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The One Mistake Most Business Owners Make When Looking for a Web Designer

A while back, I got an inquiry from a web design ad I had placed locally. Henry was starting a distributorship business and needed a website. I wrapped up my current project and gave him a call. Turned out, I was the first to connect with him of the many web design service providers he’d contacted. But I wasn’t the last.

It also turned out that I wasn’t the least expensive…not anywhere close.

What Henry Needed

Henry specifically asked for a replica, content-wise, of the main company’s website. To do so would require at least 20 website pages. And, to compete properly in his particular industry, he would need strong design and call-to-action strategies to keep visitors interested.

Because of this, I told Henry the project would be somewhere to the tune of 60 hours of work. I wanted to make sure that if he put his money into building a website, it would serve his needs with precision. And that the website would last him a good long time.

But I wasn’t the only one quoting on Henry’s web design project.

The Big Quote

Henry’s neighbor offered to get him a great website from a design company overseas that’d he’d used for his own business. Because of his connections, this neighbor figured he could get a deal for Henry–– a $50k website that he’d only need to pay $20k for. A tremendous discount indeed!

The Tiny Quote

Another local advertising web designer added, even more, interest into the quote collection.

The local designer’s proposal read like a masterpiece. The proposed cost was handsomely low. It sounded like the deal of a lifetime. With this designer, it looked like a new website would only cost a few hundred dollars.

Little did Henry know, that nice low proposal was a common trap.

What a Deal, Right?

Henry sent me this other designer’s proposal because he was trying to work out in his mind the disparity in web design pricing he was experiencing.

So I went to work digging into the proposal to see what was going on.

The low priced designer’s website spoke of how he totally understood online marketing, was super careful in how he cared for his clients, and so on. Even I was impressed. I almost wanted to hire him myself.

But I didn’t stay impressed for long.

The designer had a portfolio of websites he’d built. The website designs were aged and ugly. They also had no calls to action. They were the type of websites that would make prospective customers jump to the back button in 0.05 seconds flat.

In the fine print, this designer had quoted for a 5-page website. There was no mention of how he’d handle all the necessary-for-the-business content in just 5 pages. He wouldn’t have been able to. On deeper inspection, the proposal actually offered a website design that was totally missing the mark on what Henry needed. It seemed the designer was trying to land a client, any client, and the lowball quote made doing so easy.

Henry didn’t see the fine print mention of just 5 pages. Henry didn’t see the aged look of the designer’s portfolio examples. Henry didn’t see the lack of proper calls to action. Henry didn’t realize that he’d have to pay this designer much more beyond the scope of the quote to get a website containing the content he needed.

Henry simply saw a professional sounding proposal. And, most strikingly, he saw a lovely low price.

Where the Trouble Started

I don’t believe Henry ever looked at the local designer’s website or portfolio. He saw his ad and contacted him. He figured that one web designer was about the same as another.

He’s not the only one thinking that way. I frequently have prospective clients call me wanting to know the cost of a website. I ask them what appealed to them in my portfolio, and I learn that they never visited my agency’s website. They saw my ad somewhere and they decide to call.

And this is a common mistake. A mistake that could mean disaster for your business. A mistake I’d like you to help you to avoid.

Price or Perks?

You see, a web design agency is not like an insurance agency. In insurance sales, everything one agency offers you is comparatively the same as the agency down the street. The only real difference is a perk here and there, or how enticing or awkward their salesman is.

With insurance, you can basically purchase by price or perks alone.

Hiring by price for your next web design project could be the worst business mistake you ever make.

Why? Because hiring a web design agency is different.

Setting the Stage

Before I explain why let me set the stage.

81% of shoppers conduct purchasing research online.

On average, consumers visit at least 3 online stores before making their purchase.

That means of all the potential customers out there, 81% visit 3 websites before they buy from you… or chose instead to buy from your competitor.


Convincing Buyers to Buy from You

How can you convince that 81% to buy from you?

Online, you only have a second to grab someone’s attention.
And during that second, people make snap judgments about you, your business, and your website. Before. They. Read. Your. Content. (SocialTriggers)

Drew Hendricks, from makes a pointed statement.

Are you under the impression that web design should be an isolated part of your marketing efforts? This is a myth that many companies believe, and it could be setting your business back in more ways than one. Web design, while certainly important from an aesthetic point of view, encompasses much more. From SEO and traffic to branding and conversion rates, your site’s web design affects your entire internet presence.

Why does design matter so much? It comes down to trust. In a review of a Trust and Mistrust website study by Elizabeth Sillence, we learn that the most surprising find was that design elements are far more powerful than content in terms of mistrust. When participants were asked to explain why they mistrusted a website, 94% of comments related directly to web design elements.

Design (or lack thereof) can make or break your online success potential.

The Three Types of Web Designers You Could Hire

The most common web designers you’ll find are people with great coding or programming skills. These so-called designers have zero design talent and absolutely no sense of proper messaging. Basically, they can build a perfectly functioning website that will kill conversions the moment your first visitor comes to your homepage.

Do you want to put out money, any money, for a website that greatly limits your selling potential? I didn’t think so.

The next most common web designers you’ll find are folks who can turn out something pretty, but it fails miserably on either the functionality side or the messaging side. These sites too will kill conversions. Content is the next key component to earning trust once you get past the visual aspect.

Chandler Turner made a significant statement when he said:

Great graphics will grab attention faster than words, just as bad design will repel attention faster than words. The human brain is set up do process visual information faster than anything else – as little as 1/50,000 second.

But when that flash ends – and it does end – what does the person searching want? They want substance. They want a reason to participate in the offers. They need to find a value proposition.

Web designers all have different strengths. Some are excellent with programming. Some are superb copywriters. Others excel at look and feel. Still others are best at selling their services.

I’ve been told by one of the oldest SEO companies in the world that there are a comparatively rare few small business web designers that have gifts in all these areas. And I can guarantee you won’t find these true specialists by simply seeing their ad or talking with them on the phone.

And, unless you are running a Fortune 500 company, you likely won’t be able to hire the best at everything., for example, cost hundreds of thousands to design and build. And it costs over $5 million annually to maintain and manage. Most likely, your business won’t be spending that amount for your online presence.

Starting the Quote Hunt Right

However, it IS possible to find talented designers that can also build functional, well-messaged websites. To find that talented designer that can make your business give the right impression online, here’s what you must do.

You must visit their website. You must view their portfolio. And, you must compare the portfolios. (If you don’t have a design eye, comparing portfolios side-by-side can help you see the differences.)

Resist the temptation to price shop first. Pre-approve web designers first by their portfolios.

  • Do they design with modern styles that will appeal to your target market?
  • Can you tell immediately what their clients’ websites sell or offer?
  • Do their clients’ websites entice you to learn more and buy?
  • Do they provide appropriate calls to action?
  • Is it simple to find the information a visitor might want inside their client’s websites?
  • When you visit their clients’ websites, do YOU trust them? Would YOU want to do business with that company?

If you can answer yes to at least 5 of the questions above, then that designer should go onto your “get-a-quote-from-them” list.

Remember, only once you’ve seen the respective work of the designers you are considering should you ask for a quote.

(Expect the quotes to vary depending on agency size, overhead costs, and other factors. You might prefer to work with an agency that has account managers, project managers, creative directors, lead designers, programmers, and development assistant staff. Just know they all must be paid–by you. Quotes from such agencies may be similar to a smaller 1-2 person agency, but you’re going to get a different type of service experience.)

In Conclusion

Getting a quote from a functionality-only web designer can ruin your profit potential in the long run. This is one time when bargain hunting can be trap-springing instead.

Here is my final advice.

Shop first by talent. Then by personality. And then by price. It may sound cliche’, but proper web design doesn’t cost. It pays.

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Kama Wilson

Kama Wilson

Kama Wilson is a design strategist. Her unexpected 8-year background in internet marketing spills over into her design and strategy work giving her a unique, intuitive edge that her web design clients welcome.

Successful people do what everyone else won't dare to do. Don't wish it were easier; make yourself better.