As a business owner, you have a lot to manage. One of your tasks is establishing an online presence that is beneficial for your business. Creating a website for your business goes a long way in building your online presence, especially when your website has a set purpose. Once you determine the mission of your website, you must then decide how you will create it.
There are two main paths you can take for the creation of your website: do it yourself or hire a web design agency. The first route will probably involve a point-and-click web design platform such as WordPress or Wix. Services like WordPress and Wix allow business owners to create websites without you needing to know how to code and is relatively low cost. This is a good path to take if you’re just starting your business and using a website as an information source with a blog or news page. As your business changes and grows, your website will, too; so you can redesign and invest more into it at a later time.
As powerful and useful as these design platforms are, there are challenges to their successful implementation that you should be aware of before taking this route.
- Your website will look like a lot of other websites. Services like WordPress and Wix offer pre-made themes for users. These streamline the process of developing your website. However, the customization of these themes is limited, especially if you don’t know how to code. The end result is often a website that may look nice but isn’t tailored to your business.
- An e-commerce website is more complex than an informational one. An e-commerce site allows you sell products and services and accept payment from customers while an informational one does not. When you deal with payment and customer information, your website requires more security than a website that does not. You will need a higher level, and more costly, SSL certificate, and you need to be sure your host server is secure enough to handle this information. There are also additional costs for collecting payments from customer with any transaction service you use.
- Your website may not be as low-cost as you thought. Most web design platforms market themselves as low-cost, and they can be initially. However, the more you try to do with your website, the more costs you will run into. For example, some themes and plug-ins (applications that lend more functionality to your website) can be free, but most of the nicer ones require you to pay to use them. In other situations, plug-ins have a free version, but you have to pay to access the more advanced features. These payments can be a one-time payment or monthly or yearly. It depends on the developer.
- There isn’t a lot of technical support. While using a theme or plug-in, it is likely you will run into a situation where you will need help. When this happens, you can explore the discussion forums or, depending on if you paid for it, you can contact the programmer of the theme of plug-in. Going through the discussion forums can take hours, and sometimes the solution that worked 2 years ago, won’t work for the newer version of the theme or plug-in you’re using. However, contacting the owner of the theme or plug-in rarely results in a resolution as they can take weeks to get back to you, or they have abandoned the software. Always check the reviews and ratings before using a plug-in or theme. You’ll see when it was last updated and what users are saying about how the software works, which can save you a lot of headaches.
- You are going to invest a lot of time on your website. This is a challenge even if you use a web designer. However, when you use the DIY method, you will spend as much time, if not more, researching the technical aspects that go into a website as you will actually creating content and putting it all together in a purposeful manner on your website.
All of these things we’ve just mentioned are not to discourage you from using platforms like WordPress or Wix. If that is what will work best for your business, then that is what you should do. Nor are we saying that these types of services are bad; we program websites in WordPress because it allows our clients to have updating capabilities at the day-to-day level. What we want to do is inform you of some common issues clients have had when using similar platforms so that you can factor them into your decision process.
WHAT IS WEB DESIGN?
Before we get into using a web designer for your project, let’s briefly discuss what web design is and what a web designer does.
First, web design consists of more strategy than art. There is a misconception that web design, and web designers, simply make your website and content look pretty. In reality, this is only one aspect of what goes into creating your website.
Good web design should achieve a goal. Remember when you established a purpose for your website? That will define the development of your site. So all aspects of your website should work together to ensure an enjoyable experience for customers that helps you meet your goal.
Second, your website is an essential part of your business, not an extra. Often clients don’t see their website as necessary to their business. It is, even if it only answers basic questions and provides contact information. You can have all that on a social media platform like Facebook, but a website is an important marketing and sales tool. It helps you establish your brand and presence more than social media pages can, though they can help.
WHAT DOES A WEB DESIGNER DO?
A web designer will work with you to develop a website that meets your needs. This means that the website will match your business’s brand and will stand out from your competitors. Your designer will help you conceptualize and fine-tune what your website will do and how it will look. They will draft, design, and code the website for you. If you need to handle transactions or run a blog, they will train you on how to do so. After launching your website, some designers will offer ongoing maintenance services to ensure your website continues to run as intended or provide updates when needed.
Notice the words “work with” and “help” in the above paragraph. You must be an active participant in the development process. Without your input and feedback, it is unlikely that you will get a website that meets your business’s needs, which means your time and money and the designer’s efforts will have been wasted on this project.
So be involved. If there’s something you don’t understand or aren’t sure will work for your business, ask your designer why they made that choice. Give constructive and clear feedback. Don’t say, “Make it pop.” It’s too vague for the designer to understand what you want, and you’ll probably end up with something you don’t want. You know your business and what message needs to be communicated, but your designer knows programming and good web practices so listen and consider what they have to say. They should have a good reason for any decision they make on your website, and so should you when you ask for changes. Decisions should not be made based on what you or the designer likes. Decisions regarding the functionality and look of the website should be based on the goals of the website and good web design practices.
HOW DO I FIND A GOOD WEB DESIGNER?
Before starting your research, you need to decide on two things: if you need a local designer and your price range. If you’re a small business, a local designer or design agency may better fit your needs and budget. We’ll get into pricing later, but for now go into it with a three-point range: the least amount you want to spend on a website, the most you’re willing spend, and an acceptable mid-point. You will probably adjust your range after some preliminary research.
Here’s what you know when you start looking for a web designer:
- Your business and brand
- The goal for your website
- If you need your designer to be located locally
- A price range for how much you can spend on a website
Here’s how to find a web designer:
- Start with a Google search.
- Reviews: Look at reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. See what the customers have to say about their experiences and validate who’s reviewing (make sure customers who have left reviews are not friends, employees, or the owners of the business). Be aware that most designers or design agencies may not have a lot of reviews as it’s not as common a practice for the technology industry as it is for food and hospitality.
- Review the designer’s website: See how the designer has created their website. Is it easy to use and navigate? Is content legible? Does the website reflect the business and values? How do you feel looking through the site? Are you confident in their abilities?
- Review the designer’s portfolio: Check out the websites the designer has created for other clients. See if they work with businesses in specific industries or a variety. Some designers will use templates and then tailor them for the client, but be wary of designers whose client websites aren’t tailored to the individual client. Also, be cautious if you can’t find or view the designer’s portfolio work.
- Reach out to one of the designer’s clients: If the designer has worked with other businesses in your area, reach out to them about their experience with the designer. The occasional bad experience will happen, but listen to what the client says about how the designer managed that experience — this can be just as telling about the designer’s work ethic as a positive review.
- Contact the designer: Be prepared to talk about your specific website needs, and pay attention to their responses. The designer needs to sell you on their abilities, but it should be clear that their goal is to work with you and give you a website that will accomplish your business goals. If the designer provides you with a contract, and we think they should, read it carefully before signing to ensure you are both on the same page regarding the cost, timeline, and scope of the project.
Working with a web designer is like working with any other business contractor, so do your homework before you hire one. For more information about choosing and working with a web designer, we recommend reading “You’re My Favorite Client” by Mike Monteiro. (Note that we don’t make any money off of this recommendation. We recommend it because we believe it is a good reference for clients.)
HOW MUCH WILL A WEBSITE COST?
The cost of a website is probably one of your top questions. Unfortunately, there’s not a set rate we can give you. Some designers charge by the hour while others charge by the size of the project, use value pricing, or have a flat rate based on the size and functions needed for the website. In addition, new web designers or freelancers may use more competitive pricing than agencies or designers with more experience.
Richard Parr, the creative director for the Executionists, breaks down how his company assigns value to website development in “How much does a website cost in 2018?”. His estimated starting price for a small business website is $8,000. Again, this is not necessarily an industry average, but the article is a good look into how web designers assign value to what they do (Remember, it’s a lot more than simply making your website look nice.).
Since pricing varies so much across the industry, it is important to research potential web designers before choosing one. We know that the cost of a website will have a strong influence on your decision, but don’t use it as an indicator of quality. We’ve worked with clients who paid a few thousand dollars and those who have paid a few hundred for websites that didn’t reflect their business, work, or didn’t follow standard web practices which left them vulnerable to security risks and inaccessible to potential clients.
Ultimately, you have to go with the solution that works best for you and your business. We hope we have provided you with information that is helpful to your decision-making process. We did focus on the web designer track more than using programs such as WordPress or Wix because there are a lot of misconceptions about what web designers do. The resources we’ve linked to will provide even more relevant information to choosing your website development path. When making your choice, remember that your website is an important part of your business’s marketing and sales strategy.
Is there a design topic you want to know more about? Let us know in the comments or contact us through email.