Why doesn't my website work?!!

If your website gets few visitors or sales ...

I am going to make what may sound like a radical statement: if you're having trouble marketing on the Web, it may be because you have only part of a website.

In other words, your website is incomplete.

Your website goals

It probably goes without saying that most people are looking for a website designer to produce a website that will help them to achieve their goals. Period.

However, without knowledge of what it takes to create an effective website, it's easy to get sidetracked into how it looks, the latest bells and whistles, and other issues not central to the goals of the website.

Then comes the launch and ... months later, they find that visitors are few and sales fewer still.

This can cause wonder, upset, or the conclusion that "the Web doesn't work" — even though, if we were talking about print ads, they might merely conclude that the ad wasn't effective.

Why does this happen? Simply put, because it's not enough just to have a website or to present information. Even a nice-looking site will not necessarily wow your visitors — if you have them — into buying from you.

Website Design + Marketing + Search Engines

The truth is that commercial web design is really about marketing. A website has to look professional, be designed to sell — and, furthermore, it must be built from the ground up to be search engine friendly so that it attracts visitors ... visitors who are looking for precisely what you have to offer.

Otherwise, one may end up with a (hopefully) good-looking website that doesn't sell and or get many visitors — or any combination of these three factors.

Let's look. A website needs to:

  • look professional
  • represent your company well
  • be targeted to your customers
  • contain the information it needs to contain
  • be easy to use
  • be set up so that information is easily findable
  • with images and text created not just to present or "look good", but to sell
  • with forms, shopping carts, databases — whatever's needed
  • should download fast
  • built to be search-engine friendly

That's web design, marketing and search engines — an interrelated set of disciplines and expertise beyond that of ability to "build" a website.

Why didn't my web designer take care of all this?

In defense of web designers — and an industry that has grown very fast in a relatively short time — I will venture to say that most don't know about all this. Or perhaps they have chosen not to specialize in the broad gamut of skills needed.

The catchall title "web designer" doesn't specify much, and really didn't need to until now. The huge growth of the Web started with people learning how to code web pages; all text on a grey background, yes, but the pages were there. Later came the advent of browsers that could display images — and, later yet, an influx of people from the print and graphics design worlds, raising "web design" to a new standard.

Still, there was the issue of getting visitors — traffic — to these websites. Many of the larger companies, possibly funded by venture capital, opted for highly expensive promotion: TV, advertising banners on major websites, and the like. However, this scenario does not work for most companies; it's simply far too expensive. The solution, then, is to build an effective, capable website that also brings in traffic.

So, in the interests of educating the public at large — those who are going to be choosing a web designer who fits their needs — I will say that, if you need your website to look professional, bring search engine traffic and sell, what you are probably looking for is a web designer who knows something about marketing and search engines.

Web designers and website cost — the reality

Pricing for "web design" is all over the map. However, if you know that a website is more than just an ad — it can do everything for you from getting your name out there to bringing you qualified leads to being an online store — then you are in a better position to evaluate your needs.

In looking for a web designer, "cheap" isn't necessarily the best criterion of worth. You wouldn't put a "cheap" foundation under your house, would you? As well, the fact that graphically-oriented website authoring tools exist does not mean that professional web designers listen to you for an hour or so and then press a button and — presto! — there's your website. It takes work to create an effective website.

"Good looking" isn't everything, either. A website that looks good but isn't logical or easy to use, or doesn't attract search engine visitors, is like a pretty brochure that no one sees.

As we can see, quite a few disciplines are necessary to create an effective website. It's not that it will — or won't — be expensive. The bottom line is that expertise and experience probably won't come cheap, but they will do far more for you, in the end, than opting for "cheap" and ineffectual.

A word about search engines

Again, websites must be built to attract search engine traffic. However, another caveat — some folks think this means endlessly repeating words, or having extremely tiny text or text in the same color as the background (e.g., white on white). Well, these "tricks" worked several years ago. Today, they may get the entire website banned. (Be careful too of "guaranteed" top search engine listings.)

About those "metatags"
Metatags are text built into web pages from which the search engines take the text for their listings; when you see listings for "Joe's Barber Shop" at a search engine, likely this data was taken from the metatags.

Years ago, metatags had very much to do with how high a page ranked in search engines. Today, simply throwing metatags into badly designed pages (from a search engine standpoint) will not magically raise their rankings.

The Bottom Line

Regarding your choice of web designers, the questions to ask are: what kinds of websites has he or she built? Do the websites look professional? What exactly is his sales or marketing experience, and are these built into the websites — or is he expecting you to be a sales or marketing professional? What does he know of search engines — and does he know how to build websites to appear high up in the search engines? And, most importantly, have any of his clients' websites been successful?

Truthfully, it takes a good deal of time, effort, knowledge and experience to build an effective website. But what do you get for your money? Round-the-clock promotion, lead generation and possibly sales — at a cost usually far less than traditional advertising and marketing methods.

What else can give you that?

Diane Vigil founded DianeV Web Design Studio, has served as a consultant to numerous companies, as a moderator and administrator of the JimWorld SearchEngineForums and Cre8asiteforums, on the Site-Report Experts Panel — and has designed and built numerous websites since 1997.

DianeV Web Design Studio

© 1998- DianeV Web Design Studio. All Rights Reserved. :: Privacy/Legal/Return Policy. Any unauthorized reproduction
or distribution of the contents of this website is a violation of copyright law and may result in severe civil and criminal penalties.