Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Houston Website Designer Series monthly seminar, hosted by the Art Institute of Houston. Aaron Long, a VP here at Schipul, was one of the presenters alongside Bo Bothe from BrandExtract, Joe Robbins from Joe Robbins Photography, and Tom King with Forward Marketing.
The presenters each shared stories and tips from their past experiences working on website design projects with clients to an audience of Houston developers, designers, and design students. I gained new insight about how a design project can either go smoothly and stay within budget or go horribly wrong and become very costly solely on the basis of the types of conversations the agency or designer has with their clients throughout the project.
Designing a Website is Complicated
The process of building and designing a website is often more technical and time intensive than most people realize. There is also the added challenge that our clients want a website for marketing their products and services to generate new leads. This adds complex elements to the project to ensure proper branding, communication of the company and what you do, has calls to action and specific content for search engine marketing, plus custom development like a shopping cart for e-commerce, event registration, site login and permissions capabilities, etc.
Designing a complex website requires excellent 2-way communications between the client and the project managers and account executives. As in every industry, this presents a challenge sometimes. Lawyers struggle to explain complicated legal contracts with their clients, real estate agents have to explain the title and loan processes to clients, and doctors find ways to discuss very private, medical issues with their patients.
The Keys to Successful Communication
As each of the presenters shared their tips for improving communication, Education was at the core of each success story.
Tom King on Designing Content Strategy
Tom King explained the complications of explaining to clients the importance of creating a content marketing strategy before the website design project kicks-off and integrating the strategy with the overall project. Many clients want their website to be found in search engines and by new leads, and don’t realize how much time and research is involved in identifying the right keywords and creating the content that will go on the website before it launches and after it launches in an ongoing effort to boost search engine rankings.
To educate clients and prospects, Tom shares videos and resources from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth education series and shows clients these 2 videos that share the Coca Cola Content 2020 strategy:
Tom explained that he shows prospects these videos before the sales meeting because “if they watch these and don’t get it, then we won’t work well together.”
Bo Bothe on Designing Brand Identity
Bo Bothe’s presentation walked the audience through communicating with Marathon Oil’s executives as BrandExtract managed the project to redesign Marathon Oil’s entire brand identity. According to Bo, education about every step of the project down to teaching Marathon Oil the finer aspects of just what a logo is, was critical to the success of the project.
You can see the results of the rebranding in this video:
Aaron Long on Designing Software
Aaron Long’s presentation stresses the importance of educating clients on the differences between software and preferences in order to keep projects within budget and time lines. Aaron communicates to clients that the purpose of software is to lower costs, and content management systems are software that are already built and will lower the cost of the website project if clients use it. Preferences, on the other hand, raise costs and when a client wants to customize software for their project, they need to be aware that custom software development is the most expensive thing in a project.
One tip Aaron shared during his presentation is that it is up to the designers and developers to ask clients more specific questions about what they envision the end result of the website to be. Don’t just accept it when a client says they want a shopping cart feature with their website, dig deeper and find out what products the clients will sell with the shopping cart, what special functions will this cart need to do for selling products, shipping, collecting customer data, etc. Aaron suggests showing clients working sites with examples of what is standard so clients can better understand what they are buying when they are buying the software.
Here’s Aaron’s presentation slides to view his other tips for educating clients on the more technical side of a website design project:
Joe Robbins on Designing Web Photography
Joe Robbins brought his experience in creating professional photographs and images for advertising in print and on the web to the seminar to share the importance of having quality photographs on your website. He discussed the conversation designers should have with clients and recommended educating clients on the costs associated with photographs along with the pros and cons for hiring a professional photographer compared to stock photos and photographs already owned by the client.
Joe explained that “a well designed website is very important, but if your choice of photography is poor, all that hard work could come to nothing. A visually arresting site can be the difference between a sale/inquiry and the customer leaving your site prematurely.”
Website Design is NOT About the Design
Although you might find this ironic, not one of the speakers for a website designer seminar spoke about graphic design for websites or talking to clients about design for the website projects. They all stressed the importance of creating a website that marketed and sold your company online to obtain new customers.
Tom King’s remark was that content brought new visitors to your website via search engines and not the design or appearance of the site.
Bo Bothe insightfully said “You can’t just make things pretty anymore, you have to make things that work.”
“Funny makes money, not necessarily pretty” was the comment from Aaron Long regarding creating websites that drive revenue.
And Joe Robbins demonstrated how to incorporate quality photography into your website for a more visually appealing site that reflected your brand in the same way companies use glossy print advertisements offline.
The presenters recommend that we steer our focus away from the flash-based, graphic-heavy websites that make it difficult to add and edit content on and also are poorly ranked by search engines. Instead, focus on a strategy that integrates your marketing efforts with your website design.
This seminar explained the importance of talking with and educating clients and hopefully the videos and presentations I’ve included from the seminar will give you a better understanding of the process involved with building a complex website. I encourage you to attend the next Houston Website Designers Seminar coming up in July if you are interested in learning more. The seminars are always free to attend.
If you want to learn more about Schipul’s website design process to build complex websites that generate leads and revenue for companies, contact us and check out our training calendar for upcoming web marketing events and webinars we’re hosting!