Web Design by Itself is Worthless

Web Design for ROI

It’s strange how when you want to sell blogging, social media or SEO services you have to explain and prove ROI (Return On Investment) at every step.

At the same time I rarely witness debates about the ROI of Web design for example.

Web design is taken for granted these days, Web hosting as well.

In the case of web hosting it’s probably because it’s not really labor intensive and thus pretty cheap by now.

You can even get free Web hosting with one or two small ads for example over at Jimdo (full disclosure: I almost worked once for Jimdo LOL). Professional Web design is still a considerable investment.

Sure, you can use ready-made themes and templates but in case you want to stand out and have a unique website you will have to pay accordingly.

What is the ROI of Web Design? Nobody Seems to Know

One day I wanted to read about the ROI of Web design instead of the endless debates about blogging, social media and search engine optimization ROI.

Thing is I hardly found anything to read with one exception.

Everything else that I found were a few vague old blog posts.

It seems that Web design by itself is worthless.

It’s not just linkbait or a rant. What I want you to understand is that contrary to business blogging, social media engagement and search engine optimization where there is an enormous pressure to justify the money put into it Web design gets away with “looking good” most of the time.

There is a fantastic book I reviewed once: it’s called Web Design for ROI. I think they published it in 2007. That’s the exception I linked above.

I read it back then and assumed it would become common sense soon but all you can see ever since is the emergence of two new disciplines: UX and CRO. Those two btw. are practiced by different people.


UX as in User Experience is mostly done by Web designers who have evolved while CRO as in Conversion (Rate) Optimization is done by marketers turned scientific.

In the worst case you have a

  • Web designer
  • UX specialist
  • conversion optimizer

These three are involved in the design of a website while you still have to ask the SEO, social media and blogging experts for their input.

Sadly in most cases the client will approach the web design and UX professionals first and the other guys later if at all.

I find it still incredibly hard to sell CRO services even when asking clients to do it. It doesn’t matter who the vendor is, whether it’s me or someone else.

It’s not just that they don’t trust me to optimize their site for conversions.

Web Design Itself Does Not Make Money

OK, let’s take a step back. We still haven’t justified the expenses for a new custom website. Show me the money!

You can also get also a great looking and even pretty usable as well as search engine optimized site over at Jimdo for free.

Why pay then? What’s the actual value of creating a custom Web design for thousands of Dollars or Euros?

There is none unless you integrate all of the other disciplines from the start. The “build it and they will come” strategy does not work.

It hasn’t btw. in 1997 either when I started in online publishing. Without things like content and links you’ll have a hard time to popularize your shiny new website.

By now we know and we have plenty of techniques to deal with it. So don’t act like the Web is still new and all you need is an expensive relaunch of your site.

Don’t call me after the redesign when your site is online and nobody visits it or the few visitors do not buy anything.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Web design. I was a Web designer myself back in the days when the roles in agencies weren’t as diverse as today.

I moved on to where the money and value is:

  • SEO
  • social media
  • blogging.

That’s the place the real ROI comes from. A good looking website by itself does not sell.

So don’t be stingy when it comes to SEO, social media and blogging. Just recently a potential client came up to me and wanted a link building campaign for Germany. Awesome, isn’t it?

The problem was the monthly budget. It was a bit more than the equivalent of one item sold of their product: 600 Euro. Do you think that’s enough?