BE Offices continues its regular focus on the most common small businesses in the UK. This week, we take a look at website designers.
As part of an ongoing series, BE Offices focuses on some of the most popular small businesses. This week, we look at website designers.
What do they do?
A website designer is characteristically technically talented as well as creative. They use these skills to design or redesign websites. They need to be able to understand how to make the website easy and straightforward to use, while at the same time making sure it is aesthetically pleasing and relatable to the services or products the website offers.
Web design is a relatively new business and has only recently reached its boom as technology continues to advance.
Website designers need more than just creative flair, though this is also important. They need to be extremely computer-literate, and adept at coding and using a range of design software like Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as having experience in UX, SEO, marketing and digital media.
When it comes to the creative side, web designers must be able to design the website to suit the company they’re making it for. For example, a financial consultancy website is unlikely to be too image-heavy and colourful. An art school’s sign-up website, however, is likely to show off what can be done if one attends the art school, with plenty of images, bright colours, and even illustrations.
One thing all websites must have in common, however, is their readability and easy navigation.
You don’t necessarily need a degree in web design to get ahead, though some training in coding or digital design is definitely a plus.
Web designers can teach themselves a lot of the web design process. All experience and any sites worked on should be logged in a portfolio which will then be shown to potential clients.
Web designers need a good working knowledge of HTML coding and experience writing web pages in a combination of codes. Some of the applications that its important to be capable in are:
• Photoshop and Dreamweaver
• .Net frameworks
The main challenge is establishing a reputation if you don’t have experience in the industry. Then there’s the competition. Making yourself not only stand out, but appear more desirable than a more experienced web designer or one who has a few years of working with an agency behind them, is one of a new web designer’s biggest challenges.
Some do this by focussing on certain areas, through lower prices or pitching themselves as a more agile and adaptable option. By choosing an area to specialise in – women’s ecommerce, for example, or event company websites – it’s easier to pitch to new clients by showing them other work you’ve done similar to what they’ll need.
According to APM Digest, one of the most difficult obstacles facing new web designers striking out on their own is seeking out customers who will provide them with steady and predictable income.
One solution to this might be contracting with existing customers on an ongoing basis by providing maintenance and support services at the beginning of an engagement.
The biggest danger that developers face when they begin establishing ongoing fixed-fee support contracts is pricing for much less work than they are actually expected to perform.
Standing out from the crowd to initially bag clients is always a little tricky too, considering the amount of people who are trained in IT literacy these days. With companies having so much choice, you want to make sure that you’re their first.
Having a particularly colourful and diverse portfolio can certainly help – but you can also consider including website performance monitoring as an additional service in the cost. This way, you can show the client sample monthly reports and demonstrate that you not only build the website to begin with, but that you’re on-hand and capable of sorting out any potential issues they have from occurring once the website is built.
From a human perspective, the main challenges relate to the hard work needed to set up websites in response to clients’ needs and desires, when your ideas might completely clash with theirs. You need to be patient, for anything relating to making something for a client.
There could be long hours, and if you’re working from home as a freelance web designer then you might find it hard to switch off from your work. You also have be comfortable on the days that you don’t have work as well – because as a freelancer, there is very little structure in the work you do.
You’ll also have to be happy to and capable of working to deadlines.
Facts about web design
We take a look at the facts behind web design in the UK…
• Typically, freelancers can charge anywhere between £25 – £65 per hour for their services, whereas larger agencies charge much higher – sometimes more than £120 per hour.
• The median daily rate for web designers in the UK is £425
• Just under half of web designers don’t ask for a deposit before beginning a job, while 33% ask for a 20-25% down payment before beginning work for a client
Case study: Pragmatic
Despite the wide range of web design companies in the UK and specifically in and around London, Pragmatic, based in Brighton, is considered to be one of the top web design companies for small businesses in the UK.
Pragmatic specialise in WordPress, and deliver WordPress expertise to both small companies and start-ups and large corporations such as Condé Nast and Martini.
It now has a network of over 50 talented designers, developers and account staff, making it a relatively small team. Their unique approach allows clients to get the experts they need for a more affordable price.
They offer their services at a discounted rate for charity and non-profit initiatives, including Hearing Link and Internet Matters. They also give small businesses help, formally and informally, at community events.
Pragmatic offers long-term assistance to their clients, helping with social media content strategy, promotional email content and offers, site updates and visual design – all within the WordPress realm!
A company like Pragmatic shows that focusing on one area and excelling in it can be extremely fruitful for a small web design company.