I remember the old days of the web. Before WordPress was even a thing, Web design was done from scratch– there was no 5-minute installation, there were no plugins, and there were no themes to choose from. Any dynamic parts of the website had to be specifically tailored for the client.
Creating a website was costly, at least from a technical standpoint. Both the front-end and the admin area had to be coded from the ground up, the database had to be planned and implemented, and so on. Most web design firms would create their our content management systems to speed up this process, but it was still costly.
Depending on the scale of the site, publishing a website could take months of work.
Then CMS like WordPress came, and it all changed. Suddenly, it was easy to do web design.
Turning web design into a commodity
In just a decade, web design has gone from being a very exclusive profession, to something almost anyone can do.
Nowadays, you can install WordPress, add some starter plugins for free, and then use a premium theme for a very reasonable cost. Then all you need to do is to start creating content. If you’re experienced, all of this can take just a single afternoon.
The barrier to entry has definitely gone down– waay down, but unfortunately it seems to give off the impression that web design has become easy. In some ways it has, since development time is now a fraction of what it originally took to build a functional website. The problem is that this seems to have carried over to the more intangible parts of web design.
“I’m sure you can get that done in 5 minutes”
If you are a WordPress freelancer or consultant, let me know if this phrase rings familiar to you. For me, it did during my times as a services-based consultant.
Having worked with clients for over 10 years, I have heard that exact phrase countless times, both from large and small jobs alike.
I would land a new client, and over the course of the design & development phase I would get requests to make changes on the fly. Sometimes it was a simple adjustment, but other times it was something that would require rethinking the whole project.
When explaining the costs of doing those changes, the usual reply was “you can get that done in 5 minutes”. Even if it meant having to throw away a lot of work. And the problem is not the phrase itself per se, it’s the implications it has.
Going from good to great
Deploying a new WordPress website is easy; designing a great website is not.
There is more to web design than just going through the famous 5-minute installation. And fortunately, it involves the kind of work that cannot be easily commoditized. A well thought-out project will need to include some of the following:
- Creating a solid content strategy
- Setting up the conversion funnel & website goals
- Tying up content and design in harmony
- Optimizing web copy for conversions
- Setting the tone and voice of the brand
Many of these tasks require deeper knowledge and experience, which should always come at a premium. And I personally think that web design is treated as a commodity because only the final outcome is visible to the naked eye.
In other words, all the things that can be easily automated and outsourced are the most apparent ones, leaving all the planning and conceptual stuff out of view. And by extension, unnoticed by many.
It all starts with educating the client
But is the client at fault? I don’t think so.
Most of these problems arise because a client might not be even able to distinguish between a Fiverr gig and a custom-made website by an established agency. Unlike a designer, a client does not have the slightest idea of what constitutes good practice, because web design is outside of his area of expertise.
It is easy for anyone to become convinced that hiring a freelancer to design a website is something trivial. If you look at Themeforest or marketplaces like Fiverr, you could be easily misled into thinking that websites should be cheap. That they ought to be easy to create.
Because of that, part of the job of a WordPress consultant should be to educate the client right from the start. This means a number of things:
- Explaining the importance of planning
- Setting expectations from day one
- Focusing on goals, not aesthetic changes
As a WordPress consultant, you should strive to make the client aware of all the stages of web development, especially the ones that are less visible to the naked eye. Things like planning and defining a target audience may not seem too important, but they are an essential part when defining a project.
Remember: he may be asking for a WordPress website, but in reality what he wants is a solution to a problem.
Have you experienced this problem? Join the conversation.