The latest in my oh-so remarkable series of interviews with design business owners is a great one. OK, I know I keep saying that but this one is great, believe me.
The fantastic thing about this interview was that I didn’t really know Matt Shuey before I spoke to him. We were introduced via Google+ which is becoming a remarkable place to network.
It was wonderful to speak to someone half way around the world about web design business and find that we agreed on so much.
Here’s one bit of advice to web designers that I very much concur with:
Learn the basics!
It’s important to learn how websites work. Web designers should learn about design (how the website looks and functions for the user) as well as development (how the website works “under the hood”, so that’s HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, WordPress, etc.)
You should always be able to create a beautiful visual of a website in a graphics program first. Matt and I believe that this work in the primary stage will stop problems occurring later.
We both agree that web designers need to learn how to code and that they should understand both the design and the development sides.
Both Matt and I struggled with static HTML sites. Matt then went on to learn PHP server-side includes before coming to WordPress via an unfortunate Joomla detour. I lucked out by being introduced to WordPress back in 2006.
How to compete against website templates
Matt has been in the business for a long time. He’s gone from static HTML to WordPress-based sites for his clients. Recently he’s recognised potentially stiff competition from the WordPress template business. Nowadays, virtually anyone can buy a template from WooThemes, bung a logo on it and charge a client $700 for their “new, bespoke” website. This is competition at the lower end of the market (and I’ve warned against cheap and easy website builders) but it’s competition none-the-less.
His answer? Build templates.
Matt is now in the process of creating multiple templates for his own clients. Eventually his clients will be able to buy templates directly from his site, which is a form of web design business passive income that interests me.
With templates, Matt points out, that clients need to choose one that is 99% what they want, otherwise a custom solution will be necessary.
SEO and diversification
Matt has kept up with SEO since he first started designing websites in 2002. And it’s changed so much in 10 years – hell, it’s changed so much in the last 10 months!
In order to compete and ensure constant income streams, Matt has had to diversify his web design business into other areas, like SEO.
The SEO industry, Matt concedes, has a terrible image problem of fly-by-night, salesy-types offering high Google rankings by dubious means. You need to work hard with a client, persuading them of the on-going effort that is necessary. Matt provides his clients with content for their websites which is then linked to and shared in a natural and white-hat manner.
As Matt provides value in this way – both to his clients and to the internet as a whole – he is rewarded with repeat income and ongoing recommendations.
10 Worst Websites of 2013
Matt mentions in our interview a great post on his site that is a example of “link bait” or an article that will attract a lot of links or social media shares. The 10 Worst Websites does have some painful examples of awfully badly designed sites.
Above is my “favorite” – only the fifth worst website of 2013 (1995 more like!) Surely there aren’t 4 worse than that?
You can do it
You can stay in business for as long as Matt has, but only if you are prepared to really know your stuff and stay ahead of the game by observing the threats and maximizing opportunities in the way he has.