How To Choose a Website Designer for Your Accountancy Firm Website

So, your accountancy firm needs a new website.Untitled design

How in the world do you choose a website designer?

Do you go for the ones who have the best portfolio? Who are geographically near you? Who are the most expensive? Or the cheapest?

Turns out none of these are the right question, really.

Here are the critical elements to bear in mind when choosing a website designer for your accountancy firm website:

It’s content/strategy first, design second.

Design is still critical, but the coolest looking site in the world won’t get you anywhere if you aren’t crystal clear as to who you’re talking to on your site and what THEY want to see.

Good questions to ask your potential website designer are:

  • How do we decide what goes on the home page, and what the main landing pages will be?
  • Who will write the content?
  • How do you ensure the website actually delivers leads?

The cheaper the website is, the crappier it is.

EVERY TIME. Tweet this! Even if it looks cool and people say “ooooh, nice”, it will still be crap, because it will look good but not deliver. The reason some websites are so cheap is because the designer is brand-new or fresh out of school or over-eager…or because you hired your brother or friend or sister’s daughter’s mate. You don’t have to spend £10,000 on a website (but I tell you, it should be freaking awesome if you do), but you should probably spend a few thousand pounds at a bare minimum.

You must like your website designers as people.

This does not mean you have to get on personally with every single person on the team. It’s my experience that many website developers are more keen on the geeky bits of API and CSS and HTML and coding, while there’s at least one person who is the client-facing one who you deal with. That guy (or girl) you absolutely have to get on with, because they’re the one who calls the shots. And you have to be 100% confident they will deliver, and on time. (Or if they don’t, they tell you why.)

It doesn’t matter where the website designer is located.

We work with accountancy firms all over the world, building websites for firms who are in different time zones, using a team of designers and developers and copywriters who are also located in far flung places. A lot of the work is done in the background in the wee hours of the night, anyway. So feel free to expand beyond your geographical area.

The website portfolio = design + results.

When you’re looking at a website designer’s portfolio, yes, look at how cool the sites look, but also talk to the website designer about the results delivered. Leads. KPI’s. One of the things your website designer should do is agree at the start what kind of “stats” you will want, and design the site accordingly. If you want prospective clients to download an ebook, that might go front and centre. If you want current clients to log in to a portal, that would be easily accessible.

Don’t write the copy yourself.

I mention this below, but accountants are not (in general) writers. Bear in mind that much of your marketing material should be written at about the 7 year old reading level. Something your own child could look at, understand, and know where to click. This applies to an accountancy firm website just as much as any other. It means no more pages listing out the seven thousand services you provide. No more “Welcome to XYZ Accountants, we were formed in 1482 and have 24 staff.” Instead, your designer should be helping you think about specific landing pages. Downloads. Infographics. Helpful blog posts. White papers. Videos. That’s the kind of content that should be written for you, while you stay focused on what you do best.

I should also point out that website copy should be SHORT AND SWEET. You do not need paragraphs upon paragraphs, page upon page. You can do that over time with blog posts and new landing pages and further content. Your website is like a resume or a CV: it’s there to get you the interview. It doesn’t give everything away– it draws people in. Tweet this!

Don’t design the menu items yourself.

If your current accountancy firm website has the top level menu items of (in this order) Home, About, Services, Testimonials, Resources, Contact….well, you should probably talk to us right away. The key is to draw them in with relevant, interesting, helpful, specific advice and support and education. You are proving to your prospective clients that you know what you’re talking about, and it is worth their while to get in touch with you, or to submit their email address. So, this means you want to take good advice from your strategic designers about what the menu items should be – and the landing pages, and the calls to action, and the whole setup, really. And if they put the ball in your court, take it out of theirs.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 6.13.02 AMWork with someone who knows the accounting industry.

Many website designers are excellent at what they do, but they are not used to working with accountants – and this can be frustrating for both of you. Some of the things we’ve learned in working with accountants on websites are:

You don’t want to look like every other accountant out there. Every firm who comes to us is frustrated with their existing site because it’s a bog standard template with tax newsletters and Budget updates and online calculators….none of which your prospective clients could care less about. You want your new site to be simple. Clean. Modern. Happy, even. We get that. (And we fully support it.)

You’re not writers. You’re accountants. You are absolutely excellent at what you do – and we’re excellent at what we do. We’ll take your thoughts about content, but we won’t push you to write a single word. It will magically happen while you’re working with clients – and most of it will sound just like you, because we ask you questions and record the answers.

You’re absolutely, completely swamped – and a little overwhelmed by all the marketing opportunities out there. We get that. So we keep it really simple. A few questionnaires, a strategic phone call, and a variety of emails asking for specific information, resources, documents, or your thoughts – and voila! a new website.

You’re perfectionists. So sometimes you’ll want to dither about the exact colour of blue on your site. That’s totally fine. We’ll take your thoughts, but sometimes we reserve the right to say “let’s focus more on the calls to action than the pantones”.

A new website is a mega decision for any business and it’s often entered in way too quickly and based on price, which is all wrong.

If you’d like me to drop you a note with my thoughts on your existing website, feel free to email me.  Or if you’re in the middle of the design process and want any direction.

And may you, above all, actually enjoy the process!