“Why should I hire a web firm instead of building my own website for free?”
This is a perfectly legitimate question and one that we commonly have to answer when in talks with different businesses and organizations.
Ultimately it boils down a couple different things:
- First: while you can technically build yourself a website, can you build yourself a successful website?
- Secondly: nothing is really free. Building your own website simply shifts the cost from money spent to time spent.
Ultimately, if you have the time and the expertise required to build a successful website, by all means, please do, this can be an incredibly empowering experience and there are many great resources available to tap into like Shopify, Drupal, Squarespace, Wix, and even Wordpress.
However, most people simply do not have the experience, expertise or time required to build a successful website; this is where web firms come in. A proper web firm should* bring the following things to the table:
- Web firms should* be an expert in the field.
- Web firms should* be professionals at their trade.
- Web firms should* provide the necessary systems required for long-term success.
- Web firms should* leverage the collective resources of their team.
*should: I use this word because not every web firm can actually provide these items.
Below I'll dive into a discussion about what these four items mean for your business.
Past Experience Learned
Being an expert in the field means having experience and knowledge from past learning. Web firms should have experts in the field of web design & development in addition to branding and digital marketing. Many of these companies have spent years gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to efficiently build a successful website for many different types of businesses and individuals. Some have even focused on one market becoming intimately familiar with the quirks of that industry.
Because of the time & years they have spent studying and working in this field, web firms already know what others would have to learn before being able to build a website, not to mention a successful website. Furthermore, to build a successful website, a person needs a certain level of expertise in design & development and needs to know what the current standards are for how websites look and work (as the internet is an ever-changing environment). The knowledge of current standards is critical for constructing a site that people can intuitively explore. Beyond this anyone building a website should have a basic understanding of the following:
- Graphic Design principles
- Branding & Identity Design
- HTML & CSS for custom styling
- Information Architecture best practices
- Consumer Behavior
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Web Analytics & Data
These "things" all add up to help ensure that what they are constructing with not just simply work, but be great at what it does. One thing that we always stress when talking with people is that there is a difference between what works, and what puts your best foot forward. A web firm should always strive to construct websites that put their clients best foot forward.
What it comes down to is that a website is about more than just information on a page. Anyone can put text on a page but organizing information in a manner that not only helps people find you but encourages customers to do business with you requires an expertise that not everyone has. As experts in the field of web design and development, a web firm should have a solid understanding how to construct a digital presence that inspires confidence.
- A successful website should inspire confidence. -
This understanding allows web firms to build websites that help their clients to have long-term success with their website and the types of customers that they are trying to reach.
Micro Case Study
As noted above it's important that a website does more than simply work, but inspires confidence. We had the opportunity a couple years back to overhaul the website for an Arcata based non-profit organization called Housing Humboldt -- You can check them out at HousingHumboldt.org, or go check out our complete case study of our work with them on here.
Prior to working with them their website simply worked but did little to inspire confidence in their organization. Because of this they rarely received contact submissions through the website, meaning that it failed to convert people, and fell short of getting visitors to take action.
Enter EvenVision, a web firm. By tapping into our past experiences & expertise working with non-profits we were able to overhaul their website and work to put their best foot forward on the internet. Fast forward roughly two years after launch and their website has become a critical tool for their organization as it converts roughly 44 visitors a month from all over Northern California into strong contact submissions. This is a golden example of how we as a web firm were able to use our past experience to construct a successful website.
Proactively tackling the Future
The next key point is that a web firm should be a professional at their trade, meaning they are continuously gaining new knowledge and experience. This involves keeping up with the current standards of graphic design, development tools, SEO, social media networks, etc... Keeping up on these standards allows web firms to offer fresh insights and new tools to their clients that will help them remain relevant & valuable to their customers. There are bad designs, good designs, and excellent designs. A web firm should be keeping up with what is in the “excellent” category and striving for excellence with every website that they build.
Once again, as an individual you can construct your site for 'free," but can you continue to maintain it once your business grows, or speeds up? It's important to remember that if you want long-term success for your website, and by extension your business, that you need to keep up with the changes in the environment that the website lives in.
Web firms should also keep up with the standards of user-focused content, that maximizes SEO, social share-ability, and inbound traffic. For a website to be successful, it needs to be easily found and shared on the increasingly social internet. There are strategies and methods to set a website up to be easily found and shared, and specific standards for making your website rank as high as possible on major search engines like Google. These standards and systems require continuous learning, as they change regularly. A web firm should always be up on the latest standards of SEO, and work to implements these standards in the websites that they build & maintain to help their clients achieve long-term success.
Ultimately, the standards of how to build, design, and run websites are constantly changing as technology evolves at a rapid pace. As professionals, a web firm stays up on what these standards are and implements them in the websites that they build. Doing this sets up their clients with websites that will remain relevant to their customers.
Mantovas Two Street Music
Micro Case Study
As noted above it's important to stay on top of the latest changes, and the proactively tackle them. But that can be really hard when you're running your business and need to invest time into making the rent rather than learning about the latest developments in web design.
Our work with Mantova's Two Street Music in Eureka is a golden example of how a web firm should work alongside a company as a team member. Since the launch of their new website about two years ago, EvenVision's been working alongside them on a monthly basis keeping them up to date on how their site is performing, and some of the latest developments. Since launch, we've worked alongside them to improve their blog, SEO ranking, and have even added e-commerce to their site.
When we originally constructed their site one of the items that they really wanted to incorporate into their site was a messaging system, however, when we ran our cost-benefit-analysis it didn't seem like the desired solution would provide a good return on investment. Fast forward two years and Facebook Messenger just announced that their system now had a website API allowing business to tap into their platform. We're now currently in the process of adding the system to their site, which they are super stoked and excited to get up and running, as they'll be one of the first companies in Humboldt county to utilize this system - keeping them on the cutting edge.
Taking the stress out of maintenance.
Good web firms should provide the systems necessary to achieve long-term success for a businesses website without worrying their clients with running systems updates. It's rare that business owners and individuals have time, or expertise to spend running regular systems updates. Nor do they have time to solve problems or bugs that arise.
A proper web firm should remove the burden of the underlying system away from their clients’ hands by taking care of the “under the hood” systems of websites. These systems make a website work well. For example underlying systems: keep website performance up, prevent the site from crashing and keep the system secure. There are many different options for these: cheap options, expensive options, good options, and bad options. This is the type of thing a business owner or individual usually don't have the time or know how to deal maintain, or even implement. That is where web firms come in. Their clients should not have to think or worry about if they have the best system set up for running their website, but rest assured that their website will run smoothly, or that if anything happens to it that there is support from a real person when needed.
Micro Case Study
Systems ultimately run everything on a website. You can think of it much like a mobile phone with various apps the run different key components. On WordPress these items are called Plug-ins, for Drupal these underhood systems are called Modules. But that is only to name a few of the underlying systems that do things of value. There are server-side elements for instance that are worth consideration as well.
When we started working with San Francisco based non-profit Artspan a couple years back they were struggling with a website that had problems with underlying systems. Their Drupal-based website was bogged down by some broken modules that were in desperate need of updates, not to mention the fact that the servers that they were using were bogging down the performance of their site and hampering the websites user experience. Prior to resolving the module issues & the sever problems, their site took roughly 7.5 seconds to load. After making the appropriate corrections and changes we managed to drop the loading speed to .5 seconds, dramatically improving the performance of their site for all visitors.
Furthermore, they were struggling against CiviCRM which is a major component of their organization and their website success. Without our help to develop some custom tools, and data pathways they would've easily struggled along spending countless hours either personally trying to resolve the issues, or by simply surrendering to them and accepting their fate. By making improvements to CiviCRM we saved them countless hours that they were able to take and invest in growing their organization and their Bay Area community rather than fighting the underlying systems of their website.
Leveraging the collective resources of many
Another way that web firms remove the worry from their clients is by providing ongoing support. With all things, there is the possibility of problems arising, no matter how simple they may be. To minimize these problems for their clients, web firms often take both a reactive and a proactive approach.
Web firms should provide ongoing support by keeping the underlying system of a website up-to-date. This is especially important when it comes to security. If the underlying system of a website is not kept up-to-date, it can become a security risk, the website could be hacked, or customer’s data could be at risk. Furthermore, the should notify their client of upcoming changes that may impact their businesses website. By leveraging an entire team, that means instead of potentially just 1 set of eyes screening new information and resolving bugs, there is an entire team of people that are proactively tackling new stuff.
Without the support of a team at a web firm, a client would need to tackle any issues that develop on their site single-handedly, or through the use of mass support systems. This can eat away at precious time, or simply just not get done, both of which can be problematic for a business. However, with a proper web firm clients are oftentimes given access to a support system where they can ask questions, request new features, or get help with any issues that come up immediately from a team focused on supporting them. This means that clients can get immediate help and do not have to spend their valuable time resolving issues on their site, freeing them to focus on their business.
Measures of Success:
Lastly, web firms can use their collective resources, knowledge, and understanding to not only help set up a website to provide meaningful data but to also help interpret it (which is the most valuable part). It's important for a business to know how their website is actually performing, and whether or not their business & traffic is growing with quality visitors. Web firms should not only be able to tap into systems to provide this information but also proactively help their clients to understand the value of the data being produced.
My colleague Josh wrote a great article call "optimizing your website for data" that goes into depth regarding measures of success and data produced by a website. If you're interested in learning more I'd recommend giving that article a read through.
More heads are better than one. People will all see, and understand things differently. If you're going to take charge of tackling your own project you cannot count on a team of people to catch errors or help you understand the value of your site and your marketing.
A Web Firm is an Investment
Over the long-run web firms can save business owners’ and individuals’ valuable time and energy and ultimately set their clients up for long-term success. Before deciding to build and design your own website, consider if the cost of your time and energy is worth the money that you will be saving. Hiring a web firm to build a website for you is an investment, but it is an investment in a team of experts & professionals that want to see your business grow and be a success.