Over 81% of people look for information online about a product or service before they buy. Your business needs to be online and designed effectively to get the results you desire. As a solo or small business owner you get to choose who you work with to create, maintain, and upgrade your website. There are so many different paths to choose when it comes to building your site, so how do you make the right choice for you and your business?
While the web is full of more and more choices for quick and dirty websites, you do indeed get what you pay for. A particular offer or free template may seem like a great idea yet if you really want to use the web effectively it is worth your investment to work with an expert who can help you navigate the waters. Remember that an effective website can bring you business but a bad website (and yes, even some visually appealing websites are bad) can drive away potential customers. Here are proven tips to help you find the right expert.
Ask Your Colleagues
Are there people in your network that have effective websites that get them results? If so, ask them for referrals. Nothing takes the initial guesswork out of the task of hiring a web designer faster than starting off with 2-4 recommendations from trusted colleagues.
Professional association meetings abound with great speakers. Attend a few presentations given by experts to learn more about the web planning process. Not only do you walk away more educated but you can make contact with someone one-on-one if the speaker(s) resonate with you.
Get Clear on Your Goals
What do you want your website to do for your business? What goals have you set for this part of your overall marketing strategy? It is important to be clear on the business drivers behind your website before plunging too deeply into website development. It is not a “one-size fits all” world and clarity is key to being realistic about your goals, budget, and desired results. If you are not 100% clear it might benefit you to do a little website consulting up front to save you time, effort, and money in the long run.
Get Clear on Your Needs
It pays to do a little planning of your own upfront. What type of services do you need? Do you need a graphic designer to design you a logo? Do you need a website designer to create a look and feel for your website? Do you need a web programmer who can code it all and make it work? Do you need an Internet marketing consultant who can help you strategize what tactics to employ in your business?
While all these questions may seem overwhelming they don’t have to be. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs to hire the right person. Just know that it is very rare to find one person who can do all these roles effectively. More typical is the need to work with multiple people to get the job done. If you want someone else to worry about the details and coordination, choose an expert who has access to a team of experts so the process is seamless to you. Then you get the best of all worlds.
Before you hire someone, ask to meet with them briefly via phone. Most experts will agree to a short conversation to learn more about your needs and how she might help. During this time together don’t be shy about asking questions. Remember you are both evaluating each other for the right fit of communication and expertise. Some questions to consider asking include:
- How long have you been creating websites?
- Do you have access to other expertise (artists, SEO experts, etc.) within your company/team?
- Can you share with me some recent examples of work you did for other businesses?
- What is unique about you and what you offer? What sets you apart from others who do similar work?
- Do you have a structured process and website planning guide that you follow?
Talk Budget Now and Later
Rarely can someone give you a detailed and accurate estimate on the spot. When someone asks me, “What does a website cost?” I tell them that it is like saying to a realtor that you want to buy a house and asking, “What does it cost?” Well, that depends, is the house big or small, beachfront or suburban cul-de-sac, pristine quality or fixer-upper, etc.
However, you absolutely want to talk about your budget with your web expert. It doesn’t matter if someone can provide hundreds of bells and whistles if there is not conscious strategy behind those features and you cannot afford them. In the initial meeting ask for ranges of what it costs to do projects similar to yours. Then, provide as much information as possible so an accurate and detailed estimate and scope of work can be created for your project.
In today’s market, expect to pay between $60-$150 per hour depending on skill and location. A basic high-quality website of 6-8 pages can easily run $1000-$1500. If you want added features (blogs, newsletters, shopping carts), more pages, professional copywriting, or advanced content (videos, audio, etc.) expect the costs to be higher.
Ask them how they will bill you so you can plan your payments accordingly. Also ask them how they handle any additional work requests so you are clear under what conditions the cost of the project might increase.
Discuss Ongoing Maintenance
Talk with your designer about how you plan on maintaining the site in the future. A website that never gets updated is like an out of date outfit. It isn’t retro; it just speaks volumes about your lack of commitment to your business. There are numerous options available to you when it comes to updating and maintaining a site. You can retain the services of someone else for ongoing updates. Or, if you wish to do it yourself a site can be built on a content management system (CMS) or configured to work with software such as Adobe Contribute. Talk openly and freely with your designer early on about your intentions and ask any questions you may have. It will help inform the planning, platform choices, and ultimate cost of building the site.
Assess the Person Fit
Remember you will be dealing directly with this person so make sure it is a fit. This person should express a keen interest in you and your business’ success and be able to communicate openly and effectively with you. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Do I like talking with this person?
- Do they ask a lot of questions about me and my business?
- Are they willing to answer questions?
- Do they strive to explain things to me in language I can understand (minimize technical jargon)?
- Are they responsive (responding to email, setting up time to talk, and showing up for the appointment)?
As with many things, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right about the person, it may not be the right fit for you. Yes, your web designer needs to be a technical guru, but if he/she cannot also communicate with you and understand your business the chances of you being satisfied with the end results are slim.
An effective website takes time to plan and build. Do not expect instant service. A good designer often has a full schedule of existing clients and it is not uncommon for you to have to wait at least several weeks before the project can start. You know how the best restaurants are often those you need to wait in line for a table? The same holds true for web designers.
Before the project starts, you should have a clear project plan with dates and deliverables so you are clear on milestones, payment, and expectations. These expectations include joint accountabilities for all involved – information you must provide to the team and information the team delivers to you. It is not uncommon for website projects to take 6-12 weeks or more depending on availability and complexity.
Know Your Rights
There are a number of small details that most business owners do not even know to check when hiring a web designer. Here are some crucial details you want to ensure are handled within your working agreement:
- If the designer registers your domain name for you, ensure that you are listed as and own the domain name.
- Upon completion of the project and final payment you own the copyright to all images created for the site and the site itself (except stock photos for which you would have the right to use them, the original artist retains copyright of the work). This includes any artwork created for your company (logos, etc.)
- Ask the designer for original vector based art files for anything they created for you so you can use them in the future with ease.
- Get a list of all site and account logins and passwords for your own records even if you don’t plan on maintaining the site yourself.
Your website is crucial to your business. It pays to take the time to interview potential website designers and ensure they are the right fit for your business. It takes more than just the ability to create a website page to develop an effective website for your business. With proper planning and research you can ensure you pick the right person and team for your goals, timeline, and budget.