IT Guy (1)
Chris R Boyd

Chris R Boyd

Founder, Upspark Digital

Why your website shouldn’t be designed by an IT Guy

I know what you’re probably thinking, you’re thinking ‘Wow, that’s a provocative statement’ but hopefully over the next 4 or 5 minutes I’ll be able to convince you on why I think it’s right, at least for the most part.

Part one: The job of a website

Customers can have a variety of reasons for visiting your website, they could be looking for pricing, inspiration or they might have typed a specific question or product name into Google.  At the route of these queries are problems your customers need solved.

Here’s a quick list of typical problem categories with an example of each:

  • Functional problems (looking for a solution to a frustration or challenge)

They might be looking for information on how a stove is flued, whether they can afford a stove or whether they can get a fireplace in their house.

  • Compliance problems (concerns around fitting in and obeying the law)

They could be concerned about wider macro issues such as whether a wood burning stove is going to be banned or if a gas fire is environmentally friendly.

  • Fear (Strong discomfort around their wellbeing or the wellbeing of others)

They could be concerned about their young family and whether a gas fire is safe around young children or pets.

  • Aspirational desires (How a person wants to transform their life or that of others)

They could be looking for a fireplace or high-end stove that satisfies their need to look like a success to their friends and family.

Your website is most likely the first chance (and possibly last chance) you’ll get to show customers you can solve their problem. These days, most people first go online looking for a solution to their problem before seeking out your business locally. That means a large percentage of people might never make it into your showroom or contact you via the phone if they have been to your website and not found the answers they were looking for.

A business website’s job is to show that your business is competent at solving your customers problems and then show your visitors how they can buy what you are selling

 Once we frame the objective of a website is to solve problems, we start to realise that most of our websites aren’t built to do that. In the late 1990’s/early 2000’s a website was more of an information repository where businesses would dump lots of information onto their websites and the user had to trawl though the site to find the information they needed. In 2020, the world of Google and instant answers, consumers expect to find answers to their questions almost immediately after landing on your site. A website’s job has changed and yet so many small business websites still are stuck in the 1990’s.

A typical website:

Here’s a bunch of products and services we offer, see if you like any, if not, cheers for stopping by.

The problem with this approach is that you leave it up to the customer to decipher whether your products or services solve their problems.

Customers have a limited attention span so you have to make it crystal clear from the moment they land on your website what problems you are going to solve for them. If they have to spend more than around three seconds trying to figure out whether you can help make their life better then, you’ve most likely lost them to a competitor who writes with clarity.

Here’s an example:

  • Website A

We have been in the business of manufacturing fireplaces for 30 years. We sell wooden and limestone surrounds as well gas fire and stoves.

  • Website B

We keep your home warm, your family safe and your neighbours jealous with our carefully selected range of gas fires, stoves and fireplace surrounds, individually hand crafted by our stone masons and cabinet makers.

In the above example, Website A just gives a list of features. It doesn’t give the outcomes, benefits or solutions to your customers. Website B says a lot about the functional and emotional benefits to the customer in a small amount of space:

  • Warmth
  • Safety
  • Status/Affluence
  • Individuality
  • Time saving

Hopefully by this point, you’re at least partially on board with the need for your website to solve your customers problems. If you are, then you are about to discover, just as I did, why your typical web design guy or agency isn’t the right fit to build your website.

Part Two: Looking for the right designer – Why I started UpSpark Digital

I got the idea for Upspark Digital whilst looking for a web designer for my former business’s website. I didn’t have the time to commit to building the website myself so I went looking for a competent designer or design team to build it for me. After talking to a number of freelancers and agencies I started to realise that the questions that I found critical and fundamental to the design of the website weren’t being asked. For example, they didn’t ask:

  • Who are your target customers?
  • How can we design a website to target these customers and drive traffic to it?
  • What problems do they need solved?
  • How can we solve them?
  • How can we create a marketing funnel that maximises the enquiries we get?

This seemed crazy to me. How can someone build a website that:

  1. Hasn’t asked who they are building it for
  2. Doesn’t know what problems we are looking to solve.

After a lot of research I came to the conclusion that most web designers don’t have the knowledge or experience to be able to ask the right questions. They are trained in IT or design, not in marketing or business and therefore don’t think nearly enough about the end goal for you and your business.

When you go looking for a new website, you don’t actually want a new website. You want your business to look more credible, you want to create more of a brand that stands out, you want more leads and enquiries, you want to attract a different type of customer. Unfortunately, if you go looking for someone to simply build you a website, you’ll get…a website. This website won’t be built to deliver the things you actually want, it might, by sheer luck, be able to deliver some benefits, especially if your last website was very out of date. However, it will not deliver all the things you want because it wasn’t designed to.

A web developer’s job is to design you are working website, they will not take responsibility for the number of leads the website generates as that falls outside their scope of responsibility. A web designer is far more likely to ask you about what colours you want than to ask you about the number of leads you want.

But for the business involved, this is entirely the wrong approach. Your website should be your number one sales guy. It should be built to produce leads 24 hours, 7 days a week. Your website should be the hardest working member of your team, always doing its best to help grow the business. Therefore, it needs to be built with this purpose in mind.

So if the web designer isn’t taking responsibility for delivering this then who’s responsibility is it? Well as it turns out, no one typically takes responsibility. The web designer doesn’t take accountability of driving traffic and leads, and they move on to the next client. Meanwhile the business owner is too busy running the day to day business to put the time into making the website better, and even if they do try, they most often fail with a half-baked DIY approach due to lack of time and expertise needed to pull it off.

We searched around a lot looking for a company that would take responsibility for getting results. We often heard about what features they could build for us. But, I wasn’t interested in features. I wanted to know what this website could do for my business. This is what I commonly got back as a response:

“We’ll build you a great looking site that will load fast”

Great I thought, but, what happens when the customer gets to the site? Yes, they see a pretty website but does it communicate the message that we want? Well, that depends on the message and to know the message, the web designer needs to know our customers, needs to know our customer’s problems, needs to know how we plan on solving them and needs to be able to communicate all of that through the design of the website.

Part three: Pretty websites don’t sell things, the words on the pages sell things.

Without asking the right questions you get a bog-standard website that isn’t at all focused on serving your customers. It won’t do a good job of telling your story and it won’t be set up to convert your website visitors into buyers. This is because pretty websites don’t sell things, words sell things. Sure, a good-looking website will help your credibility but if the words on the pages don’t resonate with your potential customers then you’re unlikely to be able to convince them to do business with you. Does that sound like something you want? We certainly didn’t want that, so with my marketing background I decided to project manage the web design myself.

We employed a mid-level web designer with plenty of experience building WordPress websites and gave him a detailed plan on how we wanted the website built. The design itself was relatively straight forward and cost in the region of £1000. It was cheap because we had done a lot of the legwork but also because the actual design of a website is getting easier and easier to do. Every year, more and more technology gets released that make designing websites less complicated. With a bit of practice, anyone reading this article could design their own webpage. However, there’s a Grand Canyon size gulf between designing a website and designing a website that turns visitors into customers. The latter requires skills in marketing which can’t be easily learnt and require a deep and broad knowledge in the following fields:

  • Positioning
  • Messaging
  • Branding
  • Sales Copy Writing
  • UX (User Experience)
  • Conversion

Therein lies the problem – Most web designers can build you a nice looking website but only a very tiny proportion of the millions of designers in the world can build a website designed to convince website visitors to turn into customers. You need the marketing skills to be able to persuade your website visitors that you are the right company to buy from. That’s why a web design agency won’t take accountability for the results you actually want and that’s why an average IT guy or web design agency is the wrong choice.

So, when you go looking for a new web designer remember, you don’t just want a new website, think through what your goals are. Are you wanting more traffic, more enquiries, a better brand image? Select a company that offers to guarantee the results you want and where the design strategy is built around obtaining them.

Only then will your website live up to your expectations and only then will you find someone capable of delivering it.

P.S. We started Upspark Digital to be the very company we hoped we could have found. We are proud to take responsibility of the number of leads that our websites generate for our clients. If you want to hear more about how we can help you then email us now.

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