Creating a website is easy, doing it right is hard.

Creating a website is easy, doing it right is hard.

Due to the rise of website builders like Squarespace, Weebly, Wix etc… people start seeing this industry as a commodity:

Why do I have to pay someone x amount of money to create a website for me, if I can do it by myself ?,

“I have a friend who knows someone that can do an website for half the price you’re asking for”

As other said before me, some people will see those tools as a cheaper way to get a website, but those clients who really want something tailored for them, a designer and/or developer will always be needed.

These tools aren’t replacing designers; designers are learning that they must sell themselves as experts. Customers who use DIY tools like this they see the immediate need, they are not seeing the bigger picture.

This reminds me of a great tale which illustrates exactly why we have to stop selling ourselves as website builders and more like experts, product designers, problem solvers:

The carpenter walked around the house for a few minutes and listened carefully to the creaking sound that came from the floor. Then, he took a tiny little nail and hammered it between two sections of the parquet.

The creaking went away.

– “That is amazing! How much do I owe you?” the guy asked.

– “A hundred dollars,” replied the carpenter .

– “You mean I am going to pay you a $100 for one tiny nail?”

– “Of course not. You’re only paying 10 cents for that nail and $99.90 goes for my knowledge where to put it.”

If you describe the service that you offer as just “making websites”, then you’ll probably encounter a lot of clients who think that Squarespace or WordPress sites are a more viable and cheaper solution. Because when it comes to getting a website set up quickly and cheaply, sometimes they are!

As a designer, you’re doing more than simply pushing pixels and laying down code.

You have a process of evaluating the needs of the client and matching them up with the solutions that are already out there or that you can create. When the client works with you, they aren’t paying for the final code, plugins or whatever… they’re paying for the conversations and iterations that help them get to the heart of what they really need and make sure that the solution they choose will not just serve their needs in the short term (i.e. having a large smile photo on homepage) but also considers and supports their long term goals.

The process of creating a professional website, product, app or whatever you want to call it:

  1. Discovery
  2. User research
  3. Information Architecture
  4. Visual Design
  5. Development
  6. Launch

1. Discovery

In few words, you need to conduct some discovery sessions, do a S.W.O.T analysis , find your target audience, create a visual strategy.

Basically you have to know your business or the business you’re designing for inside and out. You have to know your audience. You’ve even have to study what everyone else in the industry is doing.

This is just a a glimpse of what discovery implies, there are dozens of articles, books , conferences just for doing this.

2. User research

A website’s (or product’s) success depends on how users perceive it. Users assess the usefulness and ease of use of websites as they interact with them, forming their conclusions in seconds.

User research attempts to answer questions like “who will use this design?” and “how does this concept work in the context of our users workflow,” whereas user testing seeks to answer: “how effective is this design?”

Mostly user research is done by doing non-directed interviews, contextual inquiries, questionnaires…

3. Information Architecture

Map Discovery, and User Research findings to a hierarchy — either site map, flow chart or both. Followed by wireframes for key conversion paths associated with the primary goals from Discovery. Test wireframes and flow with target audiences.

Again there are dozen of articles, books and specialized people with years of experience.

4. Visual Design

Apply all the above steps findings into initial designs for the conversion path. Iterate and test then iterate and test with your target audience.

Visual design is as much about use as it is about look. It’s not about graphics. It’s not about shapes and moving them around until someone consider them to be beautiful. It’s not about making things pretty.

Real visual design is about creating things with stories, for people to use.

So if you manage to incorporate all the steps above then you can say you’re a (real) visual designer.

5. Development

I don’t need to tell you much about this because you probably know a little about this. There are dozens of books, wonder development courses where you learn to be a great developer in 6 months ( those people with years of experience they are somehow feeling lost because now they realize that you’ve actually need 6 months to be successful).

The thing here is that you’re not good because you know x number of programming languages, sure this helps but what matters most is to be a professional because let’s face it, clients won’t understand why your CSS or JS is more efficient than someone else’s.

You have to be pragmatic. That’s what a developer do.

6. Launch

This is not an easy thing, it may sound like “Ok, everything is done now I just have to upload it on my web server, share it on Facebook and this is it” but unfortunately is not like this.

A large audience is not enough

I’m not gonna explain how to launch there are better articles / books because this is not the scope of this.

Final Thoughts

Of course this a resume of what really means to build an website / product.

Now, what I’m trying ilustrate in this article is educating the client to see what actually means to build a website / product or at least to give them an overall view because I’m really tired of “professional web designer here, I will build this in one day and it will cost 50$ if you pick me”.

Let’s hope that designers remember that they aren’t competing with tools — they’re competing with their customers’ ignorance about professionalism.

Just remember… people using site builders or “I want a professional website, my budget is 100$” are NOT your customers.

Creating a website is easy, doing it right is hard.

Follow me on Twitter: @agispas

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