I am fortunate enough that I get to travel all over the country and teach seminars for KBDN. We go to eight cities per year and, in each city, I get to meet and talk to designers. I’ve met some interesting and talented people over my years of doing this. These designers are talented, professional and proud of the work that they do.
Do you know what a lot of these designers aren’t proud of? Their website.
This conversation often happens: A designer will be telling me about their latest project, or a project that they’re proud of. I’ll ask if they have pictures online that I can look at. More often than not, a fearful look comes across their face as they admit that either the website isn’t up to par, or that the images aren’t even on it.
Now, more than ever, a new client’s first experience with you and your firm will likely be on your website. If you aren’t incredibly proud of it, you need to update it.
Thankfully, building a new website is now easier than it’s ever been. There are two ways you can get a new website: build it yourself or pay someone else to do it.
Hiring it out
There are nearly endless numbers of people who can build websites. There are also nearly endless levels of quality you can get.
Before you start diving in and getting ideas of what you want your site to look like, or even quotes, ask yourself what you’re selling. Are you selling a cool photo gallery on your main page, a crisp font or that perfect menu bar on your website? No. You’re selling design, professionalism and experience. Don’t get hung up on the little details just yet. Go out and find some websites that you really like, either from competitors or web designers’ sample sites. Don’t forget this is the internet, so you can find “competitors” across town – or across the world – with a simple web search.
While looking at the competition is important, just because they’ve done something doesn’t mean they’ve done it right. Do what’s best for you and your clients.
Get a clear idea of what you like and what you don’t like. The process of getting your thoughts straight for a website redesign is about the same is what we ask our clients to do when having their kitchen remodeled.
Now it’s time to find someone to take your ideas and turn them into a design. Does this process sound familiar? It should! Web designers function a lot like we do.
Finding someone local is nice, as you can have face-to-face meetings, but remember, this is the internet so you can certainly have someone who’s not local build your site, too. If you find a good website out there that you like, don’t be afraid to ask who built it. It’s always good to get a recommendation.
I can’t tell you what your site should look like, but I can give you some must-have features.
Over 50% of web traffic these days is from a mobile device, and this means likely a smartphone or tablet. Your website must work well and look good on these devices. Often, websites reshape themselves based on what device the user is on. If they’re on a desktop or a laptop computer, they may be presented with a nice photo gallery when landing on your site. If they get there from a phone, they oftentimes will have a more prominent phone number or address listed first.
No matter who builds your site, it must be mobile friendly. No exceptions!
You’re hiring out your website because you’d rather a professional do it, or you simply don’t have time to do it yourself. When it’s done, you’ll have a great looking site that you’ll be very proud of. But what about in a year or two? Will you be proud of it then? Will it have the most up-to-date information and projects? It should!
You can pay that web developer to keep your website fresh, but it will cost you. You should be able to make basic changes to your website yourself without having to be that tech savvy. Things like changing text, adding a page, or updating some images should be able to be done by you. Before you proceed with a developer, have them show you how easy it is for an end user to update an existing website they’ve built. If it’s not easy, or they can’t show you, expect to either pay that developer money on an ongoing basis or be stuck with a static website.
Build it yourself
Yes, you can build a website yourself! For years this was something only skilled nerds who went to school for web design and computer science could do. Thankfully, today, building your website is a whole lot easier.
There are services like Squarespace and Wix that you can use to build a site yourself. These are template-driven sites that make building a website as easy as typing up a Word document. You fill in the spaces for text, upload your images and pick your template to create the site that you want.
The huge advantages of these services are that they’re generally very easy to use, and inexpensive as most of the work in creating the content is done by you. The two companies I mentioned are not only easy to use, but very designed focused. In my experience, the type of clients we’re trying to attract will respond well to the look of the websites created by these services.
Both Wix and Squarespace take care of a lot of the heavy lifting, too. When you upload images, they automatically resize them for you. Your website also will automatically be optimized for mobile, which is excellent.
Another advantage is that, by building it yourself, you take full ownership of it. You and your staff will be comfortable changing things as time goes by. If you do this, you’ll always be proud of your site.
The one big downside is the “cost.” While the monetary cost is typically pretty low with these services, it’s going to take a lot of your time. Only you can decide how valuable your time is, and whether or not it’s worth putting in the work yourself, or paying someone else to do it.
No matter which path you choose, if done right, you’ll end up with a new website that will feel fresh and new for years to come. You should always be proud of your work, as well as the website that shows off that work. ▪
Eric Schimelpfenig, AKBD, has been an innovator in design and 3D technology for many years. He has worked with KraftMaid, Google, Masco and many other prominent companies in the kitchen and bath industry teaching Google Sketchup, speaking about technology and writing about innovations in technology.