In this age of wisdom and technology, a website is an absolute necessity for doing business. In fact, many people wouldn’t even consider you a credible business if you don’t have one.
And even businesses that don’t sell much online, require a website so people can check them out before they come into the store. Unfortunately, having a website designed is still a large expense for most small businesses, and website technology changes so rapidly that almost by the time you get it built, something new has come out that could make it better, faster, more friendly, and easier to optimize.
Web design companies are also prolific. Look in any Yellow Pages directory and you’ll find dozens to choose from, all offering the moon and guaranteed success for your business. So what’s a small business to do? If you’re ready to create your first business website, or if your existing one has finally reached obsolescence and needs an overhaul, here are some tips to make sure you get the right design company for your business.
Check their portfolio
If they are a reputable company, they should have an online or print portfolio of the websites they have created. Every company has its own style, so looking through their work will give you a sense of whether you like their work and their style suits what you have in mind for your website. You’ll be able to find a mismatch pretty quickly. If they don’t have anything to show you, say thank you, and move on.
Clarify EVERYTHING on the estimate
Educate yourself on your needs for your specific business. Ask for a detailed estimate in writing, and clarify each point in the estimate. Don’t assume that your interpretation is the same as theirs. Website optimization will most certainly be part of what they promise, but you need to find out exactly what that means to them.
Talk to someone who knows about search engine optimization so you can speak intelligently with the designer and won’t be baffled by a language you don’t understand. Also, don’t accept estimates that say “depends on . . .” unless you know where in the cost range you’re going to land based on what you need, and you understand the “depends on” terms.
Ask about additional costs
A website is a living breathing thing, and sometimes you don’t really know what you’re missing until you’ve lived with it for a little while. For example, after multiple customer requests you realize you should have included Paypal as a payment option in your checkout.
Because you’re already committed to your website, the design company can charge for these additional items, which you may not have expected. Make sure you ask specifically what additional changes will cost after the website has been built. It stands to reason that they can’t do it for free, but you should know up front what those costs will be before you begin. Get this in writing.
Beware of huge promises
It’s a website after all – granted, an extremely important part of your business and a great tool – but it’s not going to triple your profits in a week. If your web designer is making promises that seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Trust your instincts
Just like with anything else, you’ll know whether you’re dealing with someone you think you can trust. If you’re getting that “I’m not sure about this guy” feeling, it’s probably a good indicator that he’s not a good fit for you – even if he has come highly recommended. You’re the one who needs to work with him and you need to be comfortable with that relationship.
Website creation can be stressful. It’s a lengthy complicated process and sometimes what the designer thinks is best contrasts what you think is best. You know your business, but they know websites, so in order to iron out those clashes, give and take is required to come up with a product that is the best it can be. In order to do this there needs to be a high level of trust in your relationship with the designer.
Don’t decide based on price alone
Sure, price is a factor in every decision you make in your small business, but don’t make the mistake of assuming the cheapest price will get you what you need. By the same token, neither will the highest price. Decide what you can realistically afford, and talk to a company about what they will offer in that price range.
You may need to bump up what you’re willing to spend, or reduce your expectations of what you can get for the money you have. It needs to work for you and most of the time, somewhere in a mid-range price you’ll find a fair product for a fair price. Shop around. You’ll find huge differences between what companies have to offer.
Just like with anything else, you may be able to negotiate a deal with someone you really like who’s willing to match a competitor’s price to get your business. Purchasing a web site design is a big decision, and the reason many small businesses have bad experiences is because they don’t know enough about what they want and need, and don’t understand the language the design company speaks.
The best thing you can do is be very clear about what your business needs in a website, and find out as much as you can about the design business. If you speak the same language there will be less chance of misunderstanding and greater clarity in the process. You’ll both be happy with the end result.