How To UP YOUR GAME as a Web Designer

How To UP YOUR GAME as a Web Designer

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Apples and Oranges

This is a guest article contributed by Richard Larson*.

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Tell your potential clients, not only do you design beautiful websites, you design websites that convert!

Designers that make beautiful websites are everywhere. As a designer you need to demonstrate to your potential clients that not only do you create beautiful designs but your designs are carefully crafted marketing tools that convert potentially interested people into devoted customers. Doing this isn’t easy but it will dramatically improve your business and more importantly it will improve your client’s business. When they sell more, thanks to your website, they will spread the word and before you know it you will be turning potential clients away or hiring staff.

In order to convince your clients that you create websites that convert you need to start a crash course on marketing and apply it to all the skill and knowledge you have about SEO and web design. Secondly, you need to establish a standardized formula for getting to know your clients and their business needs. The more you understand about your client, the better job you can do at placing their website so that it will get the most exposure and the most traffic.

It’s essential to articulate your marketing strategy to your client in a clear and dynamic way. At every opportunity you need to remind yourself and your client that the ultimate objective is to create a website that converts. This requires a delicate balance of often diametrically opposing forces like SEO and customer appeal. Every web designer will have strengths and weaknesses. As you read through the following skill list make mental notes of the areas where you personally need improvement.

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Understand Your Audience

As a designer you need to understand and target your client’s audience. This is done using a combination of traditional marketing research tools and new web marketing tools. You need to know the age, gender, location and economic class of your target audience. You also need to understand what your customers like, dislike and want out of your product and industry and where they are online (laptop, desktop, mobile, Facebook, Twitter etc.). Here are a variety of tools you can use to do this:

Marketing tools:

Social Media Tools:

Branding and Niche Placement


Branding and niche placement have always been important but Online this is critical- especially for conversions. The advantage of the Internet is it is a large market; the disadvantage of the Internet is that it is a large market. The Internet is like a desert filled with sand and as one of those grains an unknown website needs to distinguish itself. Your conversion rate can only increase if you are attracting the right audience. Careful keyword selection is the number one most important way to get your site into the right niche. Branding (see BrandSimple by Allen Adamson and Sir Martin Sorrell) and placing your web site in the appropriate niche within an industry are equally important. Careful logo design and strategic advertising (PDF) are also essential. Reaching the appropriate audience equals high conversion rates.

Excellent Coding and SEO Design

No amount of beautiful design and market research will save you if your coding and site architecture aren’t SEO friendly. Flat site architecture is optimal and a well-designed linking structure is critical. Paying attention to SEO code details like titles and metatags is also important. Google’s new Panda updates have changed the game substantially and if you aren’t up on the new game get out there and do some research!

Quality Design

Quality Design including font, color selection and overall presentation are critical. You need to design for your potential customers. Knowing your audience before you start designing will make this much easier and will eliminate many design choices. SEO site structure and choices will eliminate even more designs. You may be surprised to find yourself with a very limited number of choices and this is what separates the good designers from the Masters. The Masters are still able to design unique and appealing websites despite all the demanding limitations of marketing and SEO.

Quality Content

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Quality content is also essential. All your content should have a unique and consistent tone. Your content must also be credible, logical and emotionally appealing. Content should appeal to the right level of depth. For example, a consumer looking to buy a car doesn’t want an engineering prospectus, but an engineer does. To capture organic rankings there must be reams of unique content and it must be consistently produced. Make sure your clients understand that a steady stream for a long time is needed to attain first page ranking on organic Google searches. When thinking about content make sure to consider podcasts and instructional materials as well. Cleaver designers find ways to make other people create their content. Apple Computer does this through marketing and branding. Get creative and think of ways to get your own audience to create positive content and buzz for you.

Quality Visuals

Golden Egg

Quality visuals include pictures and graphics but any more quality visuals also include video streams and slide shows. Visual elements tap into people’s emotions and can activate other senses if they are well executed. For example, a great photo of food will make a consumer hungry. The web is quickly moving towards movement so if you haven’t already- get yourself up to speed on flash and video streaming. The Sundance Institute website is a great example of a site that incorporates a wide range of visual mediums effectively into a flat site structure. In this site visuals add to rather than detract from the tone and mood of the site. Your site must still upload quickly across a variety of platforms. The video stream is small box but has the potential to go full screen and the audio on the video stream is exceptional.

Testing, Customer Feedback, Tracking and Analytics.

Test your website design using visual heat mapping before launch to optimize your point of action points and after your website is flying to measure and track user views, clicks and participation. Use traditional analytics programs to get more complete data and details. Use customer feedback forms to make future corrections and updates to the site so that it is converting customers at the best rate possibly.

Here are some heat mapping tools:

Here are some tools for site feedback:

All of your time and effort will be wasted if your client is with a poor hosting company. A good hosting company can dramatically influence site upload speed and site downtime. In addition a poor hosting site can negatively impact SEO through association. The other sites hosted on your host are your neighborhood. If the neighborhood is full of rotten sites it will influence your SEO. Conversely if your host has large reputable sites this will work favorably for your SEO.

This above list is only a beginning- look at your strengths and keep going to further brand yourself as a unique and valuable web designer. Use everything you use for your clients and apply it to your own business and watch it grow!

*Author: Richard Larson is Brand Manager for Go Promotional the leading promotional items supplier online.

Photos: Shutterstock (Archman, Fer Gregory, Rikard Stalder)

17 thoughts on “How To UP YOUR GAME as a Web Designer”

  1. I think the main problem about this is that your client can’t see the perfect work regarding SEO and coding. What they see is the design, no matter if it’s done with tables or perfectly crafted, semantic HTML.

  2. Daniel, while your clients can’t always see what’s going on behind the scenes, it is up to you to explain it to them. Most people who would hire you to build a site for them at least know about the basics of SEO and conversions. You just need to properly explain what you do to achieve these goals. They may not understand all the finer points, but if you know what you’re talking about, and can back it up with previous examples, then they will have confidence in you to do the same for them.

  3. It’s amazing how much overlap there is within the design fields…I’m not even a “web designer” per se, but the marketing resources you put up will definitely come in handy for my marketing and branding angle! Thanks Jacob 🙂

  4. Not to many designers have the skill set to create a perfect connection between: design, communications(marketing) and the development side of the product. As a web designer you, the reader, must understand that you are not only designing for the user, but also to the browser, with the search engine and with the the world. some get it and some don’t.

    really nice read Jacob!

  5. valid points! however – i’d love to hear how you’ve captured, tracked,and documented the net results your clients have attained after the sites launch. are you relying on just SEO and Analytics results? how do you document and communicate past results to future clients?

    i think being able to capture and document client successes attained through marketing/design/development work is paramount! my 2cents..

  6. Hi Richard

    It would be interesting to see how many clients ask for design v ranking. I bet ranking is more important than any design. Of course design makes a difference when you arrive. There are so many tools and links here I will be busy for a fee days reading them all.


  7. WOW. Thanks for the resources – this is totally bookmarked and a full-weekend read so I can absorb all the awesome information 🙂

  8. This is a massively important post to not only website designers, but also potential clients of any web design company. I think rather naively, many people think that designing of any sort is a quick and simple task that virtually anyone can do. Little do they realise the work that goes into the production behind websites and the careful and thought out nature of all the efforts we put into making the websites as effective as possible. As many hours of work goes into the SEO side of things as to the design work, if not more. Due to this being invisible though, many clients just don’t understand what we’re doing during that time.

    Many thanks for the resources though, as they’ll be interesting to flick through to see if there’s anything else to pick up on to allow us to continue improving the services we offer.

  9. Thank you for providing so many resources as references. I am just learning about the marketing ability of web design and this has helped me understand it better.

  10. Hi great article I agree but I am not seeing this on a local level most sites I see here that are built with local designers are not that good and one I was going to build was so bad it will detract from the business success. The site pictures were out of focus the articles were not proof read and had spelling and sentence mistakes.
    I am not really a web designer but have spent a lot of time learning marketing and none of the seo I learned to use to better the chances of a website becoming successful on a local level were used. I only build with Word press but can at least offer a website a chance of getting google rank and ranked for a keyword someone will be used to search for the business offered . I think it is a crime how many websites out now have no chance of getting traffic because Google or the other search engines can not rank them with out any on page seo. If a designer is going to sell websites he has a responsibility to know this stuff and most have no clue what so ever. Then when and if Google actually sends the traffic they have nothing on the site to convert the traffic into customers. Knowing graphics does not mean a successful business site.

  11. Great article with great advice,tips and info. I personally think analytics abd tracking is a key factor for anyone to get to become familiar with! Its so important to understand whats really happening and how to make the necessary changes which analytics allows

  12. Hi great article I agree but I am not seeing this on a local level most sites I see here that are built with local designers are not that good and one I was going to build was so bad it will detract from the business success. The site pictures were out of focus the articles were not proof read and had spelling and sentence mistakes.

  13. Thank you for publishing an important post for website designers and clients. It’s really important to understand what goes on with search engines and how to ensure websites work as effectively as possible.

  14. Great Post! Though I read it late but it’s still not late to have this interesting and best information for refreshing skills of providing best web designing service to clients.

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