Don’t be completely horrified at the title. We’re not saying web designers have no place in web design. Of course they do! But hiring a web designer could be hurting your results for finding new customers more than helping it. Why you ask? First, it’s important to understand exactly what a web designer is since the term seems to be used so loosely.
A web designer is someone who deals more with the aesthetics, or look and appearance, of the website such as colors, images, and layout used. Some have minimal coding experience, and some none at all. This is far different than a web developer or even an SEO (search engine optimization) professional. Your website can look amazing with a good web designer, but that doesn’t mean the code itself is well written, or that it’s going to rank well in search engines. In fact, a great web designer can have the underlying code written so badly that it actually hurts your Google search ranking.
A web developer deals more with the actual code, and may not be as strong on the design side of things. In other words they may write great code for the search engines but are terrible at making your website look pretty. Again, there are trade off’s here as a great coder can help your web ranking but the site can look so ugly or be so unintuitive in its design that it pushes customers away.
An SEO professional may or not have some coding experience. Some SEO professionals merely focus on articles and keywords in those articles, and others may know coding just well enough to optimize the code side of a website. The SEO professional can likely fall into a few categories of their own. Some are good at article writing that get rankings in the search engines, but aren’t good at optimizing the code for it which gives an extra boost. Some may be social media wizards, but again lack in the other areas that could benefit in you getting traffic.
So why the knock on web designers? It’s easy. While a better web developer or better SEO profession can improve your search engine rankings above where they are, someone who’s a web designer can actually hurt your rankings when they’re really great at doing designs. That may sound crazy, but it’s true.
Recently we came across a youtube channel with an amazing designer. He does corporate logos, web sites, and he talks a lot about sales and how to discuss pricing with clients. In one of the videos he mentioned his company also does SEO. I believe he claimed they’re SEO experts. One of their many videos walked through the redesign from start to finish of a client. You can find that newly redesigned website they walked people through and what they did for their client at Ole’s Fishing Lodge.
And here’s what it looked like before the website was redone:
When they talked about the redesign, and you can see from the picture, they discussed removing a lot of the text. Which they did. They also meticulously went through the pictures and the fonts used to match the design to what the lodge offered. They discussed the links and the best placement for user experience. Everything a good designer should do.
Obviously there’s no question that the newly redesigned website is amazing looking. Those who redesigned it are extremely talented at web design and the aesthetics of the way a website looks. In the comments, there were many website designers talking about how they too wanted to design websites that looked that amazing, but that their SEO guys and developers told them, “No!”
You may be thinking, “That’s who I want designing my website!” If we didn’t know anything about SEO and code, we’d be thinking the same thing! The question you really should be asking though is, “Do I want my website looking top notch but fewer people seeing it, or do I want results with people finding my website easily in the search engines and having the chance to convert them to customers?”
In the case of the website above, they’ve likely lost customers finding their website in the search engines, and they’re likely losing even more from those going there and leaving right away. Why? Because of how google indexes websites and what they base a website’s rankings off of.
Here’s that websites Google Pagespeed Insights Scores after the redesign:
Those are pretty poor scores for a company that charges up to 6 figures for a website and also claims they’re SEO experts.
Some web designers claim Google Pagespeed scores don’t matter, and they’re just recommendations to improve your website’s speed. The bad news is that it’s not true as Yoast, one of the leading SEO companies, recently pointed out in their Google Pagespeed article. This means that your website will take a hit in the search rankings based on your Pagespeed score!
While other search engines may determine your rank differently, Google currently has 77% of the market as of 2017. Google also gets almost 4.5 BILLION searches a day compared to the next in line which is Bing at roughly 800 million. That’s a heck of a lot of customers you’re losing out on by having your website ranking worse in Google because you decide to ignore your Pagespeed score.
As you can see from that websites Pagespeed scores, there’s a bunch of things that they could improve. These things are also what we see so many web designers with little or no coding experience ignore. They grab a template, put up pretty pictures and a nice layout, but they ignore everything else. The sad thing is a developer, and some SEO guys with minimal experience, could easily solve some of the issues.
There are a couple of things on there that web designers, and even developers or SEO professionals, have little control over. The server response time has to do with the server. That costs more in hosting that the client has to pay monthly or annually for. It might require a better server, or paying for a CDN (Content Delivery Network). The cost may not be worth it to the client.
In the list of caching problems, Google Analytics is listed. While the other items can be cached because they’re on the clients server, the analytics is Google’s code on Google’s server that’s being pulled into the website. Obviously web designers and others have no control over Googles servers. The same can happen with Twitter, Facebook, Adsense, and Amazon items since it’s pulling in code from the servers those companies own and can’t be cached on your own without causing problems.
There are 10 files listed on that page alone. That means for just those files, the website has to stop loading, retrieve another file, and then continue loading until it hits the next file needed. It does this 10 times, not including every time it has to do the exact same thing for picture files, css files, and any other files listed on the website needed to show the final version to the user.
Waiting for a website to load is a huge problem. This is where those who say Google Pagespeed scores don’t matter really get it wrong. They can cost you not only customers but also advertising money if you’re paying for ads to drive traffic to your website. For anyone that runs a business on the internet, you’ll understand how important conversion rates are, especially when you’re paying for the traffic.
For those who may not understand the importance, think about what you do when you click on a website that doesn’t load up right away. After several seconds of waiting to see something on your screen and getting nothing, most people think the page may be broken or not working properly. As a result they go back and find another website with the information or item they may need. This results in a lost customer. If you’re paying Adwords to advertise, or another company with Pay per Click ads, not only do you lose a customer but you get charged for the click to visit your website.
As to how much this can effect you, we have a few websites that contain that info. For instance, Google found that adding a 1/2 second to the load times on their own search engine dropped traffic by 20%. That’s one out of every 5 customers leaving because of an extra 1/2 second to load a webpage. Another study found that a website making $100k a day would lose $2.5m in sales over a year by adding an extra second delay for the page to load. And here’s another study where they found 53% of mobile users leave a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
This brings us back to our point of why hiring a “Web Designer” isn’t necessarily the best choice for your website. They make things look “pretty” but many, like the one in our example, don’t understand the other parts of running a website. It’s like hiring someone to design a car. The design may look amazing, but they only understand how to make the exterior look good. Chances are it won’t run because the engine and the parts that make the car work have been deeply neglected and overlooked. All you have is a shell that’s likely to sit in your garage.
Building a website works the same way. Would you rather have a website that looks great but doesn’t work in bringing in business, or a website without all the bells and whistles but brings in the sales and customers? As we originally said, this doesn’t mean a designer doesn’t have a place in web design from logos to styles and laying out the website in a way that makes it attractive for customers. They can design amazing things that really make your brand.
The problem comes in when they’re responsible for the whole website project. All the pretty pictures, and lack of coding knowledge, to optimize the speed and loading times will hurt your business when it comes to your bottom line. Successful websites pay to improve not only the look of the website, but also increase sales even if it means simplifying and pulling back on the use of pictures and graphics while adding text that search engines can pick up on and index. An unsuccessful business pays to improve the look of a website while hurting sales through slow loading pages and a lack of text. Sadly, most people struggle to look past the pretty designs to understand how things are working under the hood.