I’m going to start something new today. I’m going to answer the marketing questions you, and the rest of the SizzleForce community, send me. That said, what’s troubling you when it comes to marketing? What do you wish you knew more about? What have you heard but you want to confirm? Where are you stuck? I will be sharing answers to the questions I receive every Friday at noon PST via Facebook Live. Mark your calendar and join me here. To submit your questions, ask on the SizzleForce page, or send them to me via email or Facebook Messenger.
Today’s questions came from Sheri Painter. Sheri owns a company called Bird’s Eye Aerial and they do drone footage. How cool!
Sheri had some great questions about websites. She has a website right now; however, she is thinking about getting help with it in the next few months so she posed a few different questions to me. To answer her questions, today we’re going to talk about How To Save Thousands of Dollars and Countless Hours of Frustration When Designing Your New Website.
(Psst… Are you an auditory learner? If so, instead of reading this very long blog post, you can watch the replay of the Facebook Live where we discussed this topic.)
First, no matter where you’re at on your business journey, keep reading! This may be your first website if you’re brand new to business, or it may be a redesign because as your business grows and evolves and changes, you often have to change your website along with it. Regardless of where you’re at – experienced business owner or startup business owner – these are all very relevant questions that you need to be asking and getting the answers to before you pull out your wallet and give anybody even one little penny.
Next, let’s talk about website creation tools. There really are two big ones here that most people use:
- Wix – Those of you that are running smaller businesses may have your website on Wix. Honestly, there is a time and place for Wix and it is great when you’re doing something pretty basic, just getting started, don’t want to (or can’t) put out a lot of money and you just need something that’s “good enough.”
- WordPress – When you’re ready to really elevate your business, go to a new level, and get something that is unique to you, you need to get on WordPress. There are a lot of other CMS options out there but my personal preference is WordPress. It’s what I use with all my clients because it’s is so easy to use. Any basic changes you need to make as a small business owner are easy in WordPress. You can update prices, change a few words, or swap out a picture without needing to know any code. On the flipside, when you need your website to perform at a much higher level and you need it to have advanced functionality, you can bring in a developer and they can do just about anything you can imagine with a WordPress website. You would be amazed how many enormous brands that you’ve heard of, have WordPress websites. It is the industry leader for a reason.
OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig into Sheri’s questions:
Question 1: When is the best time to invest in bringing someone on to rehab my site?
It can be difficult to know the answer to this question because, as a small business owners, there’s always a million things pulling at us. It’s not just me, right? There’s a million priorities pulling at our lives in general, our business to-do list is usually very long, and our marketing list is often even longer than that. That makes it hard to know when the right time really is to go ahead and invest the money and take the action necessary to get some professional help with your website.
I think there are five signs that indicate it’s time to redesign your website:
- You’re not getting results from your website. If your website is just occupying space on the internet, without actually bringing in any business, that’s a waste of time, money, and internet space.
- Your site is attracting the wrong people. Maybe you’re getting traffic to your website but it’s all the wrong traffic. It’s possible you’re attracting a lot of spammers, or just a lot of people that love your content and love what you do but will never actually buy anything. Neither of those groups of people are the people you want to be attracting if your goal is to make money. Remember, that’s why you’re in business. As much as I know you love helping people, you can do that in a volunteer capacity. You have a business so you can make money doing what you love.
- Things aren’t working anymore. Maybe your site is outdated, or maybe your plugins have suddenly stopped working nicely together. If you designed your website five years ago, or even two years ago, you should not expect it to continue performing at the same level it did when it first went live, unless you’re investing a significant amount of time and/or money into upgrades, updates, and ongoing maintenance. Technology simply moves too fast. If you want your website to perform for you, and you want to maintain your competitive edge, you must keep up with technology.
- You’re embarrassed by your website. If this is you, you know what I’m talking about. Have you ever been to a networking group or a meeting and someone asks you for your website and you start making excuses? “Here’s the website but don’t look now because we’re in the middle of a redesign” or “It’s not really a good representation of our brand so it’s better if you just call me.” This is a really good sign it’s time to redesign your website.
- Your competitors look better than you do on the internet. If your competition looks better than you, chances are they’re attracting a lot of the clients that you’re losing and that stinks! And there’s no reason for that because I believe many of you have a much better product or service than your competitors do. But if your website doesn’t reflect that, it’s time for a redesign.
Question 2: When is it time to get help maintaining my site?
This is a great question! First, let’s talk about the maintenance itself. One of the biggest mistakes that people make with their website is thinking that it’s kind of like “set it and forget it.” It’s like it’s a crock-pot, they think they can do the work once and then be done with it and go focus on other things. That is absolutely not true and honestly this is something that creates a lot of problems for a lot of business owners. You absolutely need to maintain your website. A lot of developers have created website maintenance plans, where you pay a monthly fee and they go in every month and do all the backend stuff that the rest of us don’t want to know about. They update plugins and make sure that plugins are playing nicely together and a ton of other stuff that I couldn’t even begin to describe to you. In my world, this expense is non-negotiable. I pay my developer around $50/month to maintain my website and that ensures my plugins are playing nicely, there are no conflicts, there’s nothing weird happening. And weird things definitely happen. There was a time when I was working on a client’s website and because it was not maintained, one day we popped on the site to do some work only to find out that it had been taken over by Albanian hackers. Now how did I know they were Albanian? Because they told us. They had removed our homepage and replaced it with this:
If you are not maintaining your website, the Albanian hackers might come for you too. You might think I’m being paranoid. And there may be a little truth to that. However, Albanian hackers have a way of changing people. Hackers are everywhere. In fact, if you weren’t aware of this, just this past July there was a hacker convention in Las Vegas – I happened to be there at the same time. It’s called Blackhat and 25,000 hackers from all over the world flew into Vegas to learn how to hack better. Some of them are the good guys, helping the FBI or other agencies. But some of them are the not so good guys. Let me emphasize this again – if you’re not maintaining your website, you are putting yourself at very high risk for getting hacked and it is horrible when that happens.
Have I made my point? You need to maintain your website. Now you have two choices: you can do it yourself, or you can pay someone to do it for you. The biggest sign it’s time to hire someone to maintain your site is when you don’t know what you’re doing anymore. Let’s be honest, most of us are not coders. Maybe we know some WordPress basics, but if something goes really wrong or you need to really elevate your functionality in some way, your hands are tied. You don’t know how to fix it and you don’t know how to make the site do what you need it to do. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s a good sign it’s time to hire a professional to help you maintain your site. The developer that I usually recommend for this is the same guy that does the monthly maintenance on my site. He has an add-on fee so whether you just need monthly maintenance or you need some new functionality, he can go in and add stuff on ahead of time instead of waiting until the worst happens and your site stops functioning or completely falls apart. If you want his contact info I’d be happy to send it to you, so please let me know.
Question 3: How do I find the right person to design my site?
This is a big question because these days, there is Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, and so many other “Do It Yourself” options. Everybody and their brother thinks they’re a website developer. It can be really hard to find help from someone that has the experience, track record, and pricing you need. When Sheri asked me this question, she told me she was looking for someone “with aviation military tech experience along with awesome design and web skills.” Whew! That’s a tall order. Truth be told, I don’t know if she’ll actually find someone like that. Let’s push the “aviation military tech experience” request aside and focus on the second part of the question instead, where she says she wants somebody with awesome design and web skills. This is another tall order. Surprised? Don’t be! Typically really good developers are not really good designers. You can buy a theme on WordPress and fill in the blanks, so to speak. However, if you want any customization outside of the theme capabilities, you’ll need to bring in a designer. You need a designer that is able to showcase your brand and show off your strengths in a way that’s going to captivate your target market and keep your existing audience intrigued with your website. The point here is that it’s very difficult to find a developer that is also a great designer so keep that in mind.
I typically have three people on a website development team:
- The developer – the master of code. This is somebody that knows code inside and out.
- The designer – this person may know a little bit about WordPress but they can’t touch what the developer knows. What they can do, is design like a rockstar. They can do visual storytelling that would blow your mind.
- The copywriter – some people call this person a content developer. This is the person that writes everything on your website, from the paragraphs of copy to your call-to-action buttons, and everything in between.
I highly recommend that you create a website development team. A lot of developers, copywriters and graphic designers have their own teams. Especially the more experienced people, those of us that do this for a living, we typically have our preferred resources. For example, if you work with my company, SizzleForce, I have a graphic designer and a developer that I have worked with on many projects. I already know and trust them, which means my clients don’t have to waste hours hunting for them. If you’re trying to redesign your website on a lower budget, you might have to assemble your own team and it might be a little bit more work for you, but it should be easier on your pocketbook.
I’ve got a screamin’ deal for you!
To help you in your search for the perfect website developer, I’ve put together a document that includes 45 questions you should ask before making a hiring decision. I know that may seem a little over the top but trust me, when you ask these questions up front, it will end up saving you thousands of dollars and countless hours of frustration because there will be very clear expectations up front and a very clear understanding of exactly what you need, when it’s going to be delivered, who is going to be responsible for what, etc.
In this document, I break down the questions into 12 categories:
- The team
- Domain name/hosting
If you want to grab this list of questions, go to Sizzleforce Marketing Club and join the Club. Sign up now and get 30 days of access for $47! You’ll be able to grab all these questions, plus a bunch of other great trainings!
When it comes to website design, the truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. But if you get these questions, it will enlighten you and you’ll be able to ask educated questions and whoever you do end up bringing onto your team will know that you know what you’re talking about (or at least you sound like you do because you asked all the right questions). This is going to prevent so many problems for you, I promise!
Question 4: What kind of results should we expect during the design process?
When your website is being designed, there are three main things you should expect:
- You should get everything in your contract. Make sure you have an extremely detailed contract. You want a contract that has explicit details on exactly how many plugins they’ll install and test, what functionality they’ll set up for you, what timeline you’re trying to work with, who is doing the development, who is doing the design, who’s writing the content, and so many other things. I know contracts aren’t fun. I don’t like the legal end of stuff at all but if we take the legal part out of it and we just make it about making sure everybody gets what they want and need, everybody is happier. Lay out clear expectations so that your development team – which includes the copyrighter, the designer, and the developer – knows exactly what they need to do in order to meet or exceed those expectations, and you know exactly what your deliverables are going to be in exchange for the hard-earned money that you pay them.
- Deadlines will change. If you go in with the expectation that you’ll be finished on a certain day, at a certain time, you will probably end up disappointed. Things change and sometimes (often), things change 30 seconds before you’re supposed to go live. You need to be flexible. Leave space for things to go wrong. If your site absolutely has to be done in 5 months, set a deadline for 4 months out, so you have plenty of time to work out and issues or bugs that come up (because they will).
- Most development teams will not write your copy. Some teams have a copywriter on their team but most don’t, which means you need to be prepared to either write your own copy or to hire a professional copywriter like me. Content development is often the biggest holdup in bringing websites live. If you’re not a professional copywriter, you may think that because you got an A in your college English class, you can write your own copy. If you take nothing else away from this article, take this: writing copy that converts on the web is different. It requires a very unique skill set. I’ve spent 20 years honing these skills. It’s not something you can learn from a quick YouTube video or blog post. That said, if you are not trained to do this well, you really ought to invest in professional copywriting services. If you choose to do it yourself, be prepared to spend a ton of time on it. Also be prepared to be disappointed when you don’t get the results you’re shooting for.
I know some of this isn’t what you want to hear, but I would be doing you a disservice if I painted a website design picture that was all rainbows and unicorns. Ask any experienced (and honest) member of a development team, and they’ll tell you, things will go wrong. There will be delays. And revisions will be needed. It’s just the nature of this business. The good news is, when you allow cushion time in the schedule, everything can be fixed before your prospects and customers see it.
Question 5: What kind of results should we expect after the design is finished?
I’m going to lead us right back to where we started. At the beginning of this blog we talked about when the best time is to bring in a professional for help. On the flipside, when everything is done – you’ve gotten exactly what you wanted, all of your expectations are met – these are the things you should see:
- Your website is getting results
- It’s attracting the right people
- Everything is working the way that it needs to be working
- You’re really excited to share your link because you’re very proud of your website and you feel like it represents your brand beautifully
- You look like you have a competitive edge. Your competitors are no longer out shadowing you, you really look as awesome as you are.
Question 6: Is there anything I’m not asking here that I should be asking?
Yes! I have a Website Strategy Worksheet you need. You’ll find it in SizzleForce Marketing Club which again, you can join today for just $47! This worksheet is accompanied by a full video training where I walk you through how to create your own website strategy. It helps you create a crystal clear picture of the website you both need, and want. And it leaves no stone unturned. If you go into website design without a strategy you’re probably going to end up disappointed. It’s probably not going to take too long after you go live for you to realize that the site you ended up with is just not what you wanted it to be, for whatever reason. And that would be a tragedy. Agreed?
In addition to getting the Website Strategy and Questions to Ask Before You Hire Your Website Designer, you’ll also get access to a bunch of other amazing stuff. There’s actually 16 courses in the club right now, and we’re regularly adding new content. There are super helpful worksheets and templates that I’ve developed over my 20+ year career in marketing. This is the same material I use with my private clients; however, when I work with people one-on-one it costs a lot more money. SizzleForce Marketing Club allows me to help more people for less money.
Remember, when you’re hiring a website designer, do your homework first, get your strategy done, and get the questions you need to know before you hire anybody to help you; because without those questions you’re probably going to run into some problems that will really aggravate you and I don’t want to see that happen. I want you to be able to get exactly what you’re looking for and more. I want you to work with a development team that is going to take great care of you so that when you’re all done you’re singing their praises and shouting out referrals.
Not sure if your website is making a good first impression? We’re here to help! Schedule a call to talk to us about what steps you’d like to take to grow your business.