For once we've done a website for ourselves! Not web design this time - but…
2. How to avoid being ripped off when buying or building a web site (part two)
Part II – Choosing the right web design company for your business
First and foremost choose somebody you feel that you can get on with to design your website!
You need to have confidence in them and trust in their advice. Having a web site built is not a small or cheap job and there will be plenty of areas in which you need good advice. This should be advice you trust.
In most cases you will want an ongoing relationship with your web developer or, at least, your web host. If you don’t trust them, this relationship is off to a bad start. If you are unsure who to use, start by asking around. Other people’s experience and recommendations can be invaluable.
Understand your own requirements.
Before you can even start thinking about your web design it is important that the person or agency you have employed understands your business.
If they don’t understand your business, your way of thinking, your product or service and your market, how can they possibly deliver a web site that will work for you?
In a large agency it would be the role of a business analyst to get to know you and your business needs. Smaller agencies or individuals should still provide this role. Whatever their job title, you should have confidence that they understand your business before they start building your web site.
This might seem obvious, but all too often this important step is missed. Technically brilliant is no use if the web site doesn’t appeal to your target market, or fails to reflect your business.
Not all designers are web designers.
Web design is quite different to graphic design or brand design. It is a totally different medium with lots of variables and dynamic elements. Web design must always consider usability, as well as looking good!
You need to find a designer who has experience designing modern, responsive web sites and can demonstrate their experience.
- Have they got a portfolio of sites they have designed?
- Do these sites work well on both desktop computers and mobile devices?
- Do you like at least some of the designs they have produced?
Web designers are not normally techies.
When setting up a web site there is a lot of technology behind the scenes. It is unreasonable to expect a designer to be able to set that up properly for you.
If your web site is set up incorrectly, you can end up with a site that doesn’t deliver to its potential. Common issues can include:
- The web site is very slow which will put both people and search engines off
- The site is insecure leaving, it wide open to hackers and spammers.
- If the worse happens and your web site gets hacked, has your web developer or host got you covered with daily backups? Surprisingly, more often than not the answer is “no”.
If you use a larger design agency that has a technical department (programmers and nerds that understand all of this) then this should be covered. If you use a small design agency or an individual, make sure they work in partnership with someone who does this for them.
Your web site is an important marketing tool.
I know that sounds obvious but there are a huge amount of web sites out there which are somewhere between pure ego trips or very pretty but don’t really tell you anything.
There is no point in having something beautiful if it doesn’t work. Your web site needs to work with search engines to pull traffic into your site. When you do get visitors to your site, they need to be instantly engaged and drawn in. Each page of your web site should have a clear theme and goal.
- Not all designers are good at marketing!
- Larger agencies usually have a marketing person or team who should understand the specifics of marking on the internet
- Some designers will also have a marketing background
Just make sure this is considered. Know your customers; think about what they are expecting from your web site.
Training – how to get the best from your web site.
Most modern web sites are built around a content management system (CMS). This is the part that lets you login and edit the web site yourself. There are a lot of great systems out there but most, while easy to use once you’re familiar with them, are daunting to start with. Make sure you have at least some basic training included within cost to get you started.
Online marketing is key to drawing traffic to your site.
Once your site is live you need to draw the right kind of customers in. If no one is looking at your site it is just a beautiful billboard sat in the middle of an empty desert.
This is where search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC) like Google Adwords, other online advertising and marketing, link building, blogging and social media come into play.
I’m not saying you should use all (or any) of these. It will depend entirely no the purpose of your web site. However, you do need to know that your web site has the potential to work well in all these areas. If your needs change, your web site should be able to change with you.
All modern web sites should include some SEO tools. The site should have the ability to integrate with social media.
You need to know that when it comes to this area your designer can help you – either doing this themselves or having the right person to place you with.
Unbelievably we still see designers who build web sites on platforms with none of this taken into consideration. Then when you, the customer, wants to start SEO they have to put their hands up and say “sorry I can’t help you”. Even worse when you then get in front of the right person for something like SEO you find the designer hasn’t used a system that plays well with search engines, it was just easy to design with; yes, this dopes actually happen and too often!
So employing a web designer isn’t that simple. You need to make sure that whoever you employ has experience in, or access to:
- business analysis
- web designing
- technical considerations
- social media
- and most importantly of all – straight forward, honest communication!
With the right team around you, building a web site should be both easy and enjoyable.