When you think web design, do you think images, colors, layout – that sort of thing? It’s easy to get caught up believing that web design is only about your site’s form. It’s not. A site’s design also has a major impact on its function, navigation, performance, marketing potential and overall effectiveness as a lead-generating machine.
More and more business owners are realizing this, which is why they’re turning to web design professionals for their own site. That’s because an experienced web designer is more than just a designer – they’re an integral part of your digital marketing team.
Your site needs a talented designer behind it, and you’ll often find those designers working as part of a larger digital marketing team. If you’re on the hunt for a web designer or a full digital marketing agency, here’s nine things to look for:
- A collaborative approach
- They aren’t just a web designer
- A focus on SEO and conversions
- They know local
- They’ve been around for a while
- Experience in several industries
- A strategy-oriented mindset
- Modern CMS utilization
- Long-term outlook and partnership
We’ll go over each one in greater depth below, but a successful web design and marketing firm should be able to tick all of the above boxes.
How important is web design for digital marketing purposes?
The goal of digital marketing is to maximize your site’s visibility and ability to convert traffic. Those are big goals and web design is a big part of any digital marketing strategy. That’s because web design has an impact on nearly every other part of your digital marketing efforts. For example, web design will affect the following:
- SEO potential – There’s a tight connection between website design, navigation and usability. Your designer will have a big say (maybe THE say) on how users move through your site, and that has a major impact on the user experience (UX).
The better your UX, the better your SEO. The better your SEO, the better your rankings. Google prefers sites that prioritize UX and the search engine giant measures that by checking metrics like bounce rate and click-through rates on internal linking and site navigation. To an extent, how long users remain on your site has to do with the quality and intuitiveness of your site’s design.
- Site performance – How fast your site loads and how fast it responds to user input are also major indicators of UX. Bounce rates rise astronomically if a site’s loading speed increases by just a few seconds.
Google has also targeted site performance in recent algorithm updates, with the Core Vitals update deserving special mention. In that update, Google made it clear that it will start boosting sites that load quickly and in a stable way. In this context, “stable” means visual elements don’t jump around the page as they load in.
Your site’s design will affect its performance, as colors, layout and typography all add to the load your site has to load. It may not be wise to choose the fancy, animation-and-image-rich design over one that works faster, then.
- Content marketing – Content is critical to digital marketing success – that’s something every web marketer can agree on. Web designers decide how that content is presented, and that has a big influence on how your content is perceived.
Even something as simple as leading (the space between lines) can alter the impression your site’s content makes. Professional design sells your site’s content as professional, and that drives better rankings. Google is always looking to promote industry experts, and while that sounds like a content-only problem, there’s no denying that a clean-looking design supports content marketing goals.
Your site’s design has an impact in every aspect of your site’s function and performance. A talented web design firm is worth finding, then, so let’s take a closer look at the nine things to target when searching for one.
A collaborative approach with their clients
Marketing is never a one-team effort, and that includes digital marketing. In every professional marketing partnership, there’s the marketer and the client, both of whom bring important insight to the table.
Your web designer being a critical member of your digital marketing team, they should be prepared to work with you during the design process. After all, it’s your company – no one understands its mission and messaging better than you. Your site’s design should reinforce those ideas, not clash with them. It’s essential, then, that you pick a web designer who works collaboratively from the jump.
Experienced digital marketing firms do this and will set up needs analysis meetings before anything is built. That’s because it’s far easier to establish design principles early on through collaboration, rather than alter the design after pages are already built.
A web designer that offers more than just web design
A good web designer is valuable. A good web services firm is even more valuable. Effective web design is essential for effective digital marketing, but it’s one part of the job.
You’ll need strong development, content and marketing tactics to get your site up the rankings, and those elements work best when they are packaged with the site’s design. If design is mapped out in tandem with other web services, it will be far easier to get your marketing efforts off the ground.
With so many pieces to fit together, it’s important to select a designer who isn’t just a designer. Ideally, they are part of a larger web team that can do it all. If you’ve got a web team who can handle site development, design, hosting, optimization, content and marketing, then you go from start to finish on your site. You’ll also ensure that everything on your site is working together properly.
Extra attention is given to SEO and conversions
Of course you want your site to look nice, but don’t focus on appearance too much. All other things being equal, a good-looking website will outperform one that’s less flashy, but clean content presentation, intuitive navigation and strong site performance will beat flash any day.
It’s all about the user experience, and user experience doesn’t have much to do with aesthetics. You’re using web design to influence people who land on your site. Click here, go there, check out this product, punch in your e-mail address – those are the kind of returns you want from your web design. It’s far less important to wow visitors with your design. That just doesn’t garner the favorable UX metrics (like bounce rate) and conversions that business sites are looking for.
Some of the most successful business and e-commerce sites look very basic, but it works for them. That’s because they don’t get in the way of their own messaging with loud design. The web designer you choose should understand and accept this, so they worry about SEO and conversions first, aesthetics last.
They have experience executing local digital marketing strategies
There are significant differences between national and local digital marketing tactics, and the designer you choose should understand this.
National digital marketing campaigns operate at a large scale, while local digital marketing works to establish a business as a local presence. To emphasize one or the other, digital marketing experts have to tweak their own strategies to ensure your site is ranking in the markets it should.
Whether it’s for a local or national brand, the web design approach will be mostly the same. However, if you expect your brand to eventually compete at the national level, then your site should be built with scalability in mind. That means focusing on optimization and using web design techniques that synergize well with national SEO tactics.
A long run of success in their field
Web designers come and go, but you’ll want one that’s been around for a while. Web design is an accessible field that just about anyone can pursue if they’re driven enough, but that comes with potential downside for businesses. How do you know if a particular designer is qualified to handle your site?
Experience is always relevant, but what’s more important is whether that designer’s past clients have succeeded with their site. A run of success with previous clients is a major point in the designer’s favor, as it’s extremely difficult to “fake” effective web design. If the designer doesn’t know what they’re doing, that will be reflected in a less-than-impressive client portfolio. So, ask for references or at least a portfolio of the designer’s previous work.
Plenty of experience with all kinds of clients
Yes, experience and previous successes are good signs, but you know what’s even better? Experience and success with a variety of clients. If you pick a designer that’s only experienced in a single industry, they may not know how to adapt their skills to your project. There’s a big difference between a local restaurant and a global energy firm, for example, and the same design approach won’t work for both.
Even if the designer you choose is solely focused on the industry you operate in, that may not work in your site’s favor. Sure, they won’t have trouble understanding what your company does, but they may be more likely to rely on what’s worked in the past, instead of what works now.
The most successful web designers are the most adaptable, and a varied client list forces designers to keep their methods up to date.
A strategy-oriented approach to digital marketing
A sure way to fumble your digital marketing is to go in without a plan. Again, with so many moving parts under your site’s hood, your designer should respect the entire web-building process and not just their part.
Web design is incorporated into a larger digital marketing strategy, which means your web design will also require a strategic approach. Does the top navigation include your highest value pages? Does the color scheme line up with your brand’s tone? Can every page accommodate enough content to drive your SEO? These are the kind of questions your designer should know before they make wholesale changes to your site’s appearance and structure.
They utilize a modern content management system
Modern content management systems (CMSs) make site management far easier, so it’s no surprise that the vast majority of business websites utilize a CMS to some extent.
Among them, WordPress is the most popular, with almost half of the entire web running on it. That’s a lot of brands relying on WP for their online presence, and it’s likely that your site will also require a CMS in the background.
The designer you choose should be familiar with WordPress or another similar CMS, so when their job is done, you can upkeep your site with minimal outside help. You don’t want to pay a designer every time your site needs to switch out a single image, for instance.
A willingness to maintain a long-term partnership
Your designer should build your site for easy maintenance, but eventually, you’ll need them again when it’s time to make major updates or adjustments.
For example, your digital marketing efforts are paying off and people are arriving to your site in droves. However, they’re spending too much time on pages without calls-to-action (CTAs), limiting your conversion potential.
A web designer could take this information and reformat your navigation or add some internal links to nudge visitors in the right direction. These are relatively simple tasks for a web designer to pull off, but would be beyond the reach of most inexperienced site owners.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to establish a long-term professional relationship with your designer or web services firm of choice. That way, they’ll be on call when your digital marketing efforts need a fix here or there.
Web design is important, so don’t compromise on your designer
The impact of web design can’t be overemphasized. It makes the first impression, it drives better technical performance, it supports content, it helps Google crawl and index your site, it optimizes the user experience and your site’s conversion rates. If your website’s design isn’t supporting those goals now, then consider bringing in a professional to align your design with your digital marketing efforts.
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