Are websites worth the investment? by Eve Ashworth

Having a Website is Still Important

As a creative marketing agency, we speak to potential clients daily, and sometimes we get what I find to be a very curious question: “With social media and other platforms we use to promote our company, do we really still even need a website?”

The answer is yes! The website that you build is the hub for all other modes of communication and marketing you use to engage and educate your audience.

A company website should be the destination where all other advertising, public relations, and social media is pointed. Whether you use Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, radio, print, trade shows or publish white papers, press releases or thought leadership articles, you should be directing leads to your website, the primary place where you have the power to control your message.

A custom branded website allows you to have an online presence that is an accurate reflection on your company as a whole: your message, brand identity, images, and your newsworthiness should have a consistency of design and content. So, if your website looks poor or is a cookie-cutter template site, you can quickly lose the visitor’s interest and confidence.

The data you gain from analytics is the most powerful feature of a distinctive website. How your users engage with your site is essential to business growth and how and where they enter your site is critical to meeting your goals. You can access surprisingly specific data and important customer information if you do it correctly. This allows you to make smart decisions based on actual data which can transform your business.

Will We Be Producing Websites in the Future?

Despite all of the new tools that enter the market daily, some of which we use, you will always want to create a customized experience for your clients, patients or customers. Future websites may take a different form, and we might not even call them “websites” anymore, but the internet is here to stay as a superior marketing opportunity.

Brand integrity, user engagement, credibility; a custom website will most likely always be the best way to project that you understand who your clients are. If you can find a way to target your audience and address their concerns on your site, it can do a lot of the legwork for you. Ultimately what you want is a place your customers visit not just to check out pricing or services, they want to start a relationship based on what they read, see, hear and feel when visiting your website.

The First Question We Ask When Approached About Building a Website

If a potential customer approaches us about redesigning their current website, we request access to their analytics. This gives us a thorough idea of what people are doing on their site and what our clients should be doing to enhance user experience.

If they are a brand new business or start-up and do not yet have a website, we use other tools to figure out who their target audience is. Then we ask them what sites they currently think are successfully achieving the same goals and we do a thorough exercise of competitive research.

Whether for a redesign or a new site, we try to discover: in what categories do their products live? What industry or sub-industry? What communities are looking for their goods or services? For example, let’s say you are health network. What types of services do you offer? How do people search for those services? What devices are people viewing your site on? How do they reach your site, organically, direct, through paid search or social? We ask a tremendous variety of questions to determine exactly how people interact with your brand online. And then we will know how to differentiate them from their competitors on the web.

Mistakes That Businesses Make When They Begin a Web Design Journey

I am surprised by how many companies who are looking to improve their web presence have never taken a real hard look at their analytics. They don’t know which landing pages perform the best; they don’t understand how people are currently searching for them or if people are spending any time venturing deeper into their content. Knowing this before contacting a web producer can help a client be efficient in communicating their web needs and results in more precise collaboration.

Another BIG mistake is that they think they can do it themselves. Web development is one of the few services that businesses with no expertise in that area at all decide to take upon themselves. If your reception area had a leak in the ceiling, you wouldn’t suddenly ask your office manager to become a roofer!

Some companies believe that an off-the-shelf WordPress template will do enough to convert someone into a customer.  In most cases, the result doesn’t look anything like the samples they saw because those templates and themes are filled with all kinds of custom coding.

Another blind spot is the visual content and text. Your web visitor is very much influenced by the quality of the photography, and the story they read about you, so going with cheap stock images or revising old content that is not search engine friendly is a common mistake businesses make. Companies sometimes do not appreciate the time, care and attention spent on designing and writing an effective website.

What To Ask a Web Development Company Before Making a Choice

When interviewing a digital agency, you should try to establish what their skillset is. At the beginning of the web, designers built sites that often looked fabulous. They used Flash, and things were flying in and out, etc. but many of them were very poorly coded for other purposes such as responding to various browsers or devices or for search engine optimization.

You should always establish first of all, what type of web company you’re engaging.  Do they develop from templates only or are you engaging a firm that has the skills to custom code websites, but also does templates? Can they provide you with all the assets you need like great photography, even if it’s stock photography (there are different levels of stock photography) or are they able to produce custom creative assets for you, set up photo shoots? And you certainly want to know if they can create good SEO-friendly content for you. You should find out the exact range of the web department’s skillset.

Things I Try to Convey as a Web Producer

When a company comes to us and tells us that they need a new website or a redesign, I try to stress that it can take some time to produce good content. In a redesign, a fresh, new website can look great, but the old content can suddenly look glaringly tired and out of place on the new site.

Working with The Creative Process

When a client discovers that their creative assets or written content are not representing them well, we say “okay, we can write that for you and shoot those images, just be aware that this is a creative process and creativity demands the time to be dedicated to it.”  It won’t happen overnight and if someone suggests it will, be very afraid. Sometimes it takes a while, but you will be delighted with the results, and glad that you were patient. All in all your project is going to live for the next 3 to 5 years and that level of heavy lifting won’t be needed if content is maintained over time.

Managing Web Production Expectations

We always start with a clean and unambiguous contract. If everyone understands the scope of the work, the journey can be fun and exciting. But if clients don’t realize what is and is not part of the project, we may have to go back to them and let them know that a feature they are expecting might be out of scope. Everything should be discussed in the beginning. Having a clear contract is the key to a harmonious relationship.

Why I Love Producing Websites

There is nothing better than getting that email me from the client that says “oh my goodness I never thought it could look that good! Your team is awesome.” I am thrilled to say that we get a lot of those.

When we build e-commerce sites and watch sales traffic grow because we helped to improve the user experience…that’s exciting.

I also enjoy watching clients feel empowered to work on their own site using a content management system. Someone who was not previously able to update content can upload fresh content or fix outdated information because they have been trained by us…It is a cool feeling.

From the moment I saw my first website on a computer I sensed the opportunities for helping people to communicate in that format. And the fact that I get to manage creative people and guide the process of putting the elements together is more than gratifying!