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Working with Your Site Designer

» Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

If you’re new to the e-commerce sphere you’re probably not up-to-speed on SE algorithms, semantics compliance or cascading style sheets. And, when you select a site designer for your online venture, s/he is going to talk about search engines, semantics and CSS. She might as well be speaking Bulgarian.

Still, you have a vision. You have preferences for the color scheme, the type face and the site’s layout or architecture. It’s like building a house. You may not understand the importance of kiln-dried lumber but you don’t have to. You just have to know what you like.

Talking the Talk? Don’t!
Be honest with your site designer. Don’t pretend you know all about HTML when you don’t even know what HTML is. (It’s the code used by web designers to build sites.) A good design firm will not only create a great looking site, they’ll also take the time to teach you a few things about site design and online marketing.

Instead, point out several sites and explain what it is you like about each. Designers aren’t mind readers so if you just say “I like these 10 sites” the designer will visit those sites but won’t be sure if you like the color motif, the layout, the navigation or something “indescribable.”

Start Making Lists
Make a list of sites you like with reasons why you like them. But don’t stop there.

Make a list of “must-haves” on your site. A secure checkout, a merchant account, pictures of you and the family, no more than one product per page and so on. You don’t have to know a thing about site building to have a clear picture of what you want your site to do.

The problem is conveying those desires and needs to the design firm.

Ask the designer or firm to develop a reaction piece — a sample web page that you can react to. Then react. Point out what you do like and what you don’t like. This helps the designer hone in on the right look and feel for the site.

Talk About Your Demographics
Demographics are simply descriptors of your market — the ideal buyers. Male, over 40, married, children, earns over $40,000 a year, college degree, white collar and so on. Your site, and the copy that appears on it, should be developed specifically for your target demographic.

Now, you have knowledge of your customers. But your designer has knowledge of the ruthlessly competitive w3 marketplace. And those two bodies of knowledge must be brought together to create an effective site.

Listen to the Designer
When you go to a doctor, you expect expert, knowledgeable advice from an up-to-date professional. Well, you should expect the same from any good site design professional. And just as you take the doctor’s advice, if you’re behind the curve on e-commerce, take the designer’s advice, as well.

There’s plenty of room for your creativity but a design pro knows what works best for SEO and how to construct the sub-structure of the site for fluidity and ease of navigation.

These pros also know the dynamics of effective site skin layout. The site’s skin is that part of your site that visitors actually see, and there are copywriting and layout conventions with proven track records of converting visitors to buyers.

Know What You Don’t Know
If you’re unfamiliar with the world of e-commerce but you have a great idea for a web site, there are three options available to you:

  1. Learn enough about web coding, semantics compliance, SEO dos and don’ts and how to create a secure merchant account to accept credit card orders and build the site yourself. You should be ready to launch in 12 — 18 months depending on how technically adept you are.
  2. Option two is to simply hand over the entire project to a design/SEO professional. Yes, this will cost more money and yes it does require a leap of faith that you’ve selected the right design firm for the job, but you can be operational in a couple of weeks. Then, you can learn on-the-job so to speak. However, you should keep your SEO/designer’s number close by for matters of tweaking, updating and so on.
  3. The third option is the best. Take enough time to learn something about e-commerce and search engine optimization. It isn’t necessary to learn HTML or XHTML coding. You can pay people to actually write the lines of code that will become your web site.

But, if you understand the fundamentals of site design, what key words are and how search engines access, spider and index a site you’ll be in a much better position to discuss these things intelligently with your designer, working in tandem to bring your vision to fruition.

There are lots of books on “Making Millions on the Internet” but save your money. There is so much content on SEO, principles of site design, opinions from those in the know and anything else you can think of associated with online commerce — and it’s all free. All you have to do is dive in and start reading. Soon enough, you’ll know what you need to know to move forward.

And soon enough, you’ll be able to speak to a site designer in the language of the industry. You’ll know what a home page is and key word density, conversion rate and web hosting pitfalls. It may sound like a lot but it’s anything but brain surgery. There are lots of people just like you earning good (great) income through e-commerce.

So, if you don’t know anything about it, but that idea keeps running through your brain, learn enough to move forward with some confidence. It’s not a good idea to hand the entire project over to a designer and keep your fingers crossed. And it’s not a good idea to take a couple of years to become a techno-SEO guru. By then, your good idea will be an old idea.

Your best course is to learn what you need to know so you can converse with your site designer to ensure that it is, indeed, your vision that’s brought to life.

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