We'd like to challenge you with the following question: Do you need to develop a website or do you want to design a digital customer experience? Very few businesses get beyond the standard website solution. Most websites are digital brochures. Beyond that, once created, most businesses will spend very little time adding new content, updating the website and using the website as the truly amazing marketing tool they have at their disposal. We'd like to help you change that.
The term "web design" is tossed around too much in our opinion. Most businesses Googling "web design" are simply looking for a company who can apply their logo and brand to a website application, add a few pages like "about us", "services", "products" and "contact us" and that's it! But honestly, if that is your idea of a website, you're just brushing the surface of possibilities. The website is in our opinion the BEST marketing tool ever invented for a website and at the same same time, the most under utilized.
1. Web Design - Graphic Design Considerations
Most website design companies will build a website using a content management solution, the most popular of which is WordPress. To reduce costs, websites can be built on these platforms using pre-designed templates and edited from there. If that's not sufficient, custom graphic design can be used to match the clients branding specifications. For most small businesses, starting with a pre-designed template is usually sufficient. New template designs also include the ability to change colors, styles and basic website features making the pre-designed template path even more appealing. If a business must go through a custom graphic design process, the cost of the website will probably more than double. Before a business heads down that path, it is important to consider the pre-design template options because most businesses don't understand the flexibility of modern website theme designs.
2. Web Design - Developing The Customer Journey
Developing the customer journey is probably the MOST overlooked aspect of web design. The most rudimentary form of this process is to simply setup a site-map. Very often, the creation of a site map is nothing but conventional menu development: Home, About, Products, Service, Blog, Contact. It's OK to start with the site-map but that process rarely considers the customer journey. Moreover, once you have some run-time with the new website, you may discover that what you thought would be the customer journey is not actually what happens.
Part of developing the customer journey is to understand what the prospective customer is doing BEFORE that person lands on your website. How did he get there? Did the visitor come from FaceBook? Google? Advertising? How the visitor finds your site is a necessary beginning to setting up the customer journey through your site. If it's the search engine for example, then keyword research may be necessary before you start writing copy for your site. The fact of the matter is over time you'll have developed many customer journeys through your website.
Perhaps the best question to consider in this process is: "What if...?" Or more specifically "What happens if...?". e.g. What happens if a visitor lands on this page. What happens if a visitor clicks this button? The answers to those questions define the customer journey. The responses to those questions will be your calls to action. If you go through this process, you'll create a website experience - a customer journey. As your website evolves, you'll get to know your client better and better and your website should respond to that knowledge. Your website is never done! (hence the value of a content management solution where you the business owner don't need to really understand how to program.)
3. Website Development
Website development and web design are terms that are often used interchangeably and that's a mistake. The two processes are completely different. Web design is the process of developing the website look and feel and the customer journey (how the website will work). Website development is the process of taking that design specification and making it work so that the physical reality of the website matches what the designer had in mind. Web developers are programmers. They see the world in 1's and 0's.
It is not unusual for businesses to approach a web developer and start building a website. They
essentially skip the whole web design process. It's not the job of the
web developer to tell you what you don't know (he may not know - or care, either). If you approach a web
developer to build a website, that's exactly what you'll get. What you
won't get is something that responds to your market and considers the
customer journey. There is no marketing or design considerations when
building the website.
The problem is that the web developer very often can't market his way out of a paper bag! The business will usually get no search engine optimization, no defined customer journey, limited graphic design consideration and frankly very limited results. You end up with a website that just sits there. This is not to say anything bad about the web developer. The web developer is a necessary part of the process. The problem is that if the business skips the web design and customer journey process, the web site is no more a marketing tool than the menu is to your favorite restaurant. The design and marketing process has been removed from the equation. The result is a static, dysfunctional website that is sitting on a server somewhere with very little value.