December 4, 2015
Whether you're a freelance hired gun on your own, a moderate-sized development house, or a full-sized website design and host business, these tips are provided to be a quality guide for your services. It should be no secret that website design has changed drastically in the past decade. The market is not only more competitive, but the days when people hosted websites “just for fun” are sadly gone. Today's web design clients wants a ruthlessly efficient investment for every dollar spent, no matter how meager that total.
1. Work with Social Media, Not Against It
Today's web audience spends 99 percent of its time on one home portal or gateway. That's usually Facebook. In an intelligent website and marketing platform strategy, the client's website must have as many hooks to and from social media as possible. Have social media sharing and bookmarking scattered throughout the site, and when your site gets ready to accept a visitor, make sure it's thinking of a Facebook referrer first.
2. Master Fluid Design
Computers – be it in desktop or laptop form – are ancient dinosaurs now. In the current decade, 90 percent of the web audience browses on a phone or a tablet, with all varieties of size, shape, and form factor present. A website that isn't built for mobile use first is doomed. Design your sites responsively so they can flow to fit anything from an Android screen to an iPad tablet to a PS3 console hooked up to a projection TV. In fact, smart watches are becoming a thing, and in five years, you might need to account for those as well.
3. Peg the Client's Motive in Having a Website
The great divide from the old Internet has created a huge rift in online voices: anyone who just wants a web presence to share with the world has an endless list of choices to get a free parking space – from Blogger to Facebook home pages to Pinterest boards to Instagram galleries to Twitter channels. So if they're looking for your service at all, they're serious about needing it. Some good questions to ask a web design client might include:
- What kind of business are you hoping to run?
- Have you explored every alternative?
- What is your profit model?
- Have you run an online business before?
Be leery of clients who think they can still slap a Google banner ad on a blog and make money babbling about their hobby – those days were gone by 2001, and they hardly existed even then.
4. Branch Into Alternative Markets
Not to sound the doom siren, but websites operative solely as businesses are already phasing out. The world will be just as happy with two websites in the future, Facebook and Google. Some holdouts are still cruising Twitter – which just goes to show how fast even the mightiest social media site can go down. A key strategy to getting web design clients in the future is to focus on customization – you can make just as much money offering custom design templates for Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages as you can for designing whole websites from scratch. Let's face it, most clients never appreciated the difference anyway.
5. Remember That the Customer is Not Always Right
In terms of H.G. Wells' novels, society has now become separated into Morlocks and Eloi – there is such a divide between the tech know-hows and tech know-nothings that they're almost a separate species. So the days when you could cajole a client into accepting why you can't have waving flag and spinning globe animated gifs on a webpage have been gone for decades. Instead of wasting this time arguing with people with no design sense and even less technical savvy, insist that when you take on a client, you're in charge of design from top to bottom. Once they have their initial desires for look and feel locked in, it's final. No more letting the client get away with “yes, but could I have crimson text on a maroon background?” Your answer must simply be “No,” because any explanation as to why is simply going to be a waste of both your time.
6. Always Stay Up-to-Date
As generations of college-degreed graduates have already found out to their crestfallen dismay, schools are about a decade behind the times in most technology topics and especially in web design. While the basic Photoshop-level tools remain the same, platforms and paradigms have revolutionized themselves many times over before even the most cutting edge textbook has time to be written and published. There are actual classes still being taught, to this day, in handy tips for working with IRC, Netscape Navigator, AOL, Gopher protocol, and Flash. They're still teaching you to type text in Notepad and save it as “page.html.” Get used to the idea that school is useless for anything but the basics, because everything you learn about the details is cutting edge at breakfast and outdated by lunch. Like all technology businesses, web design is a field that changes almost daily and requires professionals who stay up to the minute on new developments. Can your service keep up with the times?
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