You don’t *just* need a web designer

I had a phone call the other month from someone who said they were having problems with their site. They had fallen out with their previous supplier and were shopping around for a new ‘web designer‘.

Well, aside from the fact that falling out with the previous supplier is a red flag, this whole conversation had ‘approach with caution‘ written all over it.

(Side story: Somebody once approached me who had fallen out with no fewer than five of their previous web designers. I remember really struggling to avoid the elephant in the room – “errr…do you think you might be part of the problem!?”).

The Perceived Issue

The contact (let’s call him Bob) thought that their supplier had let them down. They had produced a website, but it just wasn’t delivering the results that they had hoped for.

The website looked functionally solid, the design was a bit basic, and there was a distinct lack of focus on target audience; so, not horrendous, but certainly a lot of room for improvement.

I explained that my company could certainly help improve the effectiveness of the website, we could re-look at the design, and fine tune it to the audience’s needs. We could hard wire in analytics so that we can prove what’s working and what’s not. In short, we could certainly improve the potential for the website to convert traffic into customers.

However, digging into it, Bob had a bigger issue.

He also wasn’t happy with the amount of traffic he was getting.

I explained that the work we would initially do wasn’t really about attracting more traffic; it was about overhauling the engine of his website. Indeed, until that work was done, more traffic would be waste; as the website was currently hardly converting anything. We could certainly address the traffic issue; but first things first.

Bob was against advertising and didn’t really have an idea of where this extra traffic would come from. Hmm.

The Real Problem

So the real problem here was that Bob had not really thought strategically about what we was trying to do online – and his current supplier was ending up carrying the can for this.

He had then let his vague plans become the responsibility of the web designer; who (in fairness to them), had done a half decent job of the website; but a website is not a miracle worker – it does not exist in a vacuum – it needs to be part of cohesive, overall marketing plan.

And this is part of the problem with the title ‘web designer‘, the term has become so abused over the years that it doesn’t really mean anything: you end up comparing apples with three toed sloths. On the one hand, a ‘web designer’ could be a plumber with a full time job, but who also helps set small businesses up with a simple site builder tool in the evenings – fine; that is perfect in many situations. Or, at the other end, you might be a multi-skilled team who can handle everything from audience research, business model validation, information architecture, design, analytics, copywriting, photographer, digital strategy etc.

If you’re looking into improving the effectiveness of your website, then choosing the right supplier(s) is critical. You want to go with a mix of competence, vision, and personality fit. But be realistic about your aims and what the supplier can achieve.

Don’t be like Bob.


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