It’s Halloween this week and I thought it would be fun to share with you some of the biggest horrors web designers and online strategists face when presented with a potential job (or, worse, after the contract is signed and things are moving forward). Each one of these things is something that makes chills run down our spines and curdles our blood.
You have 6 email addresses, and you use them all.
So you have three Gmail accounts, one account from one website, another account from another website (which is the very informative “firstname.lastname@example.org”), you have an email account from your Internet provider (something like “email@example.com”) and you also have an outlook.com address. This is just a nightmare, mostly for you. (And you may not know the usernames and passwords for all of them either, but that’s not the main issue.)
I genuinely don’t understand how this happens. You have an email address. It is a cogent, appropriate address, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you get another email address. And then, somehow, you get another email address. I have four email addresses – one each for my two businesses, one for my personal business so my friends can get in touch with me and one generic Gmail account where I send all my newsletters.
The reason this presents a problem for your designer is that a) you are likely to respond from a whole bunch of different emails, often with different “from” names (like in one where you identify as your childhood nickname of “Sunny Bumpkin”) and it makes it very hard to organize the emails we share back and forth. This also makes it incredibly difficult for you to manage the emails coming in from your website. If they all come in to the same place, you may accidentally respond from the one where there’s a rude quote in your email signature. Don’t do this. Get, and use, at most two emails. One for everything business, one for everything personal. (Okay, maybe a third for junk mail, but this should be connected to no device or mail program and then seriously, you’re cut off!)
You only have one image and your friend took it of you standing in your living room with your sunglasses on. It is also low res.
When you’re having a website built you need to understand that the web is a visual place. The quality of your website is directly linked in your customer or fan’s mind to your credibility.
I cannot ever stress this enough.
Where would you rather shop? Those weird pop-up stores whose only signage are those vinyl banners you can get printed for $49.99 or a well-appointed, clearly established department store? While you may finally decide to go give some of the pop-up store’s wares a look because their sign also says “Everything is 60% off!” you’re also going to approach with serious hesitation.
This is made much worse by the internet. There is no way to get people to peek around at your store from the safety of the mall corridor. Once they land on your page they’re there – and they’re judging you, and they do it in 3 seconds.
Now, I’m not saying that you must always hire a professional photographer and pay through the nose for perfect images. (Although, first, your business and career are worth it, but second, it really doesn’t cost that much.) I am, however, suggesting that you make good choices. If you want to have a friend take the picture on your fancy phone, make sure you are outside with a nice setting, wearing something professional, with nothing on your face except the glasses you must use to see and maybe some makeup if you feel like it.
You must make sure that you have that image in a high-resolution format. It may not be “optimized for web”, but that’s not your problem. Your web designer will do that for you. Make it the biggest possible size you can.
Finally, if you don’t have any other images for your website, don’t sub in some stuff you took at a concert on your phone. If you really need images you need to add some money to your budget to purchase them.
You do not have login information for your current website. OR You do not know who currently hosts your website, where your domain is registered and you don’t know how to log in to your website.
Now, of course, this is a major problem when having work done to your website or having one completely redesigned – but that is not the source of my angst about this. The source is that artists often decide that they don’t need to be responsible for these things, and that someone else will figure it out for them. This is not correct.
Even if someone else designed it, even if you are “not good with technology”, even if you have never made a change to your website, it is still yours and you are responsible. You know where the keys to your car are. You know who your home is insured by. You know how to get in touch with your superintendent. Your website, the home for your business online, is no different. Make a file. Put usernames and passwords in it. Keep it updated.
You have 18 social media accounts and you want them all displayed prominently on your website, even though you only use two of them regularly and the profiles on each are not complete.
Social media is such a beast. It has been touted as the savior of the film and music industries, and it has been credited with allowing people to build billion dollar businesses with no money.
These things are true. They are simply not universally true.
The key to social media is to have focus. If you do not have the time to spend your day finding content applicable to post on 7 social networks as well as being present and connecting with people on those networks, then you shouldn’t have those networks. Choose two, at most, and really knock them out of the park. Do a little research about where your potential fans and customers hang out primarily and then go nuts on those networks. Sit down and make a plan. Stick to that plan. And then let the rest of the networks fall by the wayside.
Now I know you’re saying, “WAIT! Everyone is on that social network. I HAVE to be on it.” That is a reasonable response, but not a sane one. You do not need to be where everyone is, you need to be where your own customers and fans are. If they are not where “everyone” is, then ignore and go your own way. I guarantee that this is the path to success, not failure.
You absolutely HAD to have a blog, where you posted twice and now your posts are stale. You are also baffled why you posted twice and did not get million customers.
Like with social media, there is the perception that blogging is the answer to every business problem you could ever have and that if you do it, it will be like one of those movies about Vegas where someone wins the jackpot at a slot machine and you will literally be showered with money.
The problem with this perception is that the part of the story they don’t tell you is that by the time that person because a genuine success story, they had been blogging 5 days a week for three years.
It’s true. Blogging can legitimately transform your business. It can help you network and find clients you never would have otherwise. Blogging is also a ton of goddamned work. In order to be successful at it, you need to know exactly what your reader/client/fan is looking for, and you have to be a good writer. Now, when I say “good”, I simply mean speak with a strong voice and create posts that are not 5 words that say, “This was a lovely wedding. I liked shooting it. They are a very happy couple.”
You also need to evaluate two incredibly important things: do you have time to actually do this (and can you make it a priority) and does my business actually need one?
Does your graphic design business actually need a blog, or do you just think that because “blogging is a magical unicorn that will flood us with clients”? Will upkeeping your portfolio with a ton of new, creative work and then funneling that out to a social network be just as good? Oh yes. Yes it will.
So before contacting your designer, take a few minutes and do a digital spring cleaning. Then you can rest easy knowing that we will never summon spirits to hex you.