When is the right time for a Web Designer?

Paul Brittain
November 28, 2017
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Strategic approach to choosing the right moment.

Sometimes, I have to say:

“NO, I can make you a website - but NOT now, YOU are not ready”

My fictional character today, Adam, decides to get out of the rat race by starting his own online business.  His idea is a real winner; bound to succeed, - he only needs to get it online.

Adam sets out to hire a web designer to build the most awesome website he can afford, ploughing his £1,000 to £1,500 savings into it.

After a month and a half of intense toing and froing with his designer, he finally unveils his spanking new, custom designed website.  In his mind he has no doubt that his design-led website will get the traffic and the sales he paid for!

Months pass, no sales - People can barely find his website in Google!

Adam is befuddled and confused. His website design is more expensive and better looking than many of his competitors when he compares them.  Theirs look dated, don’t seem to respond to different devices, and surely must be suffering under the threat of his brand new, out of the block, look.

6 months later, the bubble about to burst, his dreams become another statistic.  The website becomes an online ‘pebble at the bottom of the pond’.

Here’s the stone cold truth - it was not the website design’s fault, or something missing in the so called ‘back end’, or Google’s, or in fact Adam’s.

It was the fact that the web designer or company didn’t say “No”. It was the fact that most web designers of two to three years ago were interested only in one thing - producing websites.

Uhh!, you say, where are you going with this!

I am a web designer myself.  If someone asks for a website - shouldn’t I just do it?

Well, to be honest, it upsets me when I see a family’s dreams disappear in smoke, and I have to turn off the lights to their website - wondering if I could have served them better.

When I was an employee of a website company I didn’t have to worry like that.  The decision had already been made and I was there to do as I was told.

But now, I am the Director of a company, the bigger picture is so different.  I now feel the same responsibility for the clients business as the client.

There is SO MUCH to building a successful online business.  Things like understanding what potential customers really want, content marketing, paid advertisements, sales funnels, conversion optimisation, search engine optimisation, product sourcing, sales, hiring, and so much more.

All of these take time and dedication to learn and experiment with.

Out of all the confusion, website design seemed to be the one thing we can control and accomplish - now.  We can throw money at a website designer and get it done with minimal work on our end.

And we hid behind our custom designed website and prayed to the internet gods that our website will auto-magically start getting traffic and generate a substantial income.

What a HUGE mistake.

And that is why I don’t want YOU to make the same mistake as Adam.

You are reading this because YOU are on the MENTA website.  You are already reaching out to a resource which can help you concentrate your time, energy and money on mission-critical tasks such as:

  • Understanding that you come to the party with new ideas or plans which perhaps people haven’t heard of before, but talking to your potential customers can help you understand whether your niche really has a market.
  • Developing your products or services to solve their problems
  • How to promote your product or service in an engaging, cost-effective way
  • Learning how to communicate better to resonate with your target customers.  If you can’t convince them that you can solve their problems, you’ll have a hard time succeeding.

Nothing is really new. It is how you mix it together that may produce the right recipe to make your success.

The tasks above, in my view, are WAY more important than how your website looks.

I’m saying that there is a right TIME to hire a website designer - and it may not be when you are just starting out with your business.

Take one step back - reach out to a Business Support Service such as MENTA or GENIX.  They have more weapons in their armoury, a plethora of experience and usually have a Business counselling and marketing strategist attached.

What’s the Point of a Good Design if your business ideas suck

A good looking website can help you promote your brand and increase the confidence of your website visitors in your business.

Not to mention a well-designed layout can improve your visitors’ experience.

A beautiful website makes your business look more legitimate

I you visited a shop in your town and it looked messy and painful to the eye your first, and lasting, impression is that the shop is probably no good or has poor management.

Quick to judge? That’s just human nature and I’m just being honest about it (and so should you!)

So good design works… but ONLY if your BUSINESS works.

More analogies ...

The Tail wagging the Dog

Putting the cart before the horse

Why on earth should you consider spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a custom website design, BEFORE knowing for SURE that your business can make money?

That’s a bit like the tail wagging the dog or the cart coming before the horse doesn’t it.

You can’t build a long-term, viable business purely relying on the sexiness of your website.

If that’s your only competitive edge, someone else will throw even more money at their website and ‘out-sexy’ yours.

If that’s your strategy then, I’m sorry to say, your business will suffer a very tragic death.

Don’t make your business foundation be built on its website design. When you start out, your website only has to be ‘good enough’ so that you can allocate more resources to building your business. But, I don’t mean shoddy, poorly constructed or look dated.

Instead, focus your time, energy and money on mission-critical tasks

I want you to understand that a website is just a tool.  That’s it.  A communication tool.

You website is NOT your actual business.  Your business is what you can offer to your target customers to actually solve their problems.

If you can’t offer a good product or service that can actually solve problems then it doesn’t matter how good your website looks at the end of the day

When is the right time to hire a Website Designer?

I am not against hiring a website designer to help you build an awesome website.  Not at all.  I want you to get one. A website designer is vital in the long term.

The key message I hope to send across is that there is right time for this, and a wrong time for this.

When is the Wrong Time?

That’s when you are still trying to get the business off the ground.  When you are still trying to validate or prove to yourself that a lot of people are happy to pay you for your products or services.

If you can’t even establish that there is a healthy market for your product or service, then you don’t have a business yet.

When you first start you are going to be unsure whether your business will succeed or not.  You will actively look for things that can give an easy win - something you can control.

Building the best-looking website is a much easier win and something fully under your control than asking people to pay for your products.

We don’t want to face rejection - Wouldn’t you agree?  

When you commission a website you are in control as you are paying a designer to create things for you.  If you have a great looking website design, people won’t criticise you for that.

But if you had a poor product offering, people won’t pay for it and that feels like a major rejection so I fully understand why people ask for a nice looking website BEFORE focusing on building a real business.

Which is why I now tell some people:

“NO, I can make you a website - but NOT now, you are not ready”

When is the Right Time?

With one exception, the right time to focus on your website design is usually after you achieve net positive cash flow above a certain amount per month.  ( I am purposefully not going to name my preferred amount)

By hitting this positive cash flow per month you will have more confidence and momentum that you have a real business at hand.  But this is no easy task.  It requires you to be laser focussed on understanding what your target customers want, and delivering a solid product or service to meet their needs.

Make sure you tick the right boxes:

  • Get feedback. Actively pitch for Google reviews so you can get independent insights.
  • Use your Google Page to its maximum potential.

Get your photos or image assets:

I’m sorry but sometimes a professional photographer is the only option.  Images matter. Our eyes are the windows into the buyer.  They can portray your company in a way that lifts it to a different level. 

A company that fails to invest in a professional photographer is making a big mistake.

Reach out to business support services like MENTA (Suffolk)  and GENIX (Norfolk) to increase your knowledge and experience.  They exist to help you.  Courses, Coffee means Business meetings, and seminars are all places to flex your business muscles.

The one exception I mentioned ... Reach out to an Internet Marketing Service (IMS) , a new breed with website designers who actually care about your business, have a broader outlook, and can offer an exciting option of Pay As You Go Websites.  These fully functioning, bespoke websites give right from the get-go that you pay for with a small deposit and low cost monthly amounts on 0% interest.  Certainly a wiser option in the startup days than the usual £1500 from your family savings.

It will, at least, give you a window of opportunity for you to experiment with what it is like to be a successful online business and capture your dream.

Conclusion and Take Away

To build a viable business, you need to focus on the right things.

There are many temptations that may make you focus on things that you can control, such as how your website looks.

It’s far easier to throw money at a website designer to build an awesome looking website.

But does that actually help prove or validate your business concept?  Does it demonstrate to you that you can earn profits by selling products or services to complete random strangers.?

Sadly no,

To build a successful business, you will have to ask people to open their wallets and buy your product or service offerings.  There is absolutely no way around this.

Whether they will pay for your products / services, is not directly determined by how your website looks. It is determined by whether what you offer can sell or solve a real problem.  To do otherwise would be extremely challenging for you to build a vibrant business - regardless of whether you have an award winning website design or not.

Your website is just a tool for your business.  Your website is NOT your business.

With the basics of your business cracked then the new website will fly - it will have an audience, it will be recognised online, and everything will naturally progress from there.

Which puts me in a far nicer place - and I can rest in my bed easier at night.

Website Designer or Internet Marketing Service (IMS) - Is there a difference?

A website designer is a subset of an Internet Marketing Service.  An Internet Marketing Service usually has the services of a business marketing strategist, a social media expert, and optimisation specialist built within the company who are able to give an overarching, holistic view of the business and may give recommendations either for a website or an alternative solution.