5 Questions Your Web Designer Should Ask

In the last post, we covered questions to ask your web designer before you hire them. But wait, there’s more! You should expect them to ask you insightful questions, too. Asking the right questions at the beginning of the process is a great way to identify possible project twists, set the site up for long-term success, and smooth out the project process. Here are some of the questions we ask.

What’s your audience like?

In order for your site to do its job (connect with new and old customers, so you can do yours), it’s got to be well-targeted to your audience. Meaning, both you and your web designer should have a clear idea of what that audience is going to be. Some questions your designer may ask include:

  • Does your audience fall into a particular age, income, education level, industry or other?
  • Where can we find your target audience? Do you want to attract people local to your area? In a specific city or zip code?
  • Who is your best client now? Why?
  • Describe your typical client. What personality does he have? Why does she choose to work with you?

Understanding the target audience for a site influences many things, from the choice of imagery to how the site copy is directed.

What other sites do you like?

What about your competitors’ sites do you like most or least? What looks appeal to you? Are there some elements that should be included in your site build? How do they work? Understanding what you like in others’ sites can be a great way to generate good ideas for your project. We use these comparisons to inspire:

  • web design choices and colors
  • possible site features or integrations
  • page organization or content

Red flag: Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but content copied from another site is neither flattering nor useful. It’s plagiarism, and even Google doesn’t like it. While it may be tempting to reuse content from another site, even in a blog post, it ultimately will do your site more harm than good.

What other tools or sites should play nicely with yours?

Do you have a newsletter platform that you use and love? What about a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool? What about a social media site that is particularly important for your business? When we build sites, we look to integrate these tools appropriately to help your site run smoothly. Quality site integrations can make your life easier, whether they help add fresh content to your site, track your contacts, or help you communicate with your audience.

Who’s going to manage the site?

Do you plan to manage the site after launch? Not everyone does, which is why we offer a standard content maintenance package. We set sites up to be user-friendly either way, but it can be helpful to know if you’re headed to DIY-site-management, as we may take extra care to ensure that as little as possible in the site build would require a developer to change it in the future.

How do you plan to use the site?

Not all sites have the same purpose. Some are used simply to establish a professional presence. Others may be used as part of a long-term, complex online marketing strategy. Others may have a conversion goal on the site itself, such as sales on an e-commerce site or new members on a membership site. This can also change over time. Maybe your site is simply a portfolio site today, but you plan to add e-commerce in the future.

Understanding the plans for the site from the business owner’s perspective helps us to appropriately gauge project scope and determine where efforts are best spent to help the site reach those goals. If we know the long-term website goals, we can minimize future work by setting the site up in a way that will support those goals.

Asking the right questions during the pitch process or beginning of the project is the best way to minimize project snags and maximize site efficacy. Looking to hire a site designer? Make sure he or she is asking the right questions first.

5 Questions to Ask Your Website Designer

Hiring a Web Designer? 5 Questions to Ask.

Hiring a web designer can involve some uncertainty. You have a vision for your business, your brand, and your site. You need an expert to help you bring that vision to life. But how do you know that your expert truly is? And if they are, how can you tell if they’ll understand your vision? In an industry where prices vary significantly – and so do results – how do you know if you’re paying the right price for quality work? Here are some questions you should ask your web designer before signing the contract.

What’s your process?

Hiring an expert to build your site should involve the right kind of collaboration. Getting a great result with a custom site is going to involve teamwork between you and your expert of choice. Know in advance what that’s going to involve. Not only does this tell you whether it’s going to be a good match for your needs, but you can also plan for when your participation will be critical to the process.

It goes without saying that the process should involve a good information-gathering conversation at the beginning and regular opportunities for communication and feedback. Find out what they are so you know what to expect!

How do you stay current?

The digital realm changes rapidly. New device technology (Hello, 4k displays!), new tools, new trends and more mean that the techniques to make a great site today may not be useful in a year or two. Find out what your design company does to stay fresh in the industry, from design to development.

What do you specialize in?

The best design companies have a clear understanding of their target client and audience. Some specialize in a particular industry. Others specialize in a particular aspect of online services. Understand exactly what you need and whether the company you plan to work with matches up in what it offers.

Red flag: Beware the one-man developer who tells you he or she can do anything you need. Online marketing and site design are complex fields. Doing a great job requires staying current on marketing and design trends, speaking fluent code AND fluent consumer AND fluent client, and any relevant tech knowledge has a limited shelf-life. It’s possible for a company to excel in all these areas, but not a single individual.

What comes after we launch the site?

Your site will continue to need updates and TLC after it launches. Don’t get stuck going it alone, or leave your site out there to grow stale. Ask your web design company what plans they offer to help you keep your site relevant, and continue to grow your online presence.

Understand what your own availability looks like, too. Just like the project was a team effort, the ongoing site maintenance should be, too.

Can you show me some examples?

The proof is in the pudding. Make sure to check out the site portfolio. Are the examples there the kind of website you’d be proud to own? Do they all look identical? Find out if the sales process matches the result.

Pro Tip: If it’s not clear from the portfolio, ask the company to tell you which sites launched in the past year or six months. Skills and teams change over time, and you want the samples that will best reflect what you can expect. Check their reviews, too.

Knowing the right questions to ask can help the process of hiring a web designer feel less intimidating and provide better results.

Does Blogging Work?

Is it a viable marketing strategy?” I got this question recently, and it’s not the first time. It’s a fair question. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to marketing in general, and blogging is no different.

“Well, it depends.”

Blogs can either be a valuable addition to your website, or a huge waste of time. Which one depends entirely on how you use them. Avoid the traps of aimless blogging with these tips.

Stay relevant.

Make sure your blogs are related to relevant keywords for your site. Think about the questions you tend to get in the course of your day-to-day interactions with customers, clients and prospects. Answer those questions, one blog post at a time.

Write something useful.

Offer up something valuable in your blogs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give away your trade secrets – though some teasers don’t hurt – but rather offer related expertise that your clients will find helpful. Teach your clients and prospects how to identify when you can help them. Talk about your process.

Team up.

Not a fan of writing? Operating by yourself? No worries. It doesn’t have to be all on your shoulders. Find a great team of local business partners – something you probably already have. Ask for guest blog spots. Not only is this great backlink traffic for the guest blogger, but it also means you don’t have to do all the content-creation heavy lifting by yourself.

Stay on a schedule.

How often should I blog? That depends on how fast you want to progress. Start off with a schedule of every other week, or even once a month. Gradually increase your frequency over time. Take advantage of a blog schedule. Or, get someone to help you. Here’s why:

B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month. (HubSpot, 2015)1

Keep at it.

Ultimately, blogging is a long-term, not a short-term marketing strategy. Regular content will help fill your site with information that’s useful to both your visitors and the search engine bots that index your site. Don’t get discouraged by early starts and stops.

Got Writer’s Block? Let us help.

We’ve put together a list of 50+ topics by industry to help you kickstart your site blog. Sign up below to get a copy delivered straight to your inbox.

1The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics))

Save time and money with an expert

There are many DIY website builders out there for a seemingly cheap cost. Why should a strapped business owner spend money to hire a web designer? We can offer 5 reasons based on actual experiences with clients. They started out doing it on their own but learned the hard way that it wasn’t worth it. We love to help our clients create a compelling professional website and save time and money through our expert knowledge.

Reason #1: Cost

Can you build a website that meets your needs for cheaper than going with a professional web designer? Maybe. It really depends on what your site needs to do, and if it ever encounters problems. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” resonates painfully loud when we come in to help repair a DIY site. Managing things yourself can lead to some disastrous problems, some which take much more time and money to fix than starting from scratch. It’s the same reason you probably wouldn’t let your buddy’s brother-in-law work on your new car when it breaks down. He may be able to do the work for much cheaper than a professional, but he might end up costing you a lot more if he makes things worse because he is inexperienced.

Also, as experts we tell you what investments will pay off and what to skip. Just like a realtor or financial advisor, we help you save time and money by leveraging our experiences. Can you buy a house or invest money without a professional? Sure, but it’s not recommended.

Reason #2: Customization

“It all seemed so simple… until I tried to do it.” We hear this all the time. People try to save time and money by picking a template off a site builder and copy and pasting in information about their business. But in the end, it always looks like a template. It’s hard to take a general-use template and make it fit the needs of your specific business. While some template-builders allow greater customization, those often require expert knowledge of coding and the framework of the site to work out kinks and get that essential polished look. Less control of the design means less control of how your clients use your site. Ultimately, the best part of having your own site instead of just using social media is the ability to create the perfect environment for your clients to learn about and trust your business.

Reason #3: Efficiency

Your time is valuable as the business owner, and really best spent doing what you are excellent at. Every time you work on your website: building, updating, editing, or troubleshooting errors, that is time away from your business, and for a subpar product. Even the best themes often need a little extra custom coding to manipulate them to do what you want. You aren’t a web expert. Several necessary steps in web building will take you three times as long as it would take a professional, likely with half the returns.

Reason #4: Expertise

Choosing a theme may seem as simple as picking colors that you like, but themes actually all have different limitations. If you bring in an expert, they bring with them knowledge of the best -and worst- themes to fit your website needs. They understand the underlying framework that you need to support various plug-ins you may need to make your website vision a reality. You don’t know what you don’t know. Going professional now will save you the heartache of a rebuild in the future. You will have a pro on your team who knows which things are going to be important and which things likely will not, and why.

Reason #5: Professionalism

We can’t say often enough: your website is a visual representation of your company. DIY templates often come with advertising built-in for the site builder. It looks cheap and unprofessional to have all caps advertisements flashing on your page. Not to mention it’s a big distraction for your clients from your company. Does your website show off your attention to detail and professional quality? Or will clients wonder if you often cut corners to save a buck?

We’re happy when you’re happy.

Our business is like yours: a start-up. We can only be successful with the backing of many satisfied clients. We are passionate about helping you maximize your budget to save time and money while presenting a professional front to the world. When your business succeeds, we do too! Let us join your team today to create a visually stunning and compelling site.

Typography: so much more than just fonts

What is Typography?

Simply stated, typography is the visual art and technique of creating and arranging words. It includes the style, appearance, location, spacing, size, and weight of letters that compose the words.

Important words to understand:

  1. Typeface: the look or style of the letters. You may have heard people describe letters as “serif” or “non-serif,” which is one aspect of what creates the typeface. Essentially, an artist creates a “family” of letters that share similar characteristics and convey the same feeling or look.
  2. Font: the size and weight (or boldness) of the letters. The idea is to take letters from a typeface and place them in your website in a specific font.

Why does typography matter?

Each typeface has a distinct personality and communicates a different vibe. Therefore, when choosing a typeface you need to consider what impression you want to make. The typeface sets the tone of the page, from serious to playful, old-fashioned to modern. Also, the arrangement and sizing of text contributes to the readability when done well, or disaster when done poorly. As a matter of fact, an experienced designer recently explained how poor typography and card design at the Oscars led to the now infamous mis-reading of the winner of Best Picture. Consequently, an experienced designer will use size, placement and weight strategically to direct the reader’s eye to the most important information first. It is also essential to use discretion with typefaces that are not most commonly used. While complicated typefaces can be beautiful, they can render a block of text completely unreadable.

Elements of Good Typography

  1. Consistency. Use only a couple typefaces on your website to create a polished, put-together look. The goal is to make the typography essentially invisible. Typography should create an impression, but not draw attention to itself through irregularities or polarizing typefaces.
  2. Hierarchy. Arrange text in a way that the most important information is large and somewhat central. You can control the path that a reader’s eye takes by using the size and placement of words.
  3. Alignment. While many amateur designers like the poetic look of center alignment, it is much harder to read. Readers already barely read websites preferring to skim most of the time. Align text on the left or right to give the reader’s eye a clean line to follow to increase comprehension and ease of reading.

Web design is a delicate balance between using science and precision to keep your message clear and creating beauty to delight and awe. It takes time to master the tightrope between these competing agendas, something Design Break Studios has dedicated ourselves to. For this reason, let us help you find the typeface and arrangement to take your website to the next level.

Web design matters: you can’t afford to skimp

Everything about your site sends a message. What are you saying with your site?

Good first impressions aren’t just for in-laws

Experts say you have 10 seconds (some say 7!) to convince your visitors that your site is worth skimming. Then, you have the next 20 seconds to hook them with relevant content and convince them to actually read your site.  If you don’t capture their attention or curiosity with visually stunning design, you’ve already lost them to the competition before they’ve heard any of your message. In the same way that you would never usher clients in through the back door and through the messy storeroom or show up for a job interview in hole-riddled sweats, you need to put your best foot forward on your website. Design matters because the impression your website makes can make or break a sale.

A positive user experience is critical for success

Design matters because it is the environment you create to introduce your clients to your business. It manages the subconscious client emotions which influence how they will respond to you. Randall Smith, brand management specialist bedecked with awards for his work, explains design to Forbes in this way: “Good design manages your perception of an experience. How you feel, and therefore whether you are going to engage and buy is directly influenced by the design of a website.” In a study of perceived website credibility, researchers discovered that 94% of web visitors decide if a website is credible based solely on design factors.

Good design puts you in control

Having a social media presence is great, but you are completely at the mercy of the social site. Clients will visit your page and be distracted by ads along the side, updates from friends popping up, and trending issues. On your site, you can completely control the environment and create the perception that you want. Additionally, you decide what is most important for your clients to know and put it right in front of them. Great design helps you guide your clients through your site the way you want them to experience it–the way that is most likely to convince them you’re the right choice. You can limit the deluge of information and narrow the focus to what you really want clients to know about you.

Design matters to build your brand

As a small business, building your brand can make your company memorable and seem trustworthy. The design of your website will instantly clue customers into who you are and who you serve. Bright, neon colors and basic shapes? Your audience is clearly young children. Grays with one vibrant accent, lots of sleek lines? You’re communicating a professional white-collar vibe. It’s clear that branding works. You doubt? I give you one guess what company name these cans display. Thirsty yet? Use the design of your website to build your brand on the web.

Is design all that matters? Of course not. The design is the packaging for your quality content and great design won’t make up for meaningless or confusing content. You may feel confident creating your own content, and if not we can connect you with experts in search engine optimization to create quality content to bring people to your site. But we are design experts. Let us help you take your website from sketchy to trustworthy and change the message your clients are hearing.

3 Flavors of Business Website

Does every business really need a website?

Unequivocally, yes. Even if you feel your business attracts through word-of-mouth only, you need a website to back up the professionalism of your in-person image. That said, how much investment you need to put into your site depends on your business, your marketing plan, your industry, and your stage of business development. For example, a start-up with a lean budget and a new idea should get started with something small, like a landing page for lead capture and market testing. On the other hand, a business looking to rank in search engines for a popular keyword needs a lot more content and tuning.

We can show you what areas of a site are worth spending money on. We also want to help you see which areas can be kept trim to fit your budget. As a small business ourselves, we are aware of the challenges entrepreneurs face in getting a new business off the ground. We will help you recognize areas in which a little extra spending now matters later.

The Online Business Card

In the digital world, your website is the equivalent of your business card, but with much farther reach. Depending on the industry, up to 81% of clients check out a business’ website before purchasing anything from the business. If your business has no website, you are missing out on opportunities to reach new clients that you could never reach by word-of-mouth alone. Even word-of-mouth recommendations are more effective because you make your business easy to find when your clients and prospects go looking for you.

Your website is your chance to make a strong impression that you are a professional business which values quality. Consider this your chance to wear your nice business suit to a job interview with your prospective clients.

This type of site can be simple, but it needs to be done well. Here’s where you can skimp – site size. You don’t need a large site to make a good impression if the small site you have is done well. Here’s where you shouldn’t skimp – good design. Looks aren’t everything, but they do matter for a first impression. If your site is poorly designed or not mobile friendly, you’re likely to send the wrong message.

The Local Business Site

Do you have a local business whose market is in the real, not the online world? Use your site to amplify the reach of your real-world location.

  1. Your site can drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar location by providing the essential information to help visitors decide to call or stop by. While phone books used to be the main resource where customers found a business, they are nearly extinct now. Register your site in the online realm directories – Yelp, Google My Business, and Angie’s List, for example.
  2. Customers can compare businesses in seconds from the comfort of home. Consider how you stack up to your competitors’ sites. It is essential for this first impression to be competitive.
  3. Your lights might be off but your business doesn’t have to be.  A website never sleeps. It can attract interest even when your business isn’t open.
  4. Be where your customers are. 70% of US Households now use the internet when shopping locally for products and services according to LocalVox

Again, with this situation, it’s OK to start small, if you need to limit your investment. But don’t the skimp on platform. Go with a quality WordPress-based site now and save yourself the headaches later. Choosing a DIY site-builder at this stage of business is guaranteed to cause issues – like finding out that you can’t add a key new feature into your site: scheduling system, store, or payment processing.

The Marketing Platform Site

Maybe you’re a little more established, and you’ve got a marketing plan and budget. Here you need a website as a public forum to prove that you are the best in your field. A polished site with quality content can become a quotable source for an individual or media outlet looking for information. Creating shareable content presented in a professional manner can help turn your current clients into marketing agents. Need to rank on Google? This is the kind of site you want – content robust, thoughtful user experience, good calls-to-action.

This type of site has a long-term plan to show potential clients that you are a knowledgeable, trustworthy professional, winning their business is much easier. Also, when you get attention or awards through media such as Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, or even local news sites you need a website to funnel new clients directly to your business. Those venues have already done the most difficult part of recruiting new clients: identifying potential customers. It is essential to build the bridge that turns interested customers into happy clients.

A critical investment for this type of site is a blog: your pedestal for having an extended conversation with your online audience. Like the smaller site types, good infrastructure and design are also a given. Finally, you want to make sure that the site has the right start for performance – quality, scalable hosting. Imagine a day when your content goes viral and make a plan that allows your site to flex its resources to avoid a crash.

These are 3 of the most common business sites we see. We work with business owners to help guide them to understand where and how to invest in their online presence. Want to learn more? Contact us today to learn about our packages and custom offerings.

Marketing plan mistakes you can avoid, and how.

Effective sales and marketing plan has both short AND long-term strategies in place. Short-term marketing efforts can help give your business the infusions of cash it needs to run. But to be truly successful, you also need to start sowing the seeds of your long-term marketing plan.  A quality website is a key part of that long term plan. Here are some of the top mistakes we see when it comes to your long-term marketing strategy.

#1 | “What longterm marketing plan?”

Seems fairly obvious that we should all have one, right? But we’re humans and we often make decisions that aren’t based on logic. Why yes, I will have that third doughnut. No, it’s fine. I can start my exercise plan tomorrow. Usually, these decisions aren’t intentioned. We plan to be strategic someday. But we don’t sit down and make that strategic plan. And that lack of plan can be ultimately fatal for our marketing efforts.

“The world is becoming more inbound. It’s growing more authentic, less interruptive.”

Hubspot’s State of Inbound, 2016

Think about it from your own experience. Why did you make your last major purchase? Was it because someone called you during dinner and finally convinced you that today was the day you needed to buy that thing? Or was it brand loyalty? Was it that you’d been looking for a while, and you were finally ready?

The landscape of reaching your customer is always changing. But one of the biggest changes in a decade is the rise of inbound marketing. Moving from a mentality of cold calling and paid advertising to an approach where you develop a position of expertise to attract an audience. Then you stay in touch with that audience. Then you’ve already got their loyalty by the time they are ready to buy.

We build the website foundation for your inbound marketing efforts. In that process, we help you clarify your vision – whether that’s drilling down on your target audience or clarifying the way you communicate your product message.

#2 | Efforts without strategy

“I have been doing things for well over a year and I haven’t seen any return. Marketing must be a waste of time/money/both.”  

Making an effort without putting a strategy behind it is arguably just as bad as making no effort. Your time is valuable.

From the get-go, we ask questions to start honing your strategy. We put data tracking in place to help you learn more about how that strategy is working on your site. We help you analyze that data to identify the right fit for your specific situation.

#3 | Making big efforts instead of small, consistent ones.

This is an easy trap to fall into. Everyone starts January with high expectations, right? But consistency is what helps you stay in front of your customers, so you’re ready when they are.

Just because it looks consistent on the outside doesn’t mean it has to be consistent on the inside. Especially if you are a small business, it can be a struggle to do something on a regular basis. We can help set up automation and schedules on your site. What looks like regular TLC is actually a single, focused effort that set you up for months to come. Or we can apply regular content TLC to your site for you. We offer blog management content that’s engaging and original.

#4 | Expecting results without time or effort

Lots of people expect that one minute they’re launching their site, and the next minute the lead harvest is rolling in! Or, they plant that site, and never do anything to it ever again and – voila, it’s producing something useful. No. In the real world, if you do that, you’re growing compost & disappointment. That’s it.

Mistaking your website for a short term strategy means that you’re definitely going to get discouraged and give up before you see results.

We help you set realistic site expectations & goals, based on experience working with a variety of business owners. We can save you time and money by steering you away from ineffective or misleading promotion strategies.

#5 | Not diversifying

“The only marketing that works is (word of mouth/networking groups/pay-per-click/etc.)”

It doesn’t feel like a mistake. You’re probably partially right. But how many people do you know that are still saying: the only marketing that works is the Town Crier? Or even: placing a newspaper ad? Especially when it comes to your long-term strategy, it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. These strategies take time, and it only takes one disruptive event to render some strategies completely useless.

When we build a site, we invest in quality infrastructure. We don’t cut corners where you’ll never know any better. We consider marketing strategy, digital strategy, business goals, design, and technology infrastructure. So that when the time comes to change directions, your site is ready to handle that.

Feeling lost? Marketing isn’t your thing anyway? Contact us today. We can help you lay the foundation for your future success.

Design your website to grow your business.

This past Saturday, we were live on 740 AM KVOR on the show Our Town Stars. Did you miss it? You can listen to the podcast here.

We design your website to help earn you new and repeat business. What’s the secret sauce? There are 5 important elements to a successful website, but the main premise is this: think of your website as if it were a sales employee in your business.


Set goals for your site

A savvy business owner would not hire an employee and then give them nothing to do, or even unclear objectives. The best managers give clear, achievable goals for employees, and the same should be set for your new site. Determine 2-3 very specific goals for your website, and then make those goals clear throughout.

Design your website to be scanned.

We love to read. But our experience with the online realm tells us that the online reading experience is much more about effective scanning than dense reading. So design your website to help your site visitor quickly absorb information by:

  • Using lists and/or infographics to quickly call out key details.
  • Using call-to-action bars, sliders, or sidebars to emphasize your site conversion goals.
  • Valuing page space in descending order: Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right. Put critical information closer to the top left.
  • Making a page for every service. This will help site visitors quickly find key information about your business, whether humans or search engine bots.

Great sales employees understand how to efficiently connect customers with the product or service that best fits. Similarly, good design in your website helps it actively guide your site visitors to find what they need as quickly as possible.

Design your website for business growth.

Give your website the resources it needs.

The best and most dedicated sales employee can only do as well as resources allow. While a website could be expected to handle several hundred customers at once, even sites have limits based on your hosting. Give your site the hosting resources it needs. Don’t put a video-heavy site on budget hosting. We work with a local partner, 9th Node Networks, to match each site we design to that just-right level of hosting resources.

Create an ongoing development plan.

Even an excellent salesperson benefits from long-term development. Put a plan in place to keep your website evolving. Not only does this help with search engine ranking, but it also helps you keep an ongoing conversation with your audience and stay in touch with existing customers. Good results do not happen overnight – not with people, not with websites. Give your site time to start working for you, and if need be…

Evaluate and adapt.

Over the course of time, adapt your website for what is working and not. Make sure you have site analytics so you can see traffic patterns on your site. See where you lose visitors on your conversion pages and adapt according to what the data tells you. Fire your website if it doesn’t do its job. Hire additional websites, like custom landing pages. Stay in regular touch with your analytics system so that you understand how best to change your site to respond to how customers interact.

Key Takeaways

Don’t treat your website like a giant online brochure. Treat it like your newest sales employee. Train your site to be effective in representing your business and earning you new and repeat business by following these five steps: set goals, use design effectively, provide adequate resources, make a longterm plan, and evaluate and adapt.