A few years ago, when HubSpot surprised the design world with its "17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website," they focused on avoiding things on your site that "annoy" site visitors. Among the chief "annoying" web elements they cited were excessive popups, "About Us" pages that forget to say what the company is about, sites that take forever to load, cheesy photography, lousy navigation and mobile unfriendliness.
Good points, all—but as damaging as those mistakes are, what HubSpot was really talking about was websites that stifle growth for the businesses that create them—sites that, in other words, appear to have been designed without seeming reference to how the site reflects the buyer's journey, that don't move visitors naturally and without effort from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom. As HubSpot notes in that piece:
"…poor user experience can cause high page abandonment rates, low visitor-to-lead conversion rates, poor organic search listing positions, and a plain ol' bad reputation."
What Makes a Good Website Good?
Every business is different, but some website design practices transcend the differences between one and another, like knowing why you're designing it (what your marketing goals are) before you start designing it. Are you trying to generate more market qualified leads, sell more products, boost conversions or share content? Do you have realistic measurable goals for your website, and how does that relate to the rest of your marketing strategy?
What Is Growth Driven Site Design?
So, how do you design a website? The answer used to be that you create the site in a single shot, trying to make everything "perfect," then launch it, let it sit there for a few years and hope it works. That's the traditional approach, and it's not ideal. No matter how carefully you plan, you can't anticipate how your visitors are going to respond to your site or whether it will achieve the results you want.
But there's another way, and it's called growth drive design (GDD). With GDD, you create a new site or redesign an existing one incrementally. In this way, you can make continuous improvements and adaptations based on visitor response. Making incremental changes grounded in visitor data (like those related to lead generation and sales) and audience response, GDD minimizes risk and maximizes performance.
Now, Take a Look in the Mirror
Knowing what you want your website to do and the design approach you're going to take is the first step in executing a sound website strategy. The second is assessing whether your in-house marketing team can do the job.
For example, do they know how to use best practice search engine optimization (SEO) for your new site? Do they know how to design customized landing pages to increase lead generation and sales? Can they execute a design that maximizes user experience? Can they implement a GDD website and optimize its performance based on real-time data? If the answer to these questions is "no," it's time to think about outsourcing.
Why Do Businesses Outsource Site Design?
Companies outsource website design when they realize their site isn't doing what they want it to and that that they can't complete the work themselves. But there are other smart reasons to outsource, including the following:
- You'll save money: small and medium-size businesses need to focus on the bottom line. Hiring an in-house development team is expensive. Outsourcing is a more cost-effective solution.
- You'll benefit from design expertise: if you do your homework and find a competent, reliable agency, you'll be working with design experts, knowledgeable about every aspect of web design—including SEO best practices and growth driven design.
- You'll still have input: hiring the right agency doesn't mean you lose control of the design process. The best agencies will work collaboratively with you and take the time to understand your business and major marketing objectives.
- You'll free up your in-house IT team: odds are your IT team is busy, and designing a new site is both time-consuming and complex. By outsourcing, you'll free up time for IT to focus on core business objectives.
How Do You Choose the Right Marketing Agency?
Every business is different, as is every marketing agency. So, it's important to choose an agency with skills and experience that match your needs and primary marketing goals. That said, here are 4 smart tips for choosing the right marketing agency to design your website:
1. Make Sure the Agency's Strengths Match Your Needs
Different agencies have different expertise and capabilities. So, it's important to first work with your in-house marketing, sales and IT teams to clearly define your needs, the scope of the project and what you want your new website to do.
For example, how much experience does the agency have with website design and what results have they achieved for their clients (be sure to ask for case studies and references)? Is lead generation a priority for you? If it is, make sure to choose an agency that thoroughly understands inbound, social media and search engine marketing. If unified branding is important, ask the agency what work they've done to bring together web design, business branding, graphic design and video production.
2. Define Your Budget Parameters
Before you interview agencies, talk to your in-house teams about what you want your new site to do (you might also benefit by making a few calls to business colleagues who've recently outsourced site design). They should be able to give you a reasonably good sense of what the project is going to cost. If what you want costs more than you can afford, you might need to start prioritizing your needs and limiting the scope of the project. Look for an agency who will work with you to execute a site design meets your needs at a cost you can afford.
3. Look for Honesty and Transparency
Any agency that doesn't "tell it like it is" should set up a red flag. When you interview them, do you sense that they're hiding anything (if they do, they probably are). Do they promise to do the job for far less than other agencies, and to do get you much better results? Are their client testimonials credible?
Before signing on the dotted line, ask for case studies and references. Ask them what specific results they achieved for each reference and make sure to get answers that are specific. If for example they say "we increased lead generation," ask how specifically they achieved this, and how much lead generation increased. Then call those references to see if what the agency's telling you matches the client's experience. You should also do some sleuthing, calling a few clients who aren't among their references.
4. Look for An Agency That Listens More Than It Talks
Website design is important. You don't need a snazzy song a dance or a glitzy PowerPoint show. You need a frank discussion.
If an agency is really interested in doing the job right, they'll have done their homework about your business—and they'll want to find out everything they can about it in your first meeting. The right agency will want to work with you—not talk down to you. They'll want to know what marketing strategies you've been using to generate and nurture leads, and to increase sales, and how well those have worked for you.
If they're not asking smart questions or listening to you, well, that's a huge red flag. If they're condescending or seem to be covering lack of experience with a tsunami of insider jargon, it's probably time to move on.
Designing your website requires deep knowledge of current site design trends, hard work, an attention to detail and continual updating. If your in-house team doesn't have the experience, tools and knowledge to do the job right, it's smart to consider outsourcing the job to a competent, reputable and reliable marketing agency.
To learn more about the ways our website design, unified branding, lead generation, customer communications and sales tools services can give you a website that does everything you need it to do—and help your business grow—contact us today.