Content Marketers Need Web Designers And Developers

My head is swirling from reviewing free- to-premium WordPress website templates and reading blog posts from designers and developers sharing tutorial about how they love Genesis, Thesis and think Headway is good but has some catching up to do.

Then there’s Elegant themes that look amazing, but Scott Quillin over at New England Multimedia won’t work in any of the above. Instead, he has one of his own secret premium themes he insists is #RockHot (which I won’t share with you).

I’ve been blogging on two blogs for almost three years (that’s nothing in the scheme of things). But, in that time, I’ve played with free themes, Headway, and Thesis enough to know that I suck at designing a website or blog. Heck, I’ve even launched a few websites in Go Daddy’s Website Tonight software (and they looked half-way shabby).

What I’m trying to say is this, Peeps:

Content marketers, like me, cannot design a website; nor can they develop its back end.

Get my drift? We can’t do it.  All we can do is change the font and the color of a leaf, but we can’t design a website all by ourselves.

It frustrates me extraordinarily that I can’t do this…even though I told Craig McBreen in comments at his house that I ban “I can’t” from my household. If there’s an obstacle in front of me, I climb it.

This time, though, to climb over the designing and developing of a website, I would need to go back to school somehow. I would also need to become a detail person and enjoy the tedious nature of graphic design.

I hate designing PowerPoint decks for that reason; I don’t make things look pretty very well. I’m a slap-the-paint-on-canvas kinda gal and call it abstract art; in fact, I have one of those on my mantel that I’m pretty in love with (‘cuz I slapped some acrylics on canvas and stroked the brush back and forth in a rainbow-esque fashion, and I really liked it).

I digress.

There’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes of a website or a blog that we can’t see and don’t know about. That’s why you have to hire someone to join your team and make it happen. But, you have to direct them to design and develop what you want; you need a vision for what you want to appear on that blank canvas.

About every six months, you have to go through this exercise with your website and stir the pot.

That time for all of us is about now, and here’s why:

Responsive design is the current trend, today; right now.

Making your website responsive means it will work on a smartphone or tablet or e-reader. When you visit a website and all you do is scroll from side to side to find the nav menu, then you know that site is not responsive.

Did you know that big data is telling us more people will visit your website from a smart device than from a PC? The data are showing that uptick; are you ready?

 

37 comments
jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

I'm with @jonbuscall and @jasonkonopinski . Definitely helps as a content person to have some sense of the basics.

 

I guess what I'd add is, content marketers, step back and let the designers do their work. Trust their expertise. If you want, say, a page that lists your greatest media hits, and your designer pushes back on that, listen to them! Of course, I'm spoiled now that I get to work a firm that deeply understands UX.

Ruth - MarketingWise
Ruth - MarketingWise

I developed my old website, but it was a very ad hoc exercise and I DEFINITELY wasted too many hours on things that a professional developer or designer could have achieved in just a few minutes.  And because my clients were increasingly asking for full service marketing support, I overhauled my business model, joined forces with someone who has deep knowledge in multimedia, and we hired a full time graphic designer and a web developer.  I think it's important for bloggers (or certainly content marketing consultants) to have a high level understanding of web development and design.  There are certain functional properties that I always want integrated into the sites that I help to build.  But the more that I can pass off the implementation of that 'vision'...the better!

EugeneFarber
EugeneFarber

I use Headway theme. I'm bigger on layout and moving features around to optimize user flows than on the actual look (if you look at my site you'll see just how simple it is).

 

And the newest version of Headway is responsive too! It definitely takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do it's pretty awesome.  

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

I know just enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous, and I'd never, ever call myself a designer or developer, but I think *all* marketers owe it to themselves and their clients to at least speak with some degree of fluency about the basics of design.

 

Because I'm frequently in a team with a designer and a developer, I've built my chops to troubleshoot most of the issues that I'll come across on my own site, but more importantly, it makes me a better copywriter to understand how what I write interacts with graphics, etc. 

Latest blog post: A Simple Content Value Test

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

Jayme, the relatively low expense and ease of creating websites, PPT decks, PDFs, etc, etc, tricks people into thinking "anyone can do it." Nope. Not if you're doing this stuff for business. While technology has made more possible, it has raised the bar. Most of us non-designers will not reach that bar. If you want to make a professional impression, hire a professional. If you can't afford it, that's one thing. But I don't want to see you driving up to my place in a new $80K BMW then tell me you don't have the budget for a designer. You're lying to me, or lying to yourself. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

It is why I pay attention to who our candidates say they are going to bring into office with them. We can't do everything and we have to assemble teams of people to help get it all done.

 

Nothing wrong with that, in fact it is often useful to grab a professional to help us get our work done. The DIY thing isn't always smart.

susansilver
susansilver

I will keep shouting this until more businesses fall in line. I know a lot, but my coding skills are lacking. I know that my website does not validate well and might have to toss my current design. Or, more likely, I will break down and hire someone to do it correctly. I just wish there were affordable options for people like me just starting in business. I have more pressing business needs than hiring a designer. But yes, Google and other outlets are pretty much forcing our hands into responsive design. 

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

Hey Jayme,

 

I'm a designer and get what you're saying. I know enough CSS to be quite dangerous and to be honest the sites I design are mainly B2B and I have a team I work with. Now I'm focusing mainly on designing, writing and marketing, so there would be zero time to code anyway. Anyway, the code-gurus I work with (They really are gurus) are mainly a part of that world, so I'm working a bit beyond the scenes to find some others who specialize in tools like Thesis and Genesis. I'll be embarking on a major revamp of my site in the coming months, because a want a new look AND a truly responsive design.

New England Multimedia
New England Multimedia

Hi, Jayme! I totally get you, since Scott's responsible for delivering on all things technical here, while I'm simply the "front of the house" and focus on relationships, marketing, and reach. If anything happened to him, there are people we have lined up to take over his responsibilities, because I can't keep up with the constantly changing landscape of technology. Scott thrives on change and technology, and since those two make great bed partners, he's in his zone.

 

Your post here brings up an interesting topic for me, though  -- how to assemble a team of people around us who, when we delegate business responsibilities to them, can actually free us up to focus on our strengths and make more money! It's a hard leap for many to make, because we all want to save money, and think that by doing everything ourselves, we will. But the opposite is usually true.

 

For control freaks like me, letting go and trusting others to take over some part of our business is scary.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @jennwhinnem  @jonbuscall  @jasonkonopinski Maybe another example would serve better here...as I don't believe a designer is going to get why a list of my greatest media hits is important...This is highly important especially IF I'm a media relations pro selling my ability to generate earned media. Right @Ralph Dopping ?

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Ruth - MarketingWise You are so wise (thus your name!) and smart, Ruth. I believe also that any content professional MUST align with designers and developers. I expect the designers to have a tap into the developers, though as they seem connected to me with even less than a dotted line. 

 

The entire way we work is changing...the ultimate cross-functional team is PR, Marketing, Design, Developer, SEO  -- do we need advertising? Thanks for coming!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @EugeneFarber I started my other blog with Headway and kept trying other things. I have always thought Headway was not intuitive at all and I can at least maneuver it better now, but 3 years ago -- fuhgeddaboudit. 

 

I'm still frustrated as always with design of these sites, regardless of what's being used. That's why you don't see anything changing in the sidebar! I have no idea how to do it! 

 

Great having you over, Eugene...please leave your domain name so we can find you easier! 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @jasonkonopinski Great point...we do owe it to ourselves to be dangerous enough to walk the talk. That's how PR agency brats such as moi are trained. We had to pitch the story knowing enough about the subject matter to be able to sell it and then turn it over to the subject matter experts. Lucky you, BTW, that you have a team in place to tap...that's a gift. 

SteelToad
SteelToad

 @barrettrossie The best thing about web design these days is that anybody can do it. The worst thing about web design these days is that 'anybody' can do it.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @barrettrossie Hah. Barrett,  you're so right...Who's the one who keeps talking about the peddler's kids? Don't show me the chic Manolo Blahniks IF you can't get your website right! Thanks!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @timbo1973 I'm sure there's some smart cliche somewhere about that...like do one thing very well and a lot of things a little? I can't remember, but you get my drift.

 

The coolest thing I ever did with tech was to download Dreamweaver in a shareware thing which required me creating a brand new G drive on my computer (unheard of) with tech directions that sucked. I worked at it a day, fussed and cursed, went to be exhausted and frustrated and got up the next day and, BAM! It worked. I was never so impressed with my ability to master something like that, but here's the clincher...I HAD TIME! There was NO social media! That's the answer right there...I have no time.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

 @SteelToad Heh! That's funny. I need to think of a hybrid for me, I think. Maybe waffle fries. Has somebody made those yet? Don't steal my new business idea.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @SteelToad That's awesome! I LOVE that analogy! And, so incredible to see you around these parts...keep on feeling better!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Josh/ http://joshuawilner.com/ I am a DIY'er for a bit until I know I've really messed it up and then I'm in trouble. The thing is, though? You HAVE to try yourself first so you know the questions to ask later. 

 

If you're not intelligent you can't ask the right questions!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @susansilver Is it Google making us move in this direction? I'd say smart devices and mobility is forcing it more? But, then, what the heck do I know? So, did you teach yourself coding? I'd like to know how much someone can buy a premium WP skin launch the content and then what has to happen inside with coding? Is it necessary? What has to be done? See, I know nothing.

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

 @Craig McBreen This is more where I'm coming from. After bootstrapping my business alongside content creation and strategy I started taking on more projects involving design and coding simply because clients pushed for that too. I upped my skills using Linda.com (sp?) but then took on a designer and developer (p-t) to handle that side of things. I've found that working alongside pros has really helped take my business to another level, partly because they have design / code skills that I don't have, but also because I have strategic and creative skills they don't have. Years spent digging in html, css and php serve me well because I can spot when they're sloppy (it happens when things are a rush!) and also I can step in where necessary. 

 

We started out with Thesis but transitioned primarily to Genesis as the code base is very easy to work with and adapt. There's also a lot of community support if you need a question answered, which happens to the best of us, and it helps when the site owner takes over the site full-time. I don't want to spend my time managing the back-end of 30 WP sites for clients and I firmly believe in empowering the business owner to run their own site. 

 

The other benefit of, say, Genesis is that it gives the site owner access to other developers working in the same sphere should they decide to turn to another web-shop. They can also start to customize themselves because the basic code is well-documented. 

 

If you're going to bootstrap and run your own site, the biggest hurdle can be that the out of the box experience of, say, Genesis or Thesis: they might not be as easy as the promo video or sales copy suggested. What's more, we often have folks come to us who've started on their own, got into trouble and then just need it sorted yesterday. 

 

Bottom line, I think the benefit of doing it yourself is that you have full-control or as much as your skills allow; you may open up new channels of income for yourself as I've done, and if you're working with PR, communications, marketing, etc, for smaller companies you'll be able to get them going to. 

 

The biggest thing I've learned from developing sites with a pro-coder is that it's imperative to work with a full site outline, a structural outline in conjunction with the project goals, before you dig into design. 

 

If anyone in our great community (I know many of you already) wants to ask about Genesis (or Thesis for that matter) feel free to DM me. I'm happy to share my insights and tips - especially if you're bootstrapping. We can all learn from each other. 

 

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @Craig McBreen This responsive stuff is pushing all of us to make major overhauls. I have to ask, though, is it marketing or hype? At the end of the day, my business in the service field it is in (PR/marketing)...does it require responsive design like an e-tail site? 

 

It's a gold rush for developers and designers; that's for sure.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

 @New England Multimedia  The most challenging thing for me as a solopreneur is deepening my team with other talents I need to grow my business. Over the years, I've partnered with many people, and in each situation there were variations that contributed to the challenge. 

 

For things like design, tech, infrastructure, accounting, legal...these are things I absolutely don't have time to learn yet I insist on keeping them close to the vest.

 

When you finally realize you're inhibiting growth, that's when it's time to reach out and bite the bullet.

EugeneFarber
EugeneFarber

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing If you click my name it should take you there. But just in case: www.contentstrategyhub.comAs you can see it's a pretty plain/minimalistic design. But like I said, I'm more worried about conversions than looking pretty :)

 

I actually avoided switching to the newest version of Headway for a very long time. It definitely takes some getting used to. But now that I know how to get around it, I love it. 

susansilver
susansilver

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing  Well, some coding can be taught. I know enough that I can debug, but I would be at a loss to create an app or plugin.

 

I say Google is forcing us because they are rewarding higher search results to fast websites. To them that means mobile ready, tablet ready, and loads in under a second. Some of that can be handled by being smart with responsive design and so they are pushing it to everyone in their best practices.

 

But yes, the fact that most shoppers are using apps and mobile for purchases is the biggest factor for the change. 

 

I am not a designer, so i don't know if I can answer your last question so well. Things are changing quickly. I think you have an advantage by at least reading about  the trends in HTML5, CSS, and Jquery even if you don't understand them. It will certainly open up your mind to what is possible and why it might be important. 

 

If I was being honest with myself, by the time these things become really important for bloggers someone will have created a theme or plugin that will be compliant with the standards. It always happens that way.  

 

There are some great themes out there now that are built for speed and are fully responsive. Plus, HTML5 compliant. That is all you would need and you can get that out of the box without making changes. 

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

 @jonbuscall John, this is brilliant, thanks! I would love to discuss this all with you, but maybe I'll just start off with an email. Would be great to share info!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR moderator

@jonbuscall @Craig McBreen hope it's ok to make this a blog post Jon? Too valuable to keep hidden in comments. Thank you!

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

 @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing It's a big deal, really with the proliferation of smart phones, tablets and now we have the iPhone mini (still can't get used to that name ;))

 

Responsive not only looks better on smaller screens, but if done correctly will increase the loading time as well. I'm behind as well, but will be building a new site with a fluid layout in the near future.

 

Designing for the smart phone first (vs. desktop) is probably the way to go, or at least will be, but my current issue with client projects is that I really don't want to dilute the look of their web sites on big screens. So, there really is no one perfect solution for now, at least with my projects I'll be taking it on a case-by-case basis. 

 

God, did I ramble or what? 

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