Don’t Uglify Your Site

uglysiteSo, you’ve made the big leap and hired someone to build you a custom web site to meet your online needs, but be careful not to fall into the trap of Uglifying Your Site.  Studies show, the average web user will click off of a site within 20 seconds.  Have you already lost them because you have an Ugly site?  What will you do to keep them there?

I know, Uglify isn’t really a word, but it paints a very vivid picture of what too many web site owners do: they pay good money to have a site designed, then either micro-manage the creative process to death or once the site is built and live, they get their inexperienced hands on it and change things.  Often times, these small little changes cause a great design to turn into an ugly amateurish mess.  When I see this happen, I ask myself, “Why did they pay to have someone do the work, when they were just going to change it anyway?”  Chances are, if you do have a web site that “sucks”, people won’t tell you – they’ll tell other people!

In last week’s article, You Want Web Presence – Now What?, I shared the importance of asking the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions.  I encourage you to read it, as I believe it speaks into this topic as well.  Bottom line is this, if you are going to hire a professional to design your site, hire someone you trust.  Share with them your vision: the elements you need, the values you want to express, the look and feel you want displayed on the WWW.  If they listen and catch the vision of what you want by showing you a concept design that is just right for you, let them soar.  Let that designer create your vision – don’t micro-manage the process, don’t ask them to do things that may have been popular in the 80’s, but are now considered “old hat”, don’t keep asking them change things over and over again, and don’t ask them to “try this” or “try that” – that is like asking the moving company not only unload the truck and put it in your new place, but also to stand by while you decide where you want the couch positioned.  You need to figure that out before you move in!

Here are a few good steps to follow:

  • Ask the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How Questions – have a clear plan & vision for what you want in a web site.  Don’t wait until it is being design; know what you want ahead of time.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Once you have selected a designer to create your site, clearly communicate your vision, your expectations, and your timeline.  The more specific you are with sharing what you want, the easier it will be for a designer to understand your desired outcome.
  • Give Feedback – constructive feedback is good, as it lets the designer know they are still on the same page with you.  However, as I stated earlier, don’t micro-manage the life out of the project.  If you have clearly communicated your style an vision, the designer doesn’t need you reminding them every step of the way.
  • Check Off Work – This is an important thing to communicate with your designer – project steps & approval.  Decide with your designer when to approve certain portions of the design work – i.e. – layout, color concepts, applications, etc.  And, once you check it off and approve the work, don’t ask them to just tweak it here & there, unless you’re going to be willing to pay for the extra services.
  • Content is Important – If you’re not a content writer, it is probably a good idea to leave it to the pros as well.  Many web design companies will edit the content for your web site for a small fee.  This service is well worth the extra money, considering the information on the site is just as important than the site itself.  You need a nice balance – great looking site and great content.
  • Going Live – Now that you’ve approved of the design and content of your site and it goes live on the WWW, don’t mess with it!  If something needs tweaked, discuss this with the designer – don’t try to fix it yourself.  Again, if you’ve approved it along the way, why would something really need a “tweak”.
  • Maintain the Site – your site should be an ongoing balance of fluid and static.  There are things on the site that should remain unchanged, while other information will be updated along the way.  If you don’t have someone in your organization who is well versed in site maintenance, you have a few options: get someone trained, hire someone who has the knowledge, or contact to have your site maintained (often times the company who builds it will also maintain it for a discounted price).

At the end of the day, it is your domain to maintain.  You can neglect it, which means the information will be outdated and irrelevant to visitors.  You can “tweak it” and turn it into your own special morphed design, which typically leads to further issues.  Or, you can make sure it is maintained and up-to-date – it’s up to you!  A great site can lead to increased awareness, increased sales, increased participation – or, whatever your vision for the site is… Whatever you do, just don’t Uglify it!

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