Site Builder v Proper Structured Digital Marketing
(At GAAP Digital we've been making websites for just over 10 years now, We've gained enough knowledge and experience to be able to impart some of our opinions.)
That is why you are here today/tonight of course : )
Having read a recently posted article about advanced site builders such as Wix, Squarespace and The Grid I found myself scribbling down some thoughts. As 'website creators', the team at GAAP Digital obviously have some minor reservations about these 'apps'. One thing that struck me in the article was how these services (Software as a Service – or SaaS as they have come to be known) have replaced the “nerdy nephew” in the (small) business world.
It wasn't that long ago that, in requiring a web presence, you would know or contact someone whose niece or nephew could 'make websites', you would pay them a small amount for your website and that was that. Trust me ... this still happens, but it appears that site builders (SaaS) have kind of taken over. The whole article made me sit down and think of what the future of the web development and User Experience (UX) holds for web developers, and more specifically, what GAAP Digital can do to continue to stay ahead of the curve.
Sine 2006 we have had to reassess what we offer as a marketing company. From good old fashioned graphic design for print ... to Graphic design for Social Media with a digital presence thrown in ... to Design with Web build as the main service.
As time went on, the focus, or main GAAP Studio service, shifted to 'building and developing websites', generally with some design and print work along the way.
Round about 2014 we evolved into a Digital Marketing Agency whereby the focus of our core service was 'Digital' ... with Traditional marketing being a by-product of the client's engagement. We have always known that a great website on its own is not enough and that making sure that all channels of the Marketing Mix are switched on is important - if not always possible.
I have often used the metaphor of 'printing 1000 leaflets for your business, sticking them under the desk, and then thinking that the job is done'.
Without an advanced SEO strategy this is, precisely, what a website becomes... 100 Brochures under the table. (c)SDM 2003 ;
Advanced SEO was something we resisted for a long time, mainly because we felt it had “broken the web”. Many SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) companies we engaged with were focusing on SEO strategies ahead of BRILLIANT websites. Filling their sites full of endless internal links and unreadable content to “trick” Google and Bing into indexing their sites – and on many occasions losing sight of its primary purpose – engaging with the user and getting them to get in touch with the company or organisation.
To our mind a 'good website' should be brilliantly built, aesthetically attractive and, most importantly, designed with what the client wanted/needed in mind – not just picked from a list of templates.
Remember that initial sit down? That Structured Digital Marketing Plan?
We've never changed our minds on this principle. We've recently taken some time out to improve what we do and added a fair bit of SEO knowledge into the mix. We've solidified our on-site SEO strategy, which is taking the well-built site we have always made, and putting a structured SEO plan onto every page. This is without mentioning Off-Site SEO : )
In turn ... Making it Brilliant!
The 'dull stuff' like title tags, page headers, internal links, social media sharing tags, heading tags. I could go on...
You don't care - you shouldn't. UNLESS you want your site to give you (cliche alert) that ROI (Return On Investment) that you spoke about at that last Sales and Business Development Meeting. ;
But this isn’t the future we are talking about. We’re doing this stuff now, and have been for a while – our Structured Digital Marketing plan is there so you and I can get this 99% right (nobody’s perfect...)
So, to the future.
We at GAAP Digital believe that site builders are NOT the answer. The web is already looking homogenised, 90% of sites look the same. In the absence of the 'nerdy neice' and the continual promotion of 'you can build your own site' advertising continues (you can read Ewan's blog post of Wordpress here), this will soon reach 91%.
I believe it’s the bespoke element, and ultimately the creative and design fundamentals, that will come to the fore over the coming decade. Stuff that you just can’t do or get with a site builder. Stuff that makes you go WOW. Stuff that makes you smile because YOU Asked the question and WE came up with the answer ... TOGETHER.
Over the years, we’ve built Custom Call Centre website/software, a Hotel Booking site, an Educational site for school pupils and an Online Artwork Toolkit which allows employees to design/create bespoke posters and social media images in real time... Because someone ASKED the question. GAAP Digital are ... More than Web 'design'.
In summary, the future-proofing of web design & development will be via clients taking a structured approach to their potential project(s). When we set up in 2013 one of my first written marketing sentences (good old fashioned brochure at the time) was that 'we would sit with you ... we would listen to you'. That still stands today.
Great Web development is about sitting down with YOU, the client, and really figuring out what it is you really want your online presence to do. Not just stringing together a few good looking pages. We love engaging with the client, and then, hopefully, via the site, engaging with your clients.
Finally. Just as I ponder that there is zero point in having a perfectly optimized SEO'd site which looks like no effort was put into the front end, it’s equally true that a beautiful, fresh and dynamic site can be just as 'empty' if no-one has thought about the fact that the site really needs to engage with both its “owners” and its users. To be found! Here is something to think about ...
If you put those 1000 A4 Twelve page brochures under the desk for 5 years ... Do they really exist?