Bad web design – we are the problem

I know that one or two regular readers think that I’ve got it in for web designers. That’s not true. What irritates me is unnecessarily bad web design – a different thing.

I think that nearly all good web designers know what a good website needs. Unfortunately, they’re in a price-driven market where the buyers are ill-informed. We all know where that ends up. The best way for them to stay in business is to provide something which looks good, quickly.

Ask any web designer how many detailed briefs they receive about what prospects want from their website, and the answer will be very few. Normally they get something like: “We need a more modern looking website… something to do with mobile… the option to add an online store… corporate colours… blah blah…”

The designer can then do one of two things. They can take a nice-looking template which has impressed clients before, and return it with different logo, colours and images in place and a quote for £5,000. This they know works. Or they can put forward a thorough proposal, attempting to explain all the difficult stuff, knowing that do all this is going to require a quote for £10,000.

The client normally has to sell the project to a managing director or board. The £5,000 website looks the same as the £10,000 one from the outside, and the differences won’t be easy to explain. So the client nearly always goes for the cheaper one and an easier life. And that’s why it’s the only option which the designer normally offers.

When I get involved in ‘improving’ websites for clients, most of the scope for improvement turns out to be in areas which should have been done as part of the site design. Proper setup of website analytics, for example. Redirection of old pages. Decent on-page SEO. A structure which takes into account what users will want. Efficient code. Design for speed. A flexible template which adapts to each section. Optimised PDF documents. Proper landing pages. Integration with mailing lists. A focus on calls-to-action. Page-customised response mechanisms. And so on.

I often work with the original website designer to implement these. They’re usually quite capable of doing whatever’s necessary. But it’s the market’s fault that they didn’t do this from the start – not theirs.

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