If you are trying to build a website from scratch on the cheap, avoid professional website designers if you can. Most of them will charge you a small fortune to make your website even less useful than it is now. I say this based on actual experience working with professional website designers.
How To Screw Up Your Website
Grab a novel from your bookshelf and imagine giving it to the typical professional website designer. The first thing the designer is going to do is add a non-white background to each page to “make it look unique.” Then he’s going to change the black text to gray so it “blends in better”. Then he’ll add a column of features to the left and right sides of each page. But that will make the lines of text too short, so he’ll shrink the font size. If you’re lucky, he’ll stop there.
Let’s look at the damage done:
• Non-white background: nothing is as readable as white background. That’s why for hundreds of years books and newspapers have spent money on bleached paper.
• Gray font: if you want you text to be read, it shouldn’t “blend in,” it should stand out! Nothing stands out better than the opposite colors of black print on white background, so nothing is easier to read. If you want people to read your page, and not simply look at it, use black text on white background.
• Extra columns: although columns in the left and right margins worked well enough when everyone read websites on full-sized computer monitors, these days these columns take up too much space on smart phones and tablets. Besides, so many people use this space for advertisements that the typical website reader has trained themselves not to look at the columns.
• Smaller font size: again, why are you making it harder for people to read your website? When half the population needs to wear glasses to read normal size text, why make it smaller?
Of course the scenario is always different but you can clearly see the idea behind this.
Free Way To Avoid Professional Website Designers
I’m not sure why most companies even need professional website designers when there are thousands of free and paid themes for WordPress, Drupal, and other Content Management Systems (CMSes).
Your site doesn’t need to look like every other WordPress website. You can install a theme which will instantly change your layout and color scheme, and many themes will let you easily customize them (even if you don’t know HTML or CSS) so you can personalize your site even more.
But forget even that for a moment. It might be better to go with the stock theme, as I’ll explain in the next section:
Fire All Professional Website Designers (Except One)
The easiest websites to navigate are the websites which work similar to the websites we visit most often. With almost half of all active websites on the Web now running WordPress, we all know how to navigate the stock WordPress website.
That’s a huge benefit to your website. If your website looks like the stock WordPress website, customers will instantly know how to navigate it—and because they do, they’ll visit more pages on your site during each visit.
You can test this: create two copies of your site on sub-domains. For example, if your site is example.com, create stock.example.com and themed.example.com. After putting 100% of your regular content on both sub-domains, install a free custom theme on themed.example.com. Make it a theme that looks very different from the stock WordPress theme.
Then go to Google AdWords and create an advertisement. Tell it to send 100 visitors to each sub-domain. After the ad finishes running, look at your logs. I’d be willing to bet that even though both sites get the same number of visitors (100), the stock WordPress theme gets more page views. More page views means more money for most websites.
If the stock WordPress theme is the best theme to have, then we don’t need an army of professional website designers—we just need the one guy who makes the default theme. On this website I have Thesis WordPress Theme. I love this minimalist theme and it follows my theory to keep it simple stupid.
Where Professional Website Designers Can Help
There is one exception where professional website designers can help—when you have a particular brand style. Think of Coco-Cola with its red and white swirls.
If you need to use the corporate style on your website, you’re going to need professional website designers to design it. But small businesses who are likely to be reading this article probably don’t need that level of corporate branding. (I’m not sure Coca-Cola needs it on their website either.)
Similar to this case, sometimes you will need help making slight modifications to your existing website to include your logo or other important information. Even though you have chosen the best WordPress theme, this is a case where it makes sense to hire professional website designers. It can take you hours to track down a feature in a theme, but experienced website designers who deal with this stuff every day can probably make a small change in minutes, and it’s often cost effective to pay them $20 instead of spending 5 hours searching through uncommented code.
How To Cut Through The Hype
Before you hire professional website designers, don’t ask them to show you their previous work. Instead ask them this one, very important question: show me a client of yours who saw an immediate boost in his income after you redesigned his site. Any firm with that kind of proof is worthy to be hired as professional website designers.