In the not so distant past, if you didn’t have a website, your business was nothing. Now, it’s almost assumed that if you have a business, you should also have a website. Keep in mind, not all websites are the same!
Many companies have capitalized on the need for having a website and it’s obvious there is a market that is over-saturated with website designers – all with different pricing and skills. In fact, you may or may not have seen advertising that reads, “Websites for as low as $199.00” or major domain companies now jumping in on the “we do websites” craze with offers that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, for most people spending their hard earned cash – it is.
The term “You get what you pay for” only holds so much weight these days. You know you want the best work for the best price but how can a business owner know what to look for in a web design company? How is the cost of building a website determined? How will you know you are making the right decision for your business?
The answer is simple – TAKE THE TIME TO RESEARCH AND PREPARE.
Remember, your website will reflect what people think of your business!
- Have a budget – A website is a true investment in your business. When you hire a professional developer to build your site, you are paying for time and you are paying for ideas and expertise. The true cost of a website is usually broken down by how long vs. at what rate. Think of it as hiring a full time employee for a period of 2 to 6 weeks.
- Know what you want in a website. This may sound easy but it’s surprising how many people DO NOT! If you don’t know what you want in a website, then you shouldn’t even be shopping for one. Try looking up your competition and see what they are doing. Write down lots of notes before making a phone call or dropping any inquiries.
- Don’t shop the lowest bidder. Also, don’t shop the highest bidder either. Shopping based solely on price will bite you in the long run. Many small businesses that have never purchased a website end up spending more money trying to save money because the “cheaper” websites didn’t live up to their expectations. Some small businesses end up paying for 3 websites when they could have simply spent money on one. Cheaper is not always better. On the other hand, some smaller designers may see larger companies charging a pretty penny and think they can do the same, only to deliver a lesser product. This pitfall can be avoided as long as you follow the next few steps.
- Spend time with your prospects. Don’t just talk to someone over the phone when trying to find a design firm. Go to their location or have them come to yours. Again, ask questions but more importantly, have them show you examples of what they have already done.
- Spend time READING the design firm’s website. You just might learn more about the company and their clients than you think. You might also find hidden warning signs when browsing a design firm’s website. Website design company pages change often but if you start to notice a bunch of under construction pages, coming soon pages, or an uncommon amount of broken links or poorly written content, it could be a sign that this company is lazy and may take you for a ride. Think about it, if they don’t take the time to make their own business website look good, what will they do for YOUR business?
- To outsource or not to outsource? To answer this is simple, if your clients are going to be local to your area – hire a local developer or firm who knows the surroundings and is familiar with the local cultures. If your clientele is of a foreign base, you might want to hire a developer of the targeted foreign market who understands that particular culture.
- Get references. If a company can’t provide you at least 2 or 3 references, then it may not be a good idea to use them. Ask for a reference that has been doing business with the design firm for a year or more. This is important since it can easily eliminate most fly-by-night web designers.
- Look for Analytics or Website Reports. If you need more than just a pretty website with actual traffic statistics, you should have your web design company show you their website reports or analytics. Web analytics will show you how many people visit a website per day as well as show you how well a website performs. Companies who provide search engine optimization (also referred to as SEO) services are professionals who can bring traffic to your site. Unfortunately, 80% of design firms who claim they do SEO – do not truly know how to. Analytics = Proof is in the pudding!
- Look for innovation and ideas. Any good web design company will offer ideas to make your business shine online. Listen for these golden tidbits of information as they usually amount to having a site built better than you expected. Just keep in mind, the more innovation, the more cost. Just make sure this innovation is listed in the quote or proposal and how much it’s going to set you back. (Remember rule #1 – your cost is based off of ideas, expertise, and time.)
- Have your content and images ready! Before you embark on a journey to build your business, sit down with your business partner, spouse, or friends and physically write down your business model or structure. Also, gather a collection of images you require and put them into organized folders doing so will help your designer understand what goes where. Otherwise, be prepared to fork out even more money to have your content written for you and stock images also cost money if you don’t have photos. Having your content written for your business takes time and research. If you go this route, make sure your copywriter can write your business content in a way that is search engine friendly. Just keep in mind, it’s a copyright infringement to cut and paste content from your competitors or take images from other websites just in case you think it will save you a buck!