list. It costs little to generate, and as long as you’re not bombarding customers with daily content and have an unsubscribe option, it can be a great way to cultivate leads and stay connected to customers. All too often, however, websites are not working to help you build that list. Some businesses have tried email campaigns in the past, felt they did not work the way they felt they should and have abandoned the idea of cultivating that email list. So they end up wanting to get rid of that capability on their new web design. We are here to say that this is a mistake, and that list you feel is worthless today could become invaluable once you find a marketing company that really knows how to put it to use.
Even if you don’t have a marketing plan in place or are not sure yet how you are planning to utilize your email list, you need to start, or keep, capturing those emails now. Your website can work as a low-effort, passive tool to build that list. Use it now, or save it for a rainy day. But keep that subscribe button. Because the worst thing you can do is think you don’t need something now only to find out you really do later. Especially if it’s something as easy as keeping a basic email sign up form on your site.
Creating well designed emails takes time and often companies report that they don’t see the return on investment they expected. Similar to a blog or a digital campaign, email marketing takes time, both to design and to execute. If you feel cultivating your email list is a waste of time, I would challenge you to think deeply on whether it is truly ineffective for your business or industry, or if you’ve just never had a well-designed and conceived email strategy that provides value to leads rather than adding more noise to your customer’s inboxes. If it turns out that email marketing is not a primary or effective marketing channel for generating new business, it will never be useless. Even if your email marketing strategy is simply sending out an annual digital holiday card, you have to have that list first. So let your website do the heavy lifting here.
By Daniel Rizer
Outline by Raichel Jenkins