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David Mills
By David Mills on June 17, 2021

Web Design Packages that Don't Suck - Guide to Best Value

Knowing how to buy website design packages is an important key to business growth

No one wants a website design package that reduces their visibility, damages their brand, or frustrates their customers. Website package shopping is not the same as looking for a TV, buying a car or shopping for a new washer and dryer. Why? Because all of these things have standard measurements of volume, size, speed and they come with warranties. Almost none of those things are true of website design. 

While websites are anything but standard (unless you happen to be a website insider who can talk code, platform and server specs), they are a critical part of business growth. The digital acceleration that happened in 2020 dramatically increased the digital use and expectations of both business buyers and consumers by about 10 years, in only three months time. No matter how important your website was to your business in 2019, it now has a much higher priority. That increased demand and the expectation by your buyers makes knowing how to buy a website a critical business decision skill.

It's hard to compare apples to apples when it comes to web design, but having a few rules of thumb can help you weed through the marketing speak and get down to the critical factors. 

Rule #1 for Website Design Packages- Website Design is a Service

Even if someone tells you it's a package, web design is actually a service. What you are purchasing is a package of labor that includes design, coding, and marketing system preparation, plus an application of your brand - or at least some of these things. You may also be purchasing some additional time spent in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) research and the development of written copy, plus hard costs for code and digital assets.

Design alone does not determine effectiveness.

Identifying the process of building websites as "design" is actually a misnomer that comes from the wrong idea that the design is what determines effectiveness. The prettiest website is not the one that wins the most buyers unless you are in an industry that sells beauty. Websites that win are built to speak to and engage a buyer right where they are and help them learn what they need to buy so they can address their needs and goals. 

The creative director at Story Collaborative, Amy Alexander, says it this way, "design solves content's problem." The purpose of design is to deliver messaging and it is the messaging that should drive whatever design presents. In essence, design works for messaging, and should be judged based upon whether the message gets through. When design is the primary driver, it can actually interfere with the effectiveness of the website.

Website Design Packages should probably be called, Digital Messaging Packages because that is the real difference between a website that actually works and one that doesn't. What gets included in a web package and the focus of services will determine whether the end result mostly satisfies the desire for a better look, or actually works to reach customers.

Why is the web rebuild process so painful?! Avoid these pitfalls >>

Pitfalls resulting from a design-first approach

  1. The human mind draws meaning from specific patterns that can be recognized visually. Think of the shape of a stop sign; you know what it means without seeing red. Design-centric web processes can create visually creative presentations that are delivered in ways that have not been tested for human recognition value. Remember, building a website is not primarily a creative exercise, it is a commercial one. People are scanners, not readers, and they don't come to your website for an art gallery experience (unless that is what you sell).

  2. Websites have to follow multiple rules for the presentation of information. Among these rules are search engine optimization principles, mobile and various device usage, and ADA accessibility (Americans with Disability Acts). There are very specific negative outcomes when any of these rules are broken. Design first approaches can create expensive (and poor converting) websites unless you are paying for the very top level of web design who are focused on user experience.

  3. How a website looks to you will not be the same way that it is perceived by a buyer. The primary criteria for how a website is presented cannot be, "I like it," or "I don't like it." The preferences and needs of your buyer have to be the driving force. It is common for design-only approaches can cater primarily to business design preferences, but this does not serve you well. The expertise that you want focuses on the buyer experience.

Question to Ask: How will the new website be better than the website you have now?

Rule #2 Web Design Packages are not the same as website templates.

A website design package is not the same as a website template. Almost all low-cost websites are actually either predeveloped templates or DIY template systems. 

Effective marketing (and websites) are built on the principle of differentiation - if a website makes you appear to be the same as your competition, it won't' fuel growth.

If you purchase a templatized website that someone will just load from a disk, change a few colors, and slap on your logo, you've just bought yourself a boat anchor, instead of a growth engine.

The question to ask, always, is how much customization is included in a template-based package? Literally, almost anyone can purchase a pre-designed template and get it installed in an open-source server. That same anyone can copy and paste some words from their brochure into the website. But nothing in that process will create online results.

Two pitfalls in template approaches to websites:

1) The template has to be highly customized using custom code and will be very difficult to maintain, update or change. This is very common in open-source solutions like WordPress Templates.

2) The template system is so restrictive that it really cannot be customized and will restrict your options to always looking like everyone else, which defeats the whole purpose of marketing.

Why is the web rebuild process so painful?! Avoid these pitfalls >>

Rule #3 Web design packages are only as strong as the growth system that supports them

A website should be viewed as the visible part of a business growth system. For it to deliver on growth, it has to integrate the functions required to attract, engage, win and upsell a buyer. In short, it has to actually do the work of winning customer opportunities. 

In the pre-SaaS world (software as a service), the only way to make a website collect leads, nurture those leads, alert sales, optimize, and track performance plus offer a seamless customer service was to cobble together lots of different software, each one requiring its own fees, maintenance and learning curve. 

With fully enabled growth systems, the development and optimization of a website can remain focused on what it is designed to deliver - more and better customers. That is only possible if your ongoing investments are focused on optimization instead of maintenance of multiple systems. 

Questions to Ask:

  1. Is the website built on an integrated CRM (customer relationship manager).?
  2. Does the website integrate tracking, optimization, and granular user behavior insights?
  3. Can the website elements be quickly updated based upon performance data without waiting on developers?

Should you purchase a website package from someone who works solely in your industry?

The benefit that industry insiders have is their command of the lingo, and they may (or may not) have some good industry wins under their belt. The problem you face with people who make their living just designing sites for your industry is one of creating fresh visibility. They tend to make everything look and sound the same. That's the opposite of what marketing needs to do - make you stand out.

Working with web development teams that have expertise beyond just your industry allows you to benefit from broader customer trends and an outsider perspective on your industry. That's important because the new customers you want to win are outsiders too, and they need to learn about what you do in their own language.

Why is the web rebuild process so painful?! Avoid these pitfalls >>

Should you expect pricing transparency in a website design package?

A website is a major investment. Basic transparency in purchasing is now the norm in most industries. From funeral services to home construction and even the price sticker on a new car, it's only fair to know what is being allocated to various items.

The risk of many website design packages is that they are offered in a way that obscures what you're actually getting. And like most other things, if the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. 

One of the reasons that budget transparency is important is because you have to measure it against other alternatives, including doing the work in-house. 

Return on Investment Transparency

It's the question that usually gets an "it depends" response. What kind of growth does the developer believe the website will produce? How many new leads, sales qualified leads and new customers will the website produce, and how will the process reach for those goals?

Having a transparent conversation about these goals allows you to measure the kind of return your investment can produce. While these will always be projections, they should inform your choices.

Questions to ask:

How does the website design package allocate costs to content, development, systems, and design?

What kind of growth in leads and customers can be predicted?

Why is the web rebuild process so painful?! Avoid these pitfalls >>

Published by David Mills June 17, 2021
David Mills