Want to know how to make an enormous mistake when you’re getting started with a new website?
Just hire a web designer before you need them.
You may be thinking, “but isn’t that what you do – web design & development?”
Yep – it’s what I do all day, every day.
Hiring a website designer at the wrong time will certainly relieve you of a substantial amount of money and almost assuredly lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration.
Getting started with a website is awesome. I get it – I get excited everytime I roll out something that’s new – either for myself or for a client.
But it’s important to know when you need to stay the course and hold off on Googling website designers in your area, and instead focus on building your business, or meeting other needs.
The most important part of any website is that it’s presented professionally. Having a professional website is an essential part of just about every business.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend thousands working with a website designer to get a professional website when you don’t need it or can’t afford it.
There are times and situations when hiring a website designer is not the next best move and my goal in this post is to cover those times.
1. Don’t hire a website designer when you’re just getting started
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is hiring a web designer to build a custom website before you’re ready.
The problem is this:
When you’re just getting started you need to focus on getting started, not on getting in the weeds trying to figure out what kind of custom web design you need.
Unless you’re a start-up with a big budget and some really clear needs for what you need to do with your website, hiring a web designer is not the way to go when you’re getting started.
I remember a call with a prospective client one time who wanted to talk about doing a custom website design for his blog.
His blog was fairly new, but he was cranking along and very modestly successful with what he’d been doing so far.
We started to get into the details of how much a custom designed website would cost, and although we were on a phone call, I’m pretty sure I could see the sticker shock on his face.
I explained to him the complexities of a custom blog design, what would be involved, and all the various things we’d need to account for to build him a successful site, and he simply replied, “I can’t afford that. My business isn’t making that kind of money.”
He already had a solid framework in place: He was using WordPress and had a nice, professionally built premium WordPress theme and it was working.
I told him that it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to do a custom design at that point and that he’d be better off continuing to work on building his business. He already had what he needed at that point so I told him that when things change, I’d be more than happy to talk about it again in the future.
I’ve had this conversation several times.
When you’re just getting started odds are you don’t need a custom design. What you need is great content and to work on building your business.
2. Don’t hire a website designer when you can’t move the needle by spending the money
There are times when you don’t need to hire a website designer to create a custom website design because it doesn’t move you toward your overall business goals.
One time I got a request to do a quote for a redesign for a client who already had a website.
I started doing the standard research I always do – checking out their current site, going through a bunch questions I have on every project, and checking out other sites in their market space.
When I started to look at the sites of other businesses like theirs, I was astonished at how plain all the sites were across the board.
Some of the biggest high-profile organizations in their market had really bland and boring sites.
It really didn’t make a lot of sense, to say the least.
It’s the only time I can remember running into a business whose web presence had virtually no effect on their overall business efforts at all. The business simply didn’t need a website to help generate leads or inform their target market of anything related to their services.
Eventually, after discussing it and not being able to find a way to really move the needle for them in a meaningful way it was clear that they were fine with what they had and they decided to stick with their current site.
Their current website served their purpose, and despite our best efforts to find a way to increase value there really wasn’t a way to justify spending the money on a new custom website design when they already had something that did what they needed.
Sometimes, in rare instances, businesses can get by with a minimal, basic web presence.
A nicely designed theme on a good content management platform can do the trick – whether that’s WordPress with a nice premium theme, or a Squarespace site that uses one of their numerous design options, but more on that later.
3. Don’t hire a website designer when your problem is traffic
The reason your site isn’t attracting traffic could be related to the design and construction of the site, however, calling a website designer isn’t necessarily the first call you need to make.
Instead of calling a website designer, one of the first things that you need to do is to do a thorough check of your content. It could be that your content simply isn’t very good.
It could be that you’re virtually invisible to search engines because you’ve done no search engine optimization (SEO) work at all.
It could be that your site doesn’t have any decent links pointing back to your website. Links pointing back to your site are crucial when it comes to SEO.
It could be that your site’s user experience sucks. That means that your site could be slow to load, poorly formatted, or just otherwise not user-friendly.
It could mean that your site’s theme is poorly coded and simply upgrading to a premium theme would solve a lot of your problems.
You should be using Google Analytics on your website. It will tell you all kinds of things about your content and how your site is performing to help you address your SEO and content issues.
This post on Jeff Bullas’ blog points out a bunch of things to look at if your site isn’t getting the traffic you think it should be getting, so before you start to Google for website designers in your area, check all these things first and make sure you’ve done your due diligence here.
4. Don’t hire a website designer when your business idea is unproven, or still in development
One time I was talking with someone about doing a website and she was talking about all kinds of things related to what she wanted to do, and it was exciting.
She wanted to build some very cool features – a blog, a podcast, a members-only privileged Q&A forum where she could answer specific questions, all kinds of great stuff.
Then I asked her what was working well with her current efforts and what wasn’t working quite so well.
It was quiet for a second, but then she responded.
She didn’t have any of it in place yet. It was still a concept.
She’d based her idea for her business based on similar things that she saw that others had done, but she hadn’t even settled on what she was going to call her business!
I told her how excited about her ideas I was and looked forward to what she was going to create. I told her I’d be one of the first to follow what she was doing because she wanted to do something related to Disney – something my family loves to do.
I also told her that she was way ahead of herself, and needed to work on refining her idea and simply getting started.
She could have very easily spent several thousand dollars on a website that she wasn’t ready for.
Talk about putting the cart before the horse!
The time to hire a web designer is not when you’re still trying to put together your business idea.
5. Don’t hire a website designer to build what you don’t need – yet
When it comes to starting a website the most important first step is, you guessed it, getting started.
So many times when talking with people about their websites they are thinking so far down the road that they forget where they are right now.
Don’t get ahead of yourself – let necessity drive the functionality or feature requirement. Don’t build what you don’t need yet.
It’s really that simple.
Don’t get caught up in things you don’t need right now. It’s great to plan for the future (we’re going to cover that below), but it’s a waste of time and resources to spend money on custom website design and development that you don’t yet need.
It’s a good problem to have when you’re current website or brand has outgrown what you have in place now. That can paint a clear picture of what you need to do next, and outline a roadmap for what new features and design considerations you need to account for.
You can look at the evolution of sites like Pat Flynn’s smartpassiveincome.com as examples of how the needs of those respective website owners grew over time.
Build with the future in mind but start as simple as you can
One of the most important things to do when starting with any new website is beginning with the future in mind.
This means that you want to build your site on a platform that will scale with your business.
It’s vital to make sure you don’t get locked into a platform that you will outgrow. It can make moving to a more powerful platform a big headache if you don’t start with something that’s going to scale with you and your business.
Sure, it’s not always easy to tell what the future holds, even despite your best plans and goals for what you want to do with your website.
However, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to build on a platform that will grow with you, regardless of where the future takes you.
That’s why I recommend getting started with your site using a platform like WordPress. Sure, there are alternatives to WordPress – and WordPress is not going to be the right fit for every site project.
But one of the best things about WordPress is its ability to scale with you so that you’ve built on a solid good platform from the beginning and can avoid costly migration costs in the future if you outgrow a different platform.
Hiring a website designer to build your website is a big commitment. It’s expensive, and if you don’t need it, it can be a big waste of time and resources.
When you’re just getting started, unless you’re a big startup with a big budget, it’s probably not even needed. I’ve advised many to forego custom website design in favor of more appropriate solutions on numerous occasions.
Don’t get caught up in the excitement of what’s possible with your website, but plan for the future by building on a platform that will scale with you.
The features and functionality you need will become apparent as your site grows, so be patient, and let necessity drive the need for custom website design when the time is right.
But that then begs the question, when is the right time to hire a website designer?
Stay tuned, that’s going to be covered soon.