Should You Expect More From Your Web Designer?

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I've worked with a lot of companies over the past eight years – designing websites, developing tools, and looking through a lot of analytics. Heck, maybe you’re one of them. If you are, you know that Astuteo delivers a solid product when it’s all said and done. Along the way, we offer up any suggestions we have for keeping your momentum going.

The problem is, a website overhaul and a search engine optimization only go so far. This year’s 40% boost in traffic begins to settle back down when you move on to the next project on your to-do list. Digital marketing is deceiving that way. When magazines get thrown in the trash, when billboards come down, when radio ads stop running, you notice the void. You don’t notice the lost potential of a website.

Ask me two years ago and I would have explained to you how we have it all under control: Astuteo will pitch you our recommendations on a regular basis, we'll agree on a plan, and we'll keep driving forward. But I’m the first to admit my mistakes – and what I failed to appreciate, really up until a few weeks ago, was just how big the smallest oversights can be.

Measuring success by the project instead of the results

Websites approached as assets, and measured as such, will deliver a cumulative and compounding return for your business. That beautiful redesign definitely makes a better impression on the visitors that find your site, but is it helping you get more visitors? Your website is easier to use, but now nobody is confused enough to pick up the phone and call your sales team for answers. Is your digital marketing getting better or worse? Too many businesses don’t measure what matters. And too many web designers see no reason to insist upon it.

Seeking out a contractor, not a consultant

Even though many contractors bring a consultative approach to their work, the relationship typically begins and ends with their technical expertise – design, development, SEO, etc. This leads to a mutual ignorance of sorts: Contractors aren't wrong in billing themselves as consultants, but most aren't in a position to provide the more comprehensive digital marketing strategy that a business really needs. Businesses, on the other hand, mistakenly assume that their web “consultant” has everything under control. This confusion results in a lot of websites drifting along without any concrete goals or specific targets. Aiming for nothing, in other words, and hitting it most every time.

Failing to capitalize on the investment in training

No company wants to deal with training a new employee only to have them leave six months later, but that's exactly what happens when a business invests in educating a contractor for a one-off web project. Even if the relationship continues intermittently with two or three follow-up projects, the natural tendency is to shift out of building and into maintenance mode. Less commitment, not enough focus, zero growth.

Expecting availability without a commitment

Good contractors are as guilty of promising their availability as businesses are of expecting it. Neither partner wants to lose the other, but both fail to accept that relationships take work. Or, in this case, steady work that pays. So what does commitment look like? This definition from Hubspot makes a lot of sense: “An annual (or multi-year) contract for a set scope of activities, performed at specific frequencies, that is designed to help the client achieve their business growth goals.” A plan of action goes a long way.

Believing your contractor will bring you their ideas

Unfortunately, I'm speaking from experience on this one. Even without setting time aside to think about strategy, good web designers will often have a ton of suggestions for any given client; they just don't have the time to pitch these smaller jobs when they're already very busy. And some things aren't easily sold. For example, spending a few hours combing through your analytics and making some key changes might make a significant difference two out of five times. The results are absolutely worth it, but the administration? Keep reading.

Letting your budget slow you down

If you believe your website is an asset, that it can reach more and more people every day, and that it can readily turn a growing percentage of those people into customers, then budget in support of what that requires: ongoing analysis, continual change, and creative execution. The problem with “per-project” agreements is that every minor improvement takes effort to uncover, effort to sell, effort to get approved, and effort to budget. And we haven’t even started the work yet. If you want to be more efficient and more effective, find a way to streamline this process.

Underestimating the opportunity to build a better partnership

I've never been interested in growth through quantity at Astuteo. The thought of hiring more designers and developers in order to serve two times, four times, or 10 times as many clients seems to miss the point. What I want to do is serve clients better. I want the opportunity to bring together specialized talent, deliver better quality work, and ultimately provide a greater return on investment. That means being closer and more involved, putting more focus into fewer websites, and working as an accountable extension of each business over the long term. This is not an unreasonable goal – and it’s a goal the best web designers should aspire to.

But maybe I’m being overly critical. The patterns described above are, after all, the patterns of successful companies working with successful contractors on successful projects. I guess it all depends on how we decide to measure success, and if we can agree to redefine it in the first place.