You’re probably a web designer and web developer because you like the work, but isn’t it nice when the work is actually profitable?
There are a lot of web design business gurus on the market. I’m certainly not the only one trying to help website agencies make more money and provide a better product. But what I typically hear from those other “experts” is that you should simply charge more money for the websites you’re building. That’s how you become more profitable. That’s it. Just raise your prices.
While yes, I think Wix, SquareSpace, and other DIY builders have certainly made us as an industry race to the bottom a bit, we can’t just ask for more money if we’re not providing more value than those DIY website builders.
The biggest problems I see with these gurus? They tell you to charge more money and add more value, but they rarely tell you how.
Well today, I’m going to take you through 8 ways you can add more value to the websites you’re building so that you can charge more. Not only can you raise your prices, but you’ll be raising the level of customer service you’re providing and improving the results your customers get with their websites. That can mean more recurring revenue and more referrals for you. Frankly, that’s all a win win win to me.
Let’s dive in.
1. Plan and Strategize Up Front
Ooft, this isn’t the fun part and frankly, it’s why we tend to skip it as an industry. But before you start anything with a website project, you have to plan it out and strategize! Applying some upfront research to your web design projects will go a long way to not only helping you to create a better product at the end of things, but it will actually make the entire process so much easier.
Sit down with your clients before you start and ask them questions about their goals with the website, what results they’re hoping to get out of it, and their long-term visions for their business. Knowing what the target is and where they want to grow to will help you to actually hit the mark (meaning you’re far less likely to have angry clients at the end of the project). Work with your client to set solid KPIs or at least outline their top 3 or 4 objectives so that everyone is on the same page for what success looks like.
Create Buyer Personas
Next, do some research into their target market. Who are they trying to reach? What problems are they facing that your client is solving? Your client may already have some buyer personas drawn up, but if not, that’s something you can do pretty easily. Just create a short sketch of who you’re trying to reach and what problems the business is trying to solve.]
When you’re working on buyer personas, take note of how they’re talking about their problems. Knowing how they talk about things and the terminology they’re using will help with my next tip!
Create a Sitemap
After I’ve done all the upfront research, I next create a sitemap. This can be as simple as a visual representation of the pages and their URLs you’re going to include in the website or you could take it one step further by including wireframes.
Personally, I stick with a simple sitemap and walk my customer through it, verify the pages we’re going to include and go from there. I find, depending on the customer, much more information than that can feel a bit overwhelming for them, but that all depends on who you’re working with and what your normal process is.
2. Make the Copy Benefits Driven and SEO Friendly
After you’ve strategized, this next tip becomes a whole lot easier. We talked about this a bit in episode 35, but you have to be at least editing the copy your client is providing. The copy, after all, is what’s going to convert those browsers into leads and sales, so it’s not a part of the process you can skip.
Even if you’re not a writer, it’s really easy to switch around your client’s provided copy by taking some of the things you decided in your strategy phase and ensuring that the copy on the website is focused on the benefits you’re providing the end user and less on the features of the business.
If you ask your client to provide the copy for their own website (unless they happen to be a company that provides writing services), chances are they’re going to focus on them. They’ll provide copy that’s all about the company, the features of their services, and use technical jargon that their target market doesn’t understand.
After doing the research upfront, you should have a buyer persona for your client that includes their ideal customer’s problems, pain points, and even the terminology for how they speak about those things. Reframe your client’s view of their business and put the copy back into the customers’ view. You have to appeal, after all, to their target market and not the CEO.
Ensuring that the copy in the websites you build are focused on the benefits of the company’s services and using the customers’ language, it’ll actually be more SEO friendly, too. After all, that target market isn’t searching for help using the company’s technical jargon. They’re looking using the words and language that they understand.
3. Build for Good UX
Whenever you’re building a website, you need to think of the user first. Not the company or the brand you’re helping, but the people that will actually be browsing and using the website.
Again, this is where that upfront strategizing and buyer personas come in handy because you’ve researched and done the work to get these answers. You know who you’re building for which makes providing a good User Experience far easier. When you focus first on the user, too, you’re going to drive those sales and conversions better than almost any other tactic.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
Want to know my #1 UX tip – Keep it Simple Stupid. Otherwise known as the K.I.S.S. method.
Don’t overcomplicate your design or any part of the website experience. When everything is simplified, it automatically improves the UX because anyone browsing the website should be able to figure it out.
K.I.S.S. is also powerful if you’re not the best graphic designer on the planet. It’ll help you provide and create clean, simple designs that are still beautiful and effective.
4. Design with Responsiveness in Mind
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this in 2022, but I think a lot of people still forget that we have to think not only mobile first, but responsively. When you’re designing and creating a website, you want to ensure that you’re doing so by thinking of how it’s going to look on various screen sizes.
When I first started building websites for money 18 years ago, I only really had to worry about one screen size. Fast forward, and we have to worry about how our websites look on phones and tablets of various sizes, laptops, desktops, massive monitors, TVs, XBoxes, and soon the Metaverse (maybe. God only knows.)
Don’t just design out the desktop version of the websites you build or just the mobile. While I’d always recommend designing a website mobile first, you actually have to design and test for those other screen sizes, too.
While you can definitely research into responsive methods and best practices and use libraries like Bootstrap (which is what I actually use), one of the best things you can do is just to build. Create multiple websites, check on the major breakpoint sizes, and see how it changes your designs. You’ll be amazed at how that helps shift your brain into thinking in all these sizes and options.
5. Follow Web Accessibility Best Practices
Like we discussed in episode 30, Web Accessibility improves a website’s overall UX and on-page SEO, so there’s really no reason to skip it. But if you want to work at a step above your competition, this is a weak area for a lot of web designers and will help you provide a ton of value into the websites you’re building.
Not only will following best practices for web accessibility provide digital experiences that are more inclusive and help to capture their entire target market, but it will protect them against ADA lawsuits. There’s honestly, not a single reason why you shouldn’t be following basic accessibility rules, honestly.
You can dig more into how you can be more accessible in episode 30, but the basics include simple things like:
- Using ALT tags and descriptive file names on every image
- Checking font and background colors’ contrast ratios with free tools like WebAim
- Providing transcriptions or closed captioning for any videos with sound
- Including proper text in links – think anything but Learn More
Coding sites for web accessibility best practices honestly don’t take me anymore time than it would if I didn’t; not anymore. Once you get used to the process, it becomes very easy to incorporate them into every website you’re building.
6. Practice Customer Communication
This is a shift, I know, but just provide better customer care! The bar is super low, especially with web developers, to be better than your competition. But when your customers feel like you actually care about them and their businesses, it’s amazing what value they’ll feel like has been added to their project.
For one, you’re actually listening to them and addressing their needs, not just applying a cookie cutter solution to their business. For two, you’re actively helping them and keeping the project on track. If you’re like me at all, you’ve heard untold horror stories of web developers taking the money and not answering emails for weeks or even months on end, half finished projects, or a design that was nothing like what was promised.
By simply answering emails within a business day or two, communicating where you’re at on the project, checking in weekly, and even doing some video calls (I know, just email honestly isn’t good enough), you’ll be able to uplevel your customer service from about 80% of web designers and developers working in the market right now.
Especially if you want to set yourself apart from the competition on job boards like Upwork and Fiverr, you have to actually be better than what your customer might be used to from working with those platforms.
7. Set Your Client Up for Long-Term Success
I think honestly, this is my best kept secret to how I’m so beloved by so many of my customers. Not only do I care about them and their business’s success, but apparently it’s rare that I’m asking them questions like where they want their business to grow to in a year, five years, and even ten years.
No, not every client is going to have an answer to that question, but getting them to think about what they want in the long-term – and talking that over with me – helps me to build their websites to be more future proof. I have several clients that get an average of 3-4 years of life, or more, out of the websites I’ve built because we’re planning out for that growth.
I’m also doing what I can to make sure their websites stay flexible and are built for those changes down the line. Whether that means making it simple to change out images, add services, or make simple copy adjustments, I want my clients to have a website that grows with their business. Not one that never gets updated because it’s “too hard” or they’ve grown in ways they didn’t expect.
8. Never Stop Learning
The key to adding value to your websites? Never stop learning about websites! This is an industry that changes by the hour, let alone by the day. You can’t be comfortable ever, but that’s also why I kind of love it. There’s always something new to learn, always a new tactic, a new trend, or a new best practice to follow.
Find a few guides – experts you trust – and follow them. Read blogs, books, and articles to help you stay fresh. Dig into new aspects of web design and learn how other parts of digital marketing works with websites.
When you spend just an hour or two a week learning, you’ll find new ways to consistently add value back to your business, your offerings, and for your clients.