Web design is more technical than beauty

Helen owns a wedding venue a few minutes’ drive outside town. She got herself a website for the venue.

The website was designed by a website designer who focuses on creating search engine friendly websites. It wasn’t excitingly visual but had lots of text and info about the venue and her services.

Helen used only her website and word-of-mouth to promote her wedding venue.

She created a Facebook Page and Twitter profile but never actually used it. She did not use any other social media platforms. Her website was not managed actively as Helen did not have the money to pay for regular updates.

Although her website was designed for her to update herself, Helen could never find the time to do it, and, in any case, she was not “technically inclined”. Searches for “wedding venues around (her city)” returned a Google search engine results page (SERP) with Helen’s website on the first page. A search for her venue’s name, returned a SERP with Helen’s website at the top and six pages of her site listed below that, known as the “7-pack”

After two years, Helen decided that her website was of no benefit to her.

She said the reason was that the website was not beautiful enough. She contracted a graphic design company who designed her a whole new website. The new website had a big photo of a bride and smaller photos of the venue. One has to click on the photo to enter the site. It is indeed a nice website.

But now, when one searches the name of her website, Google shows only one entry to Helen’s website. All other references to her wedding venue are from free directories and other websites not related to Helen. The search result that shows Helen’s website, shows the name and below the name, it shows a copyright notice. There is no 7-pack.

Searches for “wedding venues around (her city)” returns a Google SERP without Helen’s wedding venue on the first page. Her venue now appears on the second page of the SERPS. (Helen does not know that 75% of searchers do not turn over to the second page of the SERPS).

What happened?

I can only express my views based on what we experience in our market, which mainly consists of small and medium sized businesses in small towns, run mostly by the owners themselves.

In the beginning, when the Internet was still young – and not so clever yet – a business owner had a website designed by a graphic designer – the only people who actually did designs. The website was then “put on the Internet” to wait for someone to stumble across it and make contact with the business.

Nice looking static websites with many bells and whistles and shiny things (and sometimes even sounds) was the way in which to impress potential clients. Mostly, websites were magazine and newspaper designs that were transplanted onto the Web. Small business owners were more impressed by bells and whistles than by providing information to their potential clients. It seems not much has changed.

In our business, I interact with small business owners about marketing, social media and websites. And in more cases than not, I am confronted by the need of business owners to have a “nice” website that “people will like” and, together with that, the expectation that the website will create business where there were none.

We often get business owners who want a website to be designed and delivered “urgently” because the business is in trouble. Usually, after a month, they complain that the website does not get them any business.

Business owners are uninformed about advances in the design of websites. It may be because managing their businesses takes up all their time. It may also be that they are still stuck in the past when newspaper and other advertising reps visited them to collect the material – usually the new flyer or brochure – for the next edition. That is the good old days when return on their investment was not really measured because advertising was something that all businesses did habitually. The group must be right.

How do website designers serve their small business clients best?

Education is obviously the only way in which to fight ignorance, but the web design industry is itself to a large extent still divided into two groups, namely “designers” and “technical people”.

The designers make “nice sites that are good to look at”. The programmers make “functional sites that can be found on the search engines”. It is important that the two talk to each other to the advantage of their clients .

And the clients?

valuable content

All web designers, and their sales people, should educate clients in what is needed for a website to perform to the business’ best advantage. Clients should be exposed to the meaning of technical terms which are the daily language of the designer. Terms such as:

user intent

how search work on the Internet and that a search for a business’ name does not prove good optimization

keyterms

search engine optimization

responsive design

links

author authority

image optimisation

user friendly layout

local search

analytics

anything related to the 200+ ranking factors used by Google.

Clients should take responsibility for their marketing, of which a website is the centre, and either spend the money (on a service provider) or the time (themselves), to ensure that their websites become what is needed for their business.

The client should question everything the designer did on the website, so she will know exactly what the role of each feature is in driving clients to her business.

Also, the website owner should understand that Google (and other search engines) are not out to please him, but to please the visitors who search for information.