Successful Web Design in Kenya
It’s 2012 and everyone with little I.T knowledge now calls themselves a web designer. The fiber optic cable has just arrived in Kenya and the internet penetration has increased significantly as businesses rush to get their fair share of web presence.
My father who has had a retail watch business for the past 20 years also wants to get online as e-commerce websites spring up and offer fierce competition with free delivery all over Nairobi. I on the other hand I’m the I.T Guru of the house and promise to do a website for my dad’s watch business.
I hit open Microsoft Publisher 2007 and start working on the website day and night. The result?
My first Website
The awesome piece of art you see above was my first ever website. With the newly found confidence and free time I had being jobless, I decide I will venture into web designing.
Now you are probably wondering how I went from the above to even a remotely successful web design agency. Well this is an account of the journey.
I reached out to friends and family and made the best use of my networks, marketing my newly found talent in web design. Everyone I would talk to or meet would ask for samples of previous work done. The problem was I had only ever done 1 website. To develop a portfolio I did 2 ghost sites for companies that did not exist. I further did 2 websites free for my relatives. I now had 5 websites on my portfolio.
Again reaching out to friends and friends of friends now with a well-developed portfolio I was able to get a few more clients. However they also had no or little budget but wanted to get online.
By now I had discovered Content Management Systems and was very happy to get templates, customise them a little bit change one or two colours and fonts and throw them at customers. It was hard for customers to find out that their website looked like one thousand others on the internet. Especially because of subtle changes like background colours. Just in case they did it was the latest trend in web design and everyone seems to be using it.
This continued for about 1 year and I realised I was investing a lot of time, producing nothing, only copying other’s work with templates and getting paid very little or nothing. Most of my clients were from the local community, friends and relatives hence they would always expect heavily discounted prices and since I was still working as freelancer some would be convinces I need not to be paid and their website would get me the exposure I needed to kick start my business.
This got me thinking and I then decided to change the way I was doing things. I started researching about the web design in Kenya, looked at designers who were better than me. Got a better idea of industry pricing by posing as a client to other web design companies. I also got a good idea of the process followed by many web design firms and their woring methodologies. Here are 3 things successful web design companies did that made them stand out from freelancers like me.
- They were registered businesses
At that point in time freelancers were massively undervalued and no one would really pay them well. The companies I talked to during research would price themselves much higher and charge sales tax to clients and still be able to get good clients. One of the reasons was because they were a registered legal entity. It just makes a better impression when you say you are from company ABC rather than Hi! My name is Zohaib, I live down the road and do web design free for friends and family.
- Keep up with the latest technologies and trends in your industry.
Many of the companies I contacted during my research were talking of new trends in web design e.g Responsive Web Design. The sites I did in microsoft publisher were not responsive and if you were 2 see them on 2 different desktops, let alone a tablet or a laptop they would look different and difficult to navigate.
I once had a similar result to the picture below and was extremely embarassed when the client found out. I now use this for marketing my responsive web design service.
It was therefore time to upgrade my skills and YouTube was my teacher. HTML, CSS, Java Script e.t.c there are numerous tutorials and teachers on YouTube.
Web design is an ever evolving industry and for the sake of survival you need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.
- Stand out from the crowd
All of the web design companies I contacted during my research had one or two unique aspects about their firm that no one else seemed to have had. For example lower prices, better designs, after sales services and support, a free logo with a website e.t.c
In my case I decided my unique selling point would be custom designs. I also decided to only work for clients who would appreciate the time and effort put in and was willing to pay for that. My client base declined significantly and I would now get an odd project every two months or so. However I realized the revenue was actually higher. I was making less websites but of a higher quality and with standout features I was able to charge higher. The final result was word got out about template based websites and a lot of freelancers were left ruined. Anyone who needed a quick decent website would go to a marketplace like themeforest and get a cheap template, within no time they had a website up and running. However if anyone needed a custom design they would need a designer like me.
- Exceed Customer expectations
Always promise less and deliver more! Again during my research a few companies were able to get me testimonials from previous clients and I realized these clients were actually happy because of getting something extra. Whether it was a free new logo that they did not ask for or hosting for a year included in the design price, or that free domain name, or that free outlook setup for their email account!
Hence I would then judge a client and see what would impress them. I once did a free backlink to a client’s website from a blog I used to run and that prompted the client to publish a testimonial on my website. It’s not hard to understand why this concept works.
In Conclusion: Stay up to date, use a unique selling point and finally exceed expectations. Sometimes all it takes to be successful is understanding your skills better and presenting them in a manner which no one else does.