This came out of some debate on a linkedin forum recently. There was a comment from Mike Hihn, an industry veteran who does online marketing for business.
“As for what I call owner-build websites, I have marketing/sales/SEO packages which include no design at all – other than helping them determine how many landing pages to have, and their best keywords, BEFORE designing the site. And analysing what the competition is doing, which very few pure designers even ask about (so I’m told)… The two most important factors in a website are content and links, neither of which has anything at all to do with graphic design. …..anyone focused on the bottom line should build their own [content-managed] site, then hire somebody to help them with the marketing and search aspects…”
There’s two issues here. One is to build a site that can be found. Technically, a simple WordPress site using a nice Studiopress theme is all that’s needed. This means the design costs can be slashed by 50-80%. This type of raw site (without much content) could be up and running in a day at minimal cost, usually under $500.
But where the real costs will come in as mike said, is in training the client to run the site and add their own content. (Content is always the killer). They will need lots of assistance with the technical side of SEO too as well as paid search marketing (AdWords). And then there’s other toolsets like email and/or Facebook, to keep them ahead of their competition and generate more leads. This is all content and marketing effort. Very little design.
As we’ve said before, for every $1 spent on ‘design’ another $3 or more needs to go into client training and site marketing.
Many customers see real benefits in building a ‘brand’ and having a site that is special. Unique. Customers saying ‘wow’ when they arrive at the website front page. Design and visuals can do this. I think if you’re in some sectors like finance or you’re selling high value goods, where trust and credibility is important, going the extra mile to get the look right is critical.
Online is a team effort now
Although I agree with everything Mike Hihm says, I still see benefits in using a skilled graphic designers as well as copywriters for many projects. For myself, it seems the sites I ‘show off’ more to prospective clients, are those where we’ve worked closely with, or for, local graphic designers. However all this just emphasises that when it comes to online, design is but one factor to a successful business outcome.
As a footnote to this article, Mashable recently posted a story entitled “4 Strategies for Working With Designers Without Killing Each Other
This mirrors my own views, showing that designers and developers have different goals, priorities and outlooks when it comes to website building. But as this article shows, the differences can be easily overcome. And this article will become pre-requisite reading for any new web or graphic designer we work with. It may help them better understand where us geeky ‘developers’ come from. Why site architecture, code, content and SEO is just as important as visual design. The designer is but one voice in how a high traffic website is built.