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I'm Erika Fitzgerald, a website copywriter and educator with a big heart for small businesses. Here on the blog, you'll find copywriting education, online business tips, client case studies, and snippets from my life as an entrepreneur.
Building a new website is like renovating your house. It’s easy to get excited and jump ahead to the fun parts. But for your website to be successful, you need to start with the foundation. In other words, why are you creating this website? What’s the plan? Without a clear goal, your website will end up feeling like the Winchester Mystery House: beautiful on the outside but meandering and dysfunctional on the inside.
A question my clients often ask is, “At what point do I hire a web designer?” The short answer is, “Copy first, then design.” This is because copy lays the foundation of a website. Copy aside, there are several steps to take before hiring a designer to bring your website to life. But first, let’s straighten out precisely who does what in the website development process.
Drag and drop website builders like Wix and Squarespace have gained popularity, claiming that “anyone—yes, even YOU—can build a website.” Such advertising has given rise to some confusion about what differentiates a web designer from a web developer. To be clear, they are not the same.
A quick Google search for a web designer in any given city will yield a confusing mix of designers and developers. While anyone with an eye for graphic design can create a beautiful website using the platforms mentioned above, only a web developer with coding experience can build and optimize a custom website.
In many cases, a designer can create a perfectly functional website using a drag and drop platform. Going this route will cost far less than hiring a designer and developer to build a custom website from the ground up. For example, this website is professionally designed by ShowIt website designer Emma Troy—no custom coding required.
To sum it up, there are three different specialists you can hire to work on your website—and a web developer is typically the last one in the lineup if you decide to go the custom route.
A website copywriter
What does a copywriter do? They write content with the goal of closing sales. A copywriter who specializes in websites creates content that establishes the conversion strategy and user-flow of your site. Because copy informs design, a copywriter is typically the first person you’ll need to hire when creating a website.
A website designer
A web designer creates the visual concept and layout of your website, including color palettes, images, graphics, and text. They work closely with your website copywriter to determine which pages your site needs, ensure written and visual content co-exist, and iron out the site navigation. If you opt for a visual drag and drop builder like ShowIt, Squarespace, or Wix, the designer is the last stop on your website creation journey.
A website developer
Technically speaking, there’s some overlap between design and development—but they remain different disciplines. A designer doesn’t need to know code, and a developer doesn’t need to know graphic design to be successful. However, a designer might also know how to develop and vice versa.
Before you cash in on a new website, audit your current website (or hire a website strategist to take a look under the hood). Look for the following signs that point to new website city:
Does your website look like a dinosaur from the prehistoric ages of technology? Does it have pixelated animations and blinking pop-ups akin to the old Las Vegas strip? Is it totally not pulling its weight when it comes to making sales? If your answer to any of the above is “yes,” “kinda,” or “maybe?”—it’s time for an upgrade.
If your website takes longer to load than your AOL dial-up internet from the 90s, it’s time to bring your site up to speed. Here’s why: the first five seconds of page-load time are critical to your website conversion rate. Each additional second of load time drags your conversion rate down by an average of 4.42 percent, which is not great in internet time. Creating a new website is the best way to increase your site speed (and revenue).
2020 called. It wanted you to know that your business is begging for a website. To say 2020 is the year the world went virtual would be an understatement, making it that much more imperative to have a strong online presence. In light of COVID-19, organizations around the world are reimagining “business as usual” online—and you should, too. According to Deloitte, 50 percent of consumers are now spending more on convenience. Plus, with digital sales up by 130 percent between January and mid-April this year, your business can’t afford to not have a website.
Without the right preparation and support, creating a new website can be an arduous journey. It takes planning, participation, and teamwork to create your dream website. Before you hire a website designer or developer, follow these three steps.
A website is a vital business investment, so you’ll want to choose a platform that can support your needs now—and in the future. While WordPress is one of the most popular and customizable website platforms, it’s also more expensive to develop and maintain. If you sell products online, Shopify may be the best option. For a standard blog, information, or business website, ShowIt and Squarespace are more affordable and still highly customizable. Consult with different web designers and developers early on to determine which platform will best serve your business.
If you expect to launch a new website in a couple of weeks, prepare for disappointment. Good things take time. The best website copywriters, designers, and developers typically book out months in advance. And because no two websites are created equal, the timeline can vary from a month to several months. Sure, you might find someone who claims they can get the work done faster but engaging an expert from the get-go will save you time and money in the long run.
Lastly, your website designer needs content to design. Before you dive into design, plan at least a month to work with a website copywriter and brand photographer.
Launching an all-new brand? If that’s a resounding “yes!”—then the first step is to work with a graphic designer to create a brand identity. This typically includes a logo, color palette, font pairings, and patterns. Your website designer might double as your brand designer, or you can hire someone who specializes exclusively in visual branding.
High-quality, original photography improves conversions. People like to buy from people they can relate to. If you’re the face of your brand, invest in a professional branding shoot that represents your personal brand. If you sell products, hire a product photographer to highlight the best angles.
SEO keyword strategy
Your website copywriter will create a keyword strategy for relevant terms and phrases your target audience uses to search online. When they write your copy, they’ll incorporate these keywords to optimize your content for search engines. In other words, hiring a website copywriter with SEO experience will help your site get discovered by the right people.
Next, your copywriter will work with you and the design team to map out your website pages and write keyword-rich website copy. Your website developer should also be part of the conversation at this point to discuss any particular functionality or integrations needed. From there, your copywriter will translate the functionality into words that walk users through your website.
When your content is ready, your designer will integrate everything into a cohesive visual layout. The copy will inform the general structure and flow of your website design. Lastly, if you’re working with a developer on a custom website, your designer will communicate with them to ensure the designs are properly translated.
Creating a new website is a notable undertaking for any business. Not to mention it’s only one piece of the larger marketing picture. Hiring a website copywriter early on in the process is an excellent way to start planning the foundation of your entire website.
Interested in learning more about how a website copywriter can help get your website off on the right foot? Apply to work together!