Before I dive into the benefits of custom web design – of which there are many – I want to make one disclaimer to help direct readers who think that “custom” or “agency” means “unaffordable.” If for whatever reason a custom built site is not financially feasible, I always recommend getting a website live by whatever means possible. Let’s face it, the world is swiftly transitioning to buying, researching, and socializing on the internet. It is important to have a Facebook page, but if you don’t have a website to follow for more information, it gives the impression that a) you’re not financially capable of sustaining a website, or b) you’re outdated and don’t care about internet users. In either case, it’s hard to take you seriously if you don’t have a website. So when potential clients say they can’t afford a custom site, I direct them to resources to help them get a decent website up as fast as possible. (I’ll be posting all my resources about how to get a website up on a tight budget in the near future; watch for it!)
Now that we’ve covered how important simply having a website is, I want to unpack the benefits of having a creative agency build a tailored web experience and how it can benefit your business.
We’ve all seen websites that look like they were made when the internet first arrived – the ones built with HTML and CSS without any thought or care for the user. They’re so visually unappealing that we’re repulsed by them; we hit the back arrow before we’ve even read the content. Even websites that were built four years ago start to look dated and unattractive because of the fast-paced nature of the internet.
Whether or not people stay on your website is primarily determined by how visually appealing it is. A study by Google shows that “people are able to form stable attractiveness judgments of website screenshots within 50 milliseconds.” This means that your site needs to be visually appealing to get users to stay on it long enough to read your headline.
A study for Consumer Reports showed that half the participants made an assessment of the company’s credibility based on the overall visual design of a website. A web presence that looks beautiful and is easy to use allows you to compete for the trust you might otherwise lose to the big corporations or other brands that take the look of their design seriously. Good design fosters trust, bad design creates bad first impressions and mistrust.
I’ve heard people say that they can get a well-designed template for cheap, so why pay a company to design and develop a website? The reason is, if you’re taking your company’s look seriously, you don’t want something anyone else can buy – you want your own. I like to think of it like buying a house in a subdivision vs buying your own lot and having a house designed. Houses in subdivisions all blend together and you can’t make the house layout work for your needs. A custom layout allows you to arrange things in the specific ways you need them, all while reflecting your unique style. The same holds true for web design. A custom site is crafted to reflect your business’s values and personality, and to cater to your target market. You can’t get that from a template.
Strategy Solves Problems
Almost every inquiry I receive from a client includes this line: I need a website, how much does it cost? In most cases we are able to interpret the needs of a client, but this can sometimes mask the root cause for seeking help from a web design agency. Needing a website might mean there is a need to increase sales, boost donations, target a new audience, or get online for the first time. Whatever the case, finding that reason ensures we’re designing the right tool and setting the right goals and expectations.
In Tapa’s specific process, the strategy phase includes a good deal of listening. Everything needs to be out on the table before we can start organizing and planning. This is why it’s important to have every person in the company who might possibly have an influence on the project to join in the creative sessions. It allows every perspective and all of the ideas to be heard so that they can be shaped into solutions that meet specific needs.
What happens too often is that freelancers or agencies hear the client say, “I need a website,” and start designing. It’s exciting, so I understand the impulse to jump right into the fun stuff (design), but in the end it backfires. It ignores the root problem, which is the reason the client came to the web designer in the first place. If good research and valuable questions weren’t part of planning, the entire project is in jeopardy. Projects without a strategy don’t meet expectations or goals because they haven’t been defined. They also cost the client money because when a project doesn’t start out on the right foot, it takes time to correct it or it derails and you’re back at square one. Having a game plan is the best way to measure success, keep things on course, and create value.
Small Agencies are Equipped and Still Reachable
I’ve talked about some key benefits of custom web design, but who you trust to deliver these benefits makes all the difference. I’ve heard the case for both freelancers and design agencies, and what I’ve concluded is that a small agency offers the best of both worlds.
The primary perk of a freelance web designer is that when you call to get an update on your project, make a change, or ask about a new service like a logo design, you get the same person who always knows what’s going on because there’s only one person working on it. Freelancers are commonly jacks of all trades, which is a pro and a con in itself. The other main benefit is that freelance web development is often less expensive than design agencies. Their overhead is lower, which enables freelancers to be competitive on price.
On the other side of the coin, you have big design agencies that are big for a reason. They produce high quality work because they’ve built teams of specialists. Agencies have the resources and talent to develop larger projects. This is particularly important to consider since your website will need to grow with your business. A freelancer might not be capable of integrating a large-scale e-commerce expansion or building the web-based software you’ll need down the road. Large agencies also bring trust to the table. Freelancers can drop off the face of the earth, but you know an agency will be there for the long haul.
The problem with agencies is that they can be cumbersome because of their size. Your primary contact is most often a project manager, who refers to the team lead, who conveys things to the designers and developers. Communication can be difficult and get lost down the chain.
Small agencies give you all the benefits of freelancers and large agencies. You get close communication with the individuals actually working on your project and the capabilities of a specialized team. Unlike working with a freelancer, it also means you get a product that has been internally critiqued, which increases the level of quality without overcomplicating the project or watering down the creativity. Plus, you will enjoy the stability of working with an established web development company that you know isn’t going to just move to Thailand on a whim.
If you’ve read this far and still don’t think it’s worth it to invest in good design from a small agency, then please, if you don’t have a website, go make one. You are losing business by not having a web presence. There are a lot of free tools that can help you build an entry level site. Put your energy into writing some quality, error-free website copy (people won’t trust you if you can’t be bothered to spell things correctly) and get a site live today!
For those of you who see the benefits and are wondering where to go from here, your next step is to have a conversation with us. We’re not here to pressure you to work with us. In fact, I redirect potential clients all the time. I’d rather you work with someone who has the skill and the eye for your specific project. If we don’t think we can catch your vision, we don’t want to waste your time. We’ve got a handful of trusted contacts that I’m sure can help you if we can’t.
If you like our work, process, and chemistry, then I think we can get down to work and start solving problems. Shoot us a message, we’re here to help.