Small businesses often ask for bespoke web design. Some know exactly why they need it, but others aren’t quite so sure. Still others see it as a waste of money. So does bespoke web design really help? Is it really essential?
Well, yes — and sometimes.
How Bespoke Web Design Boosts Business
So what can bespoke web design do for you? Well, as any web designer will tell you, first impressions matter. Visitors assess your website almost instantly, and visual design contributes a lot to that.
Still, there’s far more to it than pretty pictures. There’s a stronger business point to be made.
Selling online ultimately depends on two things — traffic (i.e. site visitors), and conversion rates. Traffic can either be bought (e.g. paid ads), or earned (e.g. search engines). Conversion rates are the percentages of visits that lead to purchases or whatever other actions you’re trying to promote. Basically:
Sales = Traffic x Conversion Rate
So, just as search engine optimisation (SEO) boosts low-cost, earned traffic, conversion rate optimization (CRO) boosts conversion rates. Trust and audience targeting are critical to CRO, and good design helps with both of those. That, in turn, can make any investments into getting traffic that much more cost-effective.
For instance, paid ads can easily cost around £1 per visitor. Often, less than 3% of those are ready to buy, and less than 1% actually will. So with that conversion rate of 1%, each sale could cost you £100 in paid ads. Just doubling that conversion rate through good design could halve that cost per sale.
You can get good-looking design from templates these days, though — so why bespoke design?
Because the more precisely you can appeal to your target market, the better your conversion rates will tend to be. There’s a limit to how effectively templates can do that, even if they look good. And yes, in a highly competitive world, sometimes that difference can be business-critical.
So firms like Apple don’t spend millions on bespoke design and marketing because they have money to waste. That’s what made their money. They know it’s a sound investment.
Amazing, professional service and speedy communications. Very impressed and highly recommended. — Barbara H. Web Design:
Common Misconceptions About Bespoke Web Design
Still, many people think web design is something that it isn’t. So before we go any further, let’s clear up a few common misconceptions:
- Design isn’t just about making things pretty and freedom of expression. That’s art. Design identifies constraints and makes things work within them. So it’s also about making sure your site layout and structure is user-friendly.
- Web design isn’t just about building websites. That’s like assuming a bricklayer is an architect. Both are valuable skills, but they aren’t the same. Similarly, customising pre-built site templates really isn’t bespoke web design, despite what some website builders claim.
- Websites aren’t printed pages. They are sets of interactive content that adapt to the devices visitors use to view them. So good web design is responsive web design, changing to fit various sizes and orientations of smartphone, tablet or desktop screens. So professional bespoke web design really delivers several layouts, not just one. Sadly, even now, some designers (mostly those with print backgrounds) still overlook this.
- Effective design focuses on serving the end user, not just the site owner. As a site owner, achieving your goals depends on helping visitors achieve theirs. Forgetting that and focusing on personal preferences is often how DIY designs fail. Web designers see lots of data on how website visitors really behave, and it’s often unexpected. So part of our job is to act as user advocates.
So with that said, how does the bespoke web design process work?
Excellent and professional work from beginning to end. Pete was open to ideas and able to make suggestions on how to develop my site. — Lisa P. Web Design:
The Bespoke Web Design Process
Bespoke web design processes can vary a bit depending on the size and nature of projects, especially for web applications that require bespoke programming (as opposed to just layout coding). Generally though, here’s how I approach bespoke web design projects:
1. Getting To Know You
We start with a free initial discussion to outline your goals, assess the project scope and make sure we’re a good fit. That leads to an initial rough estimate, though confirming that usually requires a lot more detail — which is what the next phase is about. Still, estimates mean little until you know what achieving your goals would be worth. Startups are often unsure about that, so I can help you work that out too, if needed.
Discovery is a deep dive into key details like your target audience, products and services and so on. This can take a lot of time, especially for complex projects, but it helps to refine the initial estimate. Sometimes it turns up new opportunities — and sometimes unexpected pitfalls or extra costs. Either way, it’s better to know these before committing to the whole project. So I generally recommend treating Discovery as a separate, pre-paid project that precedes the main one.
Once you give the main project the go-ahead with an initial deposit, we can start planning it in detail. For larger projects, that may include creating simple diagrams of site structure (aka “sitemaps”) and page layouts (aka “wireframes”). This depends on what’s needed to have a clear discussion about what content and features each page will require.
Ideally, as the expert on your business, you’ll already have created the content, or can create it quickly after the planning stage. Writing for the web isn’t like writing normal business communications though, so I can offer guidance on this if needed. Alternatively, if you can provide a clear, detailed brief, I can get content created for you.
A note on rebuilds: if you have an existing website with existing content, a content audit will still be wise. Pushing outdated content into a new design rarely helps much, and if we’re changing platforms, URLs (page addresses) may need to change. It’s important to do that the right way, as the wrong (simpler) way can destroy any past search engine rankings you’ve built up.
5. Design & Build
Larger projects often split this stage into two phases, starting with design mockups for key pages and possibly interactive prototypes where relevant. That lets us review and modified the designs, before we start building. For smaller projects though, it’s now more cost-effective to use flexible design frameworks and “build in the browser”. Doing that on a private “staging” site lets you log in to see how the designs really work on your own computer, tablet and phone.
Business websites aren’t static, fire-and-forget projects. They need technical updates occasionally (which I normally provide along with hosting), as well as content updates. So most sites now include a Content Management System or “CMS” (usually WordPress), to let site owners do the content updates without having to pay for more coding. That often requires some training, which I can provide. If you prefer to send updates to me, that’s fine too, but will be billable. Still, the web changes so often that a support plan generally helps either way.
7. Launch & Support
Once you’re happy to launch your website, we’ll make it public and inform the major search engines. We’ll also add things like analytics, which don’t really apply until your site is live, and have a chat about how to use them to keep your online business growing. I generally offer 30 days of free support to deal with any teething troubles, after which any further support will be billable (at lower rates on a support plan).
Whilst templated designs can be passable if your finances are stretched, bespoke web design can increase sales and reduce marketing costs. It doesn’t really do that just by looking pretty, but by appealing more precisely to your target audience.
Does that sound like what you’re looking for? If so, let’s get started: