Why Designers Need Smart Marketers to Build Websites

February 9, 2011 •

We’ve touched on this topic before, in a great piece Mike wrote last year — All I Need is a Web Designer (which I highly encourage you to read) – but I was reminded of it again in a lunch meeting with a friend last week.  The company recently went through a rebranding process, and as part of this process hired a firm to redesign their website.  So far so good right?

Well, after taking a quick look at the newly launched website it was clear to me that, while the face looked good, there were major issues behind the scenes.  Much like when buying a home, websites can have pretty exteriors, great colors on the walls, but significant issues with the structure and foundation that a home buyer would never know to look for or even how to evaluate.  Hence, the building inspection business.  A good home inspector is worth their weight in gold, but who serves that role as you go through the website process?

For most companies, the process goes something like this:

  1. Engage a web design firm, individual, or “digital agency” (whatever the heck that phrase means — whole separate topic for a future post).
  2. Trust that everything is being done right, because we hired “somebody that knows this stuff” and we don’t have the knowledge or resources to verify that the right things are being done.

So, getting back to the start of the story, my friend’s company’s new website launches and things look good.  Sure, he said, it was frustrating to be behind schedule, launch late and not know why, but they came away with something they thought looked good, and functioned the way they wanted it to.  And, of course he assumed that it had to be built right because they hired a shop that boasted big name clients and a fancy portfolio.  So, despite the hold-ups and some frustration they were confident that their site was delivered in tip-top shape.

You already know from the beginning of this post that the reality was anything but that.  The newly launched site did not try to keep the same URLs where they could (big for SEO), had no 301 redirects from old pages to new where a new URL was necessary (again a big SEO factor), had the same title and description on every single page (SEO no-no), a slew of images with no alt tags (again, SEO and usability no-no) and a host of other issues the client would never be expected to notice or even know about.

Bluntly, I consider this malpractice.  When building a home, there’s a role for architects, builders and inspectors.  What was done here was akin to leaving leaky pipes or faulty electric wiring in a wall.   After years of working to achieve significant organic rankings in Google and inbound links from industry sites, the rankings have dipped and there are broken links with generic 404 error pages since no redirects were set up.  Opportunities to tell search engines and visitors what pages are about with the proper use of metadata were ignored with every page using the same title and description.

This is why designers need the right type of marketer to build websites.  A marketer that understands both the overall strategic plan and how the nitty-gritty puzzle pieces fit together.  You need a marketer that understands how to redesign a site and maintain your first page organic search listing vs. dropping off the page altogether.  This is why many design shops bring us in to handle strategy, search, content and other elements — because they’re smart enough to know that they can’t handle it appropriately.  In short, you need to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle are aligned.

Otherwise, your stable looking home is ready to crumble on the inside.

Marketers – What are some of the worst issues you have seen on the website design side?  Designers, think that I’m being unfair?  Fire away in the comments area below.

Think your Interactive Marketing could use a building inspector?  Not sure if your website and Interactive Marketing are as effective as they could be?  Do you think you are missing out on revenue opportunities?  Read more about our Interactive Shift marketing assessment, or contact us for more information.


About the Author

As Right Source’s chief marketing technology officer, Will Davis oversees the intersection of marketing strategy, consulting, execution and technology for our clients. He focuses first on business objectives and then on helping clients leverage marketing and technology to deliver against those objectives. A recognized leader in content marketing, Will has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in government and politics and broad experience developing marketing strategies that help organizations reach milestones and grow. You can find Will on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • I think a digital agency that doesn’t understand marketing isn’t much of an agency.

    I think a marketer who doesn’t understand design is limited.

    Don’t you really need both?

    Great post.

    • Will Davis

      Great comments Scott, absolutely. I think the biggest challenge is too many shops have an understanding of one and just plow ahead without understanding the ramifications of what they are doing.

      And unfortunately, too many clients are accepting inferior work because evaluating what’s going on “behind the walls” in the code takes an expert, and they think they have hired that expert.

      Thanks for your comments – Dead on!

  • All knowledge is ultimately linked together.

    I often encounter problems with regards to marketing, directly related to the lack of specific knowledge. Sometimes people mistake buzzwords for workable solutions without understanding the context of their particular situation.

  • I have come across this loads before as well. However, I have to say, it’s difficult to do a lot of ‘internal SEO’ (onsite SEO) without doing lots of keyword research and putting a strategy together. But, the 301 redirects should have been implemented – that’s simple stuff. Ditto the meta description and title tags. There are other little things that should be included: xml sitemap, normal ‘user-friendly’ sitemap (ideally with descriptions of the pages), robots file, htaccess to stop the search engines thinking the root domain and the index page are two separate pages (with duplicate content)… And a plethora of other ‘stuff’.

    I think no company should have a website built without making sure they have a proper internet marketing strategy as well. This’ll cost more, but makes so much more sense, and will pay for itself far quicker than a website without a decent marketing strategy.

    • Will Davis

      Hi Amelia,

      You hit it right on and outlined a number of the key components of on-page SEO. If you build the site without having the proper strategy — and strategists — then you are missing the boat. Thanks again for stopping by, reading and commenting.



  • Bahadur

    This was an excellent blog post and it was well appreciated. I would like to share my two cents on it. I think what many forget is that visitors are coming to your website not for the design, but rather for the content you are providing them with. I personally believe that design plays a secondary role in the sense that it is able to retain your visitor and keep them on the site, help them navigate around and even ultimately convert them into customers, leads etc. while on the contrary a poor design would increase bounce rate and not ultimately convert for you. Check out this blog post that answers the question what comes first, design or content: http://blog.9thsphere.com/blog/web-design-or-content-first in essence implying whether the SEO aspect is more important or design – or do they go both hand in hand.

    Focusing on design first won’t get you the results you need and even if you go through best practices of creating wire-frames etc, you still need a solid set of goals, content and other media elements in order to develop a wire frame that will actually be successful. The site then needs to be correctly coded in a SEO friendly manner (all this needs to be planned way in advance).

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