Have you, like ourselves, paid significant sums to get a new website built, only to find that your traffic drops off and you just don’t get as many live inquiries as before? Don’t blame the economy! Get wise about what is happening – or not happening – inside your website.
It’s been only recently that I woke up to the hard facts of website design and designers. The truth is: website design is not just a single job. It’s multiple specialized elements, and I have found that most individuals can only do one of two of them. Design companies often have a team, not just one person to create your site. I count at least six jobs: stylish design, code writing, image content production and optimization, blog content, PR copy writing, search engine optimization. And of course that elusive something we call impact and good taste.
As photographers and videographers we ought to have a considerable advantage by producing great content. But there’s a lot more to it than pretty pictures.
About two years ago (2 years!) we were ready to try anything. I mean anything, because our long awaited new site that had itself taken more than two years was an immediate bust as far as bringing in live inquiries. I had spent a lot of time carefully expressing and even making drawings for the designer detailing the appearance and style we’d like to have. I was full of frustration with unanswered phone calls and emails, silly delays, uncorrected spelling, etc. etc. At that time I didn’t know anything about SEO! Not even what the letters meant, nor that search engine optimization is the most important part of any site.
Here are some of my most outstanding stumbles on the rocky path toward understanding what websites are all about.
Our very first web designer wasn’t too bad style-wise, but limited us to 20 images and used very small type. The words were virtually illegible on the 15″ or smaller monitors of the time. The designer refused to enlarge the type; we told him to take down the website, and we lost all our money. Not a great beginning.
The next designer never actually got any site live. Scratch two.
I met a designer at a leads group I thought about joining. Five minutes into an informational meeting, however, we knew this man was no match at any price for our decades of experience, and what we consider innovative style in mixed media or Fusion imaging. Scratch three.
The web mistress of one of our video professional associations talks constantly about how great she is with WordPress. So we looked carefully at her work. ‘Nuf said; scratch four.
A dynamic speaker we very much enjoyed claimed his team was hot with Facebook, Linked In and WordPress. We made him a book trailer gratis ($1,500 value) with the informal agreement that he would “start us off right and easily create and finish” our website in exchange. Funniest thing – lots of unanswered email, phone requests and missed meetings later we knew we’d been stiffed. That’s five.
Our videographers group hosted a speaker talking about his web design business. I was all set to hire him following an in-person discussion that recognized the diverse elements of SEO. 45 days later I finally received his bid: $1,200 to start, times each of our sites, + SEO + maintenance! Completely open ended pricing. We’d have to pay for their expensive domain hosting, make all the initial stylistic design ourselves, and the person assigned to us would be off-shore. The promised “team” to handle all the different aspects of design had vanished. I would not be able to do much of any updates myself. Did I laugh or cry? Six major failures – but who’s counting?
My due diligence was plain exhausting. Of course, some of this was just unmasking bad business practices. I was particularly struck how no one we considered made any promise whatever about how long it might take. There was no up-front info about exactly how the business relationship might work, nor who or how imagery would be chosen and optimized for best appearance. Funniest thing that a photographer would want to be fussy about her images – and her husband’s digital cinema.
Don’t be duped into any of the pitfalls we narrowly avoided.
Next installment: the search for templates