The most important question you should NEVER be asked by your web designer

Heads up! This post was written when Metric Marketing was known as Canada's Web Shop.
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This article is Part 1 of a series on Strategic Web Design.
Watch for the rest of the articles in coming weeks, or contact us about web design.

The most important question you should NEVER be asked by your web designer:

"What do you want your site to look like?"

I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but nothing could be more true. Let me explain...

Begin With The End In Mind

Many businesses approach a web designer with a pretty clear idea established of what they want and how it should look. They know the colors they want, the look and feel, what pages should be included and what they want it to say. For many a designer, this is a dream come true. It makes for an easy design process (and more profit for the designer).

However.... You shouldn't be worrying about what color your website should be, what fonts are being used or what the graphics look like. Honestly, you shouldn't even care.

Cute or effective?

It doesn't matter how cute your site is if it isn't effective.

What you think your website should look like should be the last thing on your mind. (And, coincidentally, being asked this question by the person designing your website is a perfect indicator that you aren't going to get what you need.)

What should be on your mind is running a profitable business.

If your web design company is worth their weight in salt, they will ask you far more questions about your business, your customers and what makes you profitable than they ever will about what you think your site should be. (More on this in part 3)

The absolute most important question that you should ask in the website design process should also be the first one: Why? What is the purpose of you having a website in the first place? (Note: there is no one-size-fits-all answer here.)

If a client tells me what they want their site to look like, I ask: "Why?"
If a client tells me they want to see a certain font or color, I ask: "Why?"
If a client tells me how they want to see certain graphics used, I ask: "Why?"

It's the same response that you'll get from Tony Robbins if you tell him that you want to be rich: "Why?" (He'll say: "It isn't the money you're looking for, it's what you believe the money will bring you.")

You shouldn't care what your site looks like, but how it performs. (I'll explain more in part 2)

It's what the site does for you that answers the "Why?"

Isn't "Pretty" Important?

"But," you may be asking, "isn't what a website looks like an important indicator of how good it is?"

No. No it isn't.

At the very best, having an aesthetically pleasing website will be a by-product of good design, not the primary motive. Let me say this another way. Having a site that you think is "pretty" MAY be in your best interest, but not necessarily.

What makes a good website is that it helps your business reach its goals. In most businesses, this means sales.

Doesn't a "pretty" site do this? It can... but not always.

Sometime Pretty Isn't Enough

A colleague of mine recently spent $15,000 redesigning their website. The old one, which hadn't been touched in 10 years, was plain and boring. Once redesigned, it looked beautiful, sophisticated and impressive.

The only problem? It didn't work.

In the 90 days that followed, their site traffic dropped, conversions disappeared and sales plummeted. No changes had been made to the copywriting, title tags, or anything that could affect SEO - only the aesthetics. All told, in those 3 months, they lost nearly $2 million in sales.

Did they really want a nice new site like the one they designed? No. They thought they did, but what they really wanted was sales.

If you're spending good money on a website, it needs to do more than satisfy someone's design ego; it needs to provide a return on your investment. In short, it needs to make you money. (More about that in part 4.)

Making a website isn't about art, its about marketing. And marketing is about ROI - Return on Investment.

If your website isn't providing a return, it's a bad investment.

Ready for more? Check back next week for Part 2 of the Strategic Web Design series.

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