Is Website Design a Marketing Service?

by
Stephanie Corrigan
Is Website Design a Marketing Service?
An effective website is a valuable component of any business' marketing strategy. But is website design considered a marketing service? Keep reading to get our take on how websites relate to marketing.

We all know that a well-designed and strategic website has enormous value for businesses. Often, it's the first point of contact between a potential customer and a brand. A website that's both aesthetically appealing and user-friendly forms a strong first impression which can ultimately result in high conversion rates.

Intuitively, most business owners know that they need a website in order to look professional and reach customers online. However, it's not always obvious how their website fits into their digital marketing strategy as a whole.

If you're a web designer, you know that it takes much more than an awesome website to build a profitable and sustainable business. But if you want to make your services even more impactful, there are certain strategies you can implement to create a website that supports a company’s marketing goals.

If you're unsure about the distinction between website design vs. marketing, keep reading for an in-depth guide on how a website contributes to a brand’s marketing strategy.

Website design vs. marketing

What is website design?

Web design is a complex process with a lot of moving parts. The responsibilities of a web designer can vary widely depending on the designer and the tools they use; but in general, the purpose of web design is to establish the look and feel of a website. This involves working with layout, typography, graphic design, and content.

Sometimes web design also includes advanced features like search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). These features are more directly tied to marketing than the visual aspects of web design like choosing colors and fonts.

Nowadays, many web designers are also web developers, thanks to the emergence of no-code website builders like Webflow. Click here to learn more about Webflow and find out if it's right for you.

To learn more about the ever-evolving field of web design, check out this related post: What is web design?

What is marketing?

In comparison to website design, marketing is a much broader field. Marketing is defined as the action of promoting a business' services or products.

There are many different types of marketing; here are some common marketing examples that you've likely encountered:

  • Inbound marketing
  • Outbound marketing
  • Paid advertising
  • SEO
  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media marketing

Each of these fields within the marketing umbrella is so intricate that many marketing professionals choose to specialize. But even within a specialized niche like social media marketing, there's a lot to keep up with as new social platforms emerge every year and old ones die out.

Of the above categories, website design best fits into inbound marketing. In the next section, we'll take a closer look at what this means.

Check out Ran Segall’s video below for an 8-minute overview of digital marketing:

How does website design fit into a marketing plan?

Above, we stated that website design is a form of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that attract a customer to a business. For example, a customer does a Google search for a type of product they're looking for and clicks on a search result that takes them to a product page on a company's website.

In contrast, outbound marketing refers to when a company actively reaches out to potential customers to generate interest and make a sale. Some examples of outbound marketing include paid advertisement, cold calling, and direct mail.

The role of a website in a company's marketing plan can vary widely depending on the company's business model. For instance, an e-commerce business relies heavily on its website in order to generate revenue, whereas a brick-and-mortar business may utilize their website more as a virtual business card than a sales tool.

Thus, when creating a website for a client, it's important to first understand their business goals and objectives. Do they intend to make the majority of their sales through their website? If so, you should have a discussion about what you can do to set their website up for success through your design services; also, it's helpful to know how your client's website ties in with their overall marketing and sales strategies.

2 ways to use website design for marketing

When thinking about web design within a marketing context, we're typically focused on two things: traffic and conversion. Let's discuss what you can do as a designer to create a website that drives both traffic and conversions.

Website traffic

Every website needs some amount of traffic in order to meet its objectives. Going back to the e-commerce example, these companies need a good deal of traffic in order to make sales, considering that the average conversion rate of e-commerce sites sits around 3% (source).

However, if the traffic is targeted well, the conversion rate for a business website could be much higher than 3%. Plus, websites can have multiple objectives apart from sales; for instance, many companies use their website to grow their email list so that they can form a relationship with potential customers over time. This is a smart marketing strategy, especially for businesses selling high-ticket services (like website design!)

But growing an email list still requires website traffic, and in general, the more you can get, the better. If your website doesn't get any visitors, what's the point of having one?

If you're a web designer and you want to help your clients get more traffic, there are a few things you can do. Some may require learning new skills, but the payoff can be well worth it; by bringing your clients more website traffic, you're increasing the value of your services. This gives you good incentive to raise your rates.

Here are a few skills web designers can pick up in order to create websites that drive traffic:

  • SEO. Knowing how to grow a website's traffic organically (i.e. without paid ads) is an immensely valuable skill that many businesses will gladly pay for. Click here for an in-depth article on SEO and web design.
  • Social sharing. If you're working with a business that puts out content, it's essential that the content is easily shareable on popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. This strategy is easy to implement on any website platform.
  • Paid advertising. For businesses that can budget for it, paid advertising is a great complement to SEO for boosting traffic.

If you dread the thought of doing SEO or paid ads for your clients, consider networking with experts in these fields that you could collaborate with on a white label or referral basis. This way, you're providing more value to your clients and increasing your profits without doing a ton of extra work.

Website conversion

Now that you know how to increase website traffic, the next thing you need is a strategy to convert that traffic. No one wants to spend a ton of money on SEO and ads only to face low conversion rates. So what can you do as a designer to optimize a website for conversion?

The first step is to determine what all the desired actions and outcomes are. Most websites have multiple actions that visitors can take, some of which are higher priority than others. Here are a few examples:

  • Filling out a contact form
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Purchasing a product
  • Signing up for a free webinar
  • Sharing a blog post

Before you start designing a website for a client, have a meeting with the client and list out all the desired actions that users can take. With these actions in mind, you can develop a strategic user experience for the site that is designed to convert.

If you're redesigning a website, it's helpful to know its current conversion rate. To calculate a website's conversion rate, simply divide the number of conversions (for instance sales) by the number of website visitors. You can do this for each desired action in order to determine areas of weakness for conversion.

You can use a tool called Hotjar to visualize how users interact with a website.

Here are some ways designers can optimize website conversion rates:

  • Market research. Does your client actually know who their ideal customers are and what they need, or are they guessing? Consider conducting market research through surveys or interviews to glean valuable information from potential and past customers.
  • Track and analyze website activity. Tools like Google Analytics and heat maps allow you to view the exact steps and actions users take on a website.
  • Conversion copywriting. If your client doesn't have a copywriter, consider picking up this skill yourself or outsourcing it to a pro in your network. You can't design a high-converting website without good copy.

There are many tips and tricks that web designers can implement in order to boost conversion. Since conversion is an important metric for all businesses, these strategies are well worth learning.

Do you have to help your web design clients with their marketing strategy?

Above, we shared a few ways that web designers can improve traffic and conversion for their clients. The more traffic and conversion a website gets, the more valuable it is. However, traffic and conversion are both marketing strategies and not necessarily design related. So do you have to pick up these marketing skills as a web designer?

You can absolutely focus just on beautiful design and leave the marketing strategies to the experts. This is especially true if you intend to work in-house for a company that has a dedicated marketing team. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to understand how a website fits into a marketing plan and have the skills to make it more valuable.

If you're a freelance web designer, you're not expected to have advanced knowledge of marketing skills like SEO, advertising, and conversion copywriting. However, adding one or more of these skills to your services would enable you to create high-value websites that clients will happily pay top dollar for.

Conclusion: Is website design a marketing service?

The short answer is: it depends. A website absolutely plays into a company's digital marketing strategy. But the degree to which website design as a service overlaps with marketing is debatable.

As a web designer, there are many tools and techniques you can pick up to design websites that are optimized for high traffic and conversion. Alternatively, you can collaborate with marketing experts to provide these services in tandem with your design work. Either way, it's important to be transparent with your clients about what you can do as a web designer to help them reach their marketing and sales goals--and what you can't.

How to fast-track your freelance web design career

Aside from traffic and conversion, there are many skills, strategies, and processes that web designers can use to create high-value websites. Through a combination of creative strategy, storytelling, and fundamental design principles, designers can create websites that are both strategic and visually stunning. This is exactly what we teach in our course Web Design: Becoming a Professional.

In Web Design: Becoming a Professional you'll not only learn a proven process for designing valuable websites, you'll also have the opportunity to get expert feedback on your work and network with a community of 3,000+ professional web designers. You can go through the material at your own pace and start implementing what you learn right away with the help of done-for-you templates and resources.

Click here to learn more about what's included in the course and what our students have said about their experience.

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