When designing a website, almost every web design firm starts with home page design.

When the designer finishes designing the home page, they copy it over to another file and convert it into an interior page.

While there are some good reasons for this approach having become the standard process for creating websites, it's a big mistake -- especially for companies that cater to multiple market segments or have a broad product line.

Why Most Web Design Firms Design From the Top Down

Sure, there are some good reasons to start with the home page. After all, when you tell somebody to go visit your website, they visit the home page, right?

If you are in a large organization and report to senior-level executives, they are likely to judge your firm website based on a cursory review of the home page. Your site may have thousands of pages, but they will judge you based on that home page.

For these and other reasons, the worldview of web designers starts with the home page. The home page is our industry's Africa, a place from which the rest of the world emerges from and evolves.

Why Top Down Design Is a Big Mistake

The reality for many firms is that the home page is not the top point of entry to their website. At our Chicago web design firm, for example, 70 percent of our traffic comes from search engine queries.

We might get a site visitor who is looking for "Chicago web design firm that works with software companies," for example. Alternatively, we might get a search for "moving company web design firm". Both of these searches will take the site visitors to pages deep within our site.

Let's put ourselves in the shoes of these two searchers. When they get to that low-level detail page, what do they want to see? The software company exec wants to work with a company that understands the software industry and has a track record building excellent websites for software companies. The moving company marketing manager wants to find a company that understands the moving industry and that knows how to create business-building websites for moving companies.

In other words, those two web pages that our visitors come to have got to be mini-websites unto themselves. The landing page for moving company prospects has to be competitive with other websites for companies that exclusively build websites for moving companies. The landing page for software companies has to be competitive with other websites for companies that exclusively build websites for software companies.

A top-down approach will often overlook this reality. Firms that think only about the home page design fail to take an in-depth perspective of the people who are actually going to come to the site and consider doing business with the company.

Bottoms Up Web Design Improves Bottomline Profits

A better approach is a bottoms-up approach that starts with profiling the top prospects for the company and what they will want to see when they come to their section of the website. It's good to assume that they will find this section of the site via a Google search and that it will be the first time they've ever heard of your firm.

Before you even think about home page design, design that microsite within your site -- a mini-site that is built exclusively for one of your target audiences. Put the effort into making that part of your site amazing, blowing away even the niche firms that only focus on that particular market segment, prospect persona or product line.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it's just the beginning. You've got to design similar microsites within your site for other prospects. And, yes, at a certain point, you've got to create the home page.

By starting from the bottom-up, you define the standard for what each target customer type needs to see. You set yourself up to be an authority website on each of those areas and to dominate the search engines because you've built out a rich content map and useful resources dedicated to one small part of your business.

In contrast, web design firms that don't think from the bottom up tend to finish their homework early, getting a C grade. They build a brochureware site that hits the high points of what the company does. They quit the marathon at Mile 3 and never realize that there were still 23 more miles to run.

While it's true that these C students might build you a pretty home page that passes muster with the senior execs at your firm, they will do so at the expense of the business. They will sell you a cheap website for, say, $5,000 that delivers minimal contribution to the growth of the business -- literally taking a pass on millions of dollars of potential business that could be attained if they had instead used our bottoms-up approach to web design.

When hiring a web design firm, you get what you pay for. Sure, you can save $20,000, $100,000 or more by hiring an inexpensive web design firm. But, at the end of the day, it's pennywise and pound foolish. It's wise to pay the premium for a better website -- one that is designed from the bottom up -- a site that adds millions of dollars to your bottom line.

If you feel like your website is not delivering on its full potential, we'd be happy to take a look at it and offer our advice. Whether you are building a new website from scratch or on the verge of redesigning a website, the Chicago website strategy consultants at our Chicago web design firm are here to help. Give us a call today at (312) 267-0066.