Site Builders Are Taking the Internet by StormTheir ads are everywhere. They have Jeff Bridges, John Malkovich, Jason Statham and a host of other celebrities selling for them. They have multi-million dollar campaigns spread across TV, YouTube, and even radio. I don’t think I can get through 5 minutes online without seeing one of their ads. I know you’re seeing the same thing. On YouTube alone, it seems like every content creator is being sponsored by Squarespace, or every other video is bumpered with a Wix commercial.
Create your stunning website today. It’s easy and free! ~WixFREE! And worse, it’s not like they’re selling the GeoCities of yesteryear. Their sites are “stunning.” They do look good. Don’t hate, and don’t be a snob. There are good looking sites on all these platforms. On top of that, their codebase is no joke. Think I’m wrong? Try running one of their sites through Google PageSpeed Insights or YSlow. They’re pretty hard to beat.
So, How Do You Compete?Want the simple answer? You can’t. At least, not directly. But that’s okay. These DIY solutions are doing you, and your business a favor.
When the Writing is on The Wall, it’s Time to Make a ChangeI struggled with this “problem” for quite some time. For years actually. Even before these DIY site builders arrived, I struggled with how to stay competitive against all the web design marketplaces that were popping up. I had a healthy amount of work at the time, but I could see the writing on the wall. The industry was changing and my place in it was being threatened. So, I thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” So, I started to research theme shops. I could start building themes to sell wholesale too. But, just as quickly as I came up with that idea, it was beaten out of me. There were far too many agencies, teams of people, dedicated to cranking out professional themes. I couldn’t compete with that. And, even if I thought I could, it wouldn’t solve anything. I would have the same problem. Bigger swifter shops doing more for less. So, I struggled with this for years. Hoping that someday I’d figure it out. In the meantime I continued to serve my clients as before. I kept trying to do better and better. All the while, web design was getting cheaper and more accessible. Then, one day, I hit “the” wall. I delivered a redesign and it flopped…hard. I launched a redesigned website for a company. It was a significant overhaul from the previous version. We changed everything. It took months, but when finished, the site looked great. I was proud of it. The company was thrilled. Their sales staff were getting compliments on the phone for weeks. I mean everyone loved it! After a few months, I peeked at the website’s analytics to see how great of a job I had done, and I was shocked. Nothing had changed. Bounce rate, page views, average time on site, and even worse, conversions, they were the same as they’d always been. After months of a redesign, the performance of the website had largely been unaffected. This made no sense! A better looking website was supposed to do better. But it hadn’t done better. It had done nothing at all. So, what was happening? I was lost. So, now, on top of the market threatening my livelihood, I now had an ethical problem on top of it all. How could I continue to sell my design services when I was no longer confident it was going to make a difference? How could I continue to market against all those “soulless” pre-built themes.
Maybe, Cheaper DIY is Just as GoodI’m sure you’ve been there, or you’re there right now. It’s the problem any honest web designer is bound to face at some point. If you know what I’m talking about, If you’re feeling lost, like the market has made you obsolete, do not lose hope. There is a bright future for web designers. We’re not going anywhere, we’re not being run out of business, and we’re more needed now than ever before. But, as I’ve discovered, to get there, you have to change your perspective on the market we exist in.
To Win, You Must Know ThyselfThe marketplace has evolved. Not just for web designers, but for our clients and their customers as well. Meaning, showing up and looking good is no longer good enough. If you are only selling clients on getting a beautiful website with a modern code base, you are going to lose for two big reasons.
One, Web “Design” has Become CommoditizedBetween marketplaces like Envato, hosted e-commerce solutions like Shopify, and now site builders like Squarespace and Wix, you can get good design anywhere. And, you can get it dirt cheap. Most of it is quality work. Built by teams of talented professionals mastering their product for the masses. Today, if you want to get online with a good looking website, you can do it for the price of a Happy Meal. And you can’t dispute that. At least, not honestly. And besides, your client’s customers, they don’t care about design. Not in the way we’ve conditioned our clients to think they do.
Two, Having a Website is no Longer a NoveltyAnd here’s the beginning of why being a web designer today can be so profitable. If you’ve been around for awhile, you probably remember having to sell clients on the importance of being online. Do you remember those times? If not, try to imagine having to sell your client on the “vision” of why their business needed to go “digital.” It wasn’t a gimmick, it was the nature of the market. If you were online, you were cutting edge. You were the company that customer’s wanted to do business with. Then a few years later, BOOM! CSS came onto the stage and erupted into “Web 2.0” And the market changed again. Everyone was getting online. It was no longer the differentiator, it was expected. Now, you had to LOOK like you knew what you were doing. Your client’s website had to look good if it was going to succeed. And this idea stuck. It stuck because it worked. And it has stuck so well, it’s given birth to the enormous DIY market. It’s the premise behind the business model of these DIY builders. To give everyone cheap and affordable access to good looking websites. And our clients are flocking to them. It’s our own fault. We’ve spent the last decade selling them that all they need to do is look good online. That, all they needed, was a good looking website. Except, we were wrong. The market has changed again and the web design community has missed it…
THIS is How You Can Compete…The market is no longer impressed into making conversions. They’re far too savvy for it. Today, the web is a tool to get things done. To find a solution to our problems as quickly as possible. To succeed online we need to focus on more than design and code. We must focus on the end user. This isn’t just so you can stay in business. It’s so you can TRULY be valuable to your clients. You can give them a website that will sell. You know design and code. That means you know more than the average joe trying to save a few bucks by doing it themselves. Teach them it’s more than cramming sales copy into pre-defined blocks of content inside a pretty theme. Help your clients form a strategy that answers their customers problems. Give your clients a website that focuses on their customers first, not their own business. Ask, “Why is a prospect on their website?”, “How did they get there?”, “What are they hoping to find?” Take that strategy and craft engaging content that is customer-focused. If you’re not comfortable writing, then try to deepen your skill set. Learn how to write conversion optimized content. Or, partner with a professional copywriter. Then, design your client’s website for their customer, around your newly crafted strategic content. Combine their messaging with your knowledge of user-behavior patterns. Use design to elicit pre-defined interactions with the content. Guide the customer to their primary goal. Stop delivering digital brochures as websites. Give your clients a 24/7 salesman that listens and responds to their customer’s needs.
And That’s Your Golden Opportunity Against DIY Site BuildersThey require the DIY’er to be a marketer, professional copywriter, UX expert, and more. But a roofer, chef, banker, lawyer, doctor, they’re not web professionals. They’re not familiar with how the web works and the psychology of the end user. You are! The DIY site builders are targeting those who don’t know better, those who think just being online with a good looking website is good enough. And again: It’s not! It’s categorically not good enough! You know this.
Start Doing More! Make More Wins!If you help your clients understand it’s about their customers first, then you can build their website around the customer’s end goal. You’ll unlock a gold-mine of opportunity that they could never achieve with any DIY solution. No matter what John Malkovich says.
Daniel Davidson is a web designer and marketer who has been developing his skill over the last two decades. He is the founder of By Dan Design Co., a premium web design agency that specializes in web design and conversion optimization.
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