Web design on the cheap

posted in: Web Design

It is fairly common to hear things like: “my friend is a programmer and will help me with a website” and “my son knows a lot about computers and he can design my website“. People these days think that the internet and specially, internet marketing is so simple that any person with basic computer skills and probably some design or programming skills can promote with great success a business online. Worst still, most people only think in terms of a website, when online marketing is so much more.

While many online services have become simple, readily available and even free, that hardly means that internet marketing is cheap. Most programmers and designers know just a piece of the puzzle, and depending on their experience, that piece may be heavily corrupted by their personal views. The end results can go from the accidentally successful to the disgracefully disastrous.

A case

A friend of my wife is a folkloric musician. She and her husband play together. They have excellent cool music and have been doing this for years all over the world. They particularly believe in online marketing and a friend offered to do their website. They expected to attract fans and people interested in booking them for gigs, but the friend only knew about design and how to setup a pretty website.

Forward 2 years and after some heavy investment and tons of work, the website is still not finished, can’t be updated (done in Flash the wrong way) and the friend is now unable to help them because she is now in a “real” job. Worst still, they had to write all the content and don’t have the time to spend it thinking what will sell better, test it and even finish filling the pages with it!

Believe it or not, this is the third time this month I hear of a similar case, where a friend or a family member “helps” with a website and then suddenly find a job and leave the people hanging. Recently, speaking with my friend Javier, an internet marketer from Spain, he was telling me how this is a common situation in Spain. In Spain, where many people are out of jobs because of the recent economic woes, a lot are coming out and saying they do internet marketing. But just as the musicians’ case, most find a job and leave all their “customers/friends” hanging and loosing money.

Suffice to say that in the musicians’ case, they learned their lesson and want to focus on what they are great at, making cool music. They want now a real internet marketing company that can take them to new levels… and so we will.

The point

This is an excellent case of buyer beware. I have a friend who is a great dental hygienist, but I would never think of asking her to do mouth surgery on me or any of my family. Programmers and designers can be incredibly talented, but to be a real online marketing expert you have to have a combination of different things.

1. You have to know about marketing. The internet is just like any other medium. It has its rules, some are not even that new, just a re-visitation of old classics from traditional marketing.

2. You have to know at least enough of programming and design. The keyword here is “enough”. You just need to know enough so you can work with programmers and designers. After all, they are the experts in their fields, you at least need to understand them. Knowing everything on one particular subject will not let you focus on the rest… most often, great designers and programmers are obsessed with their work and understand little to no marketing.

3. You have to know about Business. If you understand marketing and the web, you still need to have a strong business sense, preferably some business experience. You are going to help people with their businesses, the least you need is to be able to understand them and provide them with the right solutions, not just a pretty website.

4. You have to know about Psychology. Even if its just a little, marketing is as much psychology as it is business. You need to understand demographics and how they relate to a given ad. Psychographics and how people may react to information or structure. You don’t need to be a full blown profiler, but knowing at least a little will help.

5. You have to have experience. You can’t start being an online marketer without previous experience. Launching a website is complicated, launching a campaign is even more complicated, but even more complicated is to predict a certain campaigns’ success to guide your decisions.

If you still want to do marketing on the cheap, there are a plethora of resources out there. You can get hosting for as low as 5 dollars a month and create a website with free website builders. Will this sell, convert or attract costumers? Most likely not, but you will sure have a heck of a time, specially writing the content and figuring out if your visitors are real prospects or just passers-by.

Marketing on the cheap, may even hurt you, damage your reputation or get you more headaches than solutions. If you just consider the time investment you have to make, marketing on the cheap may be more expensive than you think.

Avoid cheap promotion and get real Internet marketing with an agency based in Guelph, Canada. Web design and online promotion agents. They are good at helping businesses be effective and profitable.