Derek Robinson has always loved learning - especially about technology. As a kid, he was constantly trying to understand how things operated. That passion for learning combined with technology when he got his first Gateway computer in 2001.
From there, Robinson began honing his web design skills. Starting in 2004, he would periodically work on websites for friends and acquaintances who needed help creating a strong online presence - and it turns out that everyone liked the work.
After several effective web design projects, Robinson took the leap and started Top Notch Dezigns.
Now, the web designer and his successful web design and development company focus on helping businesses build a strong online presence that increases revenue through websites and digital marketing strategies.
Robinson sat down with DesignRush to share his top tips for creating a modern business that captivates consumers.
DesignRush: Top Notch Dezigns focuses on custom website design, branding, web development and digital marketing. What advice do you have for businesses looking to expand their business to online and get their first website started?
Derek Robinson: One thing to know is that you should always invest in a website. A website is a foundation, it gives a legitimate reason for a client to want to work with you.
Online presence and a professional look are important. Think of it like a storefront. If your storefront doesn’t have a good appeal, consumers won’t want to shop with you. It must have proper CTAs, a good design and appearance, and should give visitors time to digest your website.
So, my best advice is to invest in a good site. Think of the site as an investment that will convert people into leads into clients.
Work with a good agency to build an effective website. It’s a collaboration with the agency, that’s what makes a successful project. At Top Notch Dezigns, all projects were successful because we worked together.
To create an effective site, think about how you navigate the website and how you look for services on a site. If the website isn’t put together well, you’ll notice -- look at it from the consumer’s perspective and design something that will attract leads.
DesignRush: What about those that want to refresh their site and get a new site done, what are the right questions they should be asking to ensure they hire the right web design agency?
Derek Robinson: Sometimes clients ask questions about development and coding structure. I don’t think those are always the right questions, especially if it’s just an informational site. If you’re redesigning or refreshing, ask “what process does the agency have in place to make the project successful?”
Having a process is very important. You can’t just give money to an agency and say start. But there has to be a research and discovery phase before you even start.
Research what your business goals are, who your competitors are, who are your consumers, what do you offer, what weaknesses does your business have? Those are crucial for you to be able to work with the agency. You need to ask, How are we going to work together and collaborate for success?
DesignRush: For small businesses, which digital marketing channels provide the strongest ROI and why?
Derek Robinson: Google ads provide the best ROI. Our agency has tried different platforms for different services, and some aren’t a good fit. Google is solution-based, which is effective because people are searching to solve a problem.
When you use Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms, you’re just posting ads and trying to target your demographic, hoping for your conversion. Facebook and Instagram work better for things like webinars and building a brand.
But Google has many things to offer, like search campaigns with targeted keywords to get on the first page of search results, display campaigns, remarketing campaigns, and even integrated YouTube features. It is a great platform for marketing.
DesignRush: It’s no surprise that e-commerce continues to grow. What platforms do you suggest for companies hoping to invest in an e-commerce site and why?
Derek Robinson: It depends on the type of e-commerce. If you’re a small e-commerce site, selling fewer products or are subscription-based, WordPress with Woocommerce is a good platform for you.
Those who are structurally looking for more security in regards to a server or want something with more plugin structures that integrate with different API structures without much development structure will find Shopify a good fit.
Magento is good for heavy-duty structures and websites that see a lot of transactions. However, we’ll see how Magento will transform now that Adobe has purchased it.
DesignRush: Top Notch Dezigns is working on expanding into mobile apps. How can businesses grow their brand with the help of mobile apps?
Derek Robinson: A mobile app is not for every business or industry. Think about how you utilize your mobile app development -- it has to solve some problems for the user. It should have easier usability than a mobile site -- like how mobile banking apps improve user experience functions. Other good examples are reminder apps and social media apps, which you can access with one click of a button.
You have to understand that some things should be kept in responsive mobile design. Yes, mobile apps could help you grow, but there’s a conflict between growing and industry-based needs. Ensure you create an app that is a problem solver and something they could use every day.
DesignRush: What are the best methods for driving valuable website traffic in 2018?
Derek Robinson: It’s important for every business to build organic search through search engine marketing. That is the most valuable traffic that you could have coming to your site. Then, build email marketing campaigns to engage existing clients as they come in, promote your business, send sales and services, and also build new clients.
DesignRush: Tell us about some of your favorite projects your agency has worked on. What objectives were they trying to reach and how did your team achieve them?
Derek Robinson: One project was for Meadowbrook Financial Mortgage Bankers. Their objective was mainly to build an online presence and lead conversion that was user-friendly, SEO friendly and mobile-friendly.
We worked with Rios Interiors Corp. They had no online presence and wanted a custom look to match their huge clientele, attract new commercial clients and showcase services. They also didn’t have branding, so we worked with them to build an effective brand.
Stephen Ely Architect didn’t have an online presence either. They never thought about building a site until the evolution of the internet. But then they needed to showcase their projects like commercial entities and educational universities. They needed that structure.
It’s important to note that in each industry that we work with, we learn their industry. Clients need to know that a good agency learns about your industry. They do the research and learn your niche.
Each project has been different. We learned every different loan structure for Meadowbrook. For the Rios Interiors project, we had to learn painting, which has so much more that’s involved. Throughout the Stephen Ely Architect project, we had to learn architectural wording and the entire space.
That is what makes a good agency. You can see design skill from previous projects. But what’s important to know is if an agency is going to take the time to learn about your specific industry.
You should ask yourself what their competitive advantage is? That’s how they will build and make websites stand out online. Setting goals are also imperative for small-scale and large projects. How can businesses better collaborate with agencies to set achievable objectives and create an effective roadmap to success?
DesignRush: Generating leads is one of the biggest functions of a professional website. Which channels or strategies will help companies identify valuable leads and secure conversions?
Derek Robinson: Content. Content is what’s going to help increase conversions and bring you valuable leads. You’re probably doing digital marketing and traditional marketing, but hopefully focusing on digital, as you’ll get the most for your money. With digital, you can target specific demographics, search history, desires, and so on, really helping you identify behavior on the internet.
People are constantly searching for specific things, and content is what’s going to help convert them. In your content surrounding your business, you should focus on:
What it is, what it's about, and what problem does it solve.
Consumers don’t care about you being the best, they want to know what MAKES you the best. Show them how you can solve their problem and provide case studies that prove your value.
DesignRush: Anything else to add?
Derek Robinson: You should want to work with an agency that will help you grow your business. An agency becomes a partner and support team, and the relationship doesn’t end when the website goes live. That’s the beginning.
Pick someone who will help you grow, and when technology advances, they’ll help you implement those changes. When there’s a problem with your website or service, they can help you.
At our agency, we have learned so much about many industries to ensure we are knowledgeable in the world, which is what a great agency will do. We always work to stay fresh, creative and invest in non-stop learning. This ties into what I personally love to do -- learn -- and helps build good connections.