Anybody who isn’t a website designer has misconceptions about website design and development. That probably means you too. In the words of Design & Function’s professional blog on B2B advice, “The most effective thing you can do in your B2B marketing efforts is invest in your website, management and optimization. Whether you’re selling a product or a service, the one thing that you want above all else is to make profits. The somewhat challenging aspect is specifically how to build a website that successfully enables your company to sell more. Any company can pay a designer to build a website, but that doesn’t mean it will automatically be a machine that sells efficiently. Not by a longshot.”
Garbage in, Garbage out.
In today’s instant-gratification society, the majority of the population thinks that all they have to do is slap up a website and they will become instant success stories. We have all the past internet hoopla that was swimming around when the web first started to thank for that. All the “published” success stories the internet uses to gain user confidence and business is a lot of phony pumping-up stories. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The reality is that a successful website requires some work just like a successful relationship does, and we find most people today don’t want to hear that. Unfortunately, that’s the fact. Your visitors want to know they will be treated like they matter and not ripped off, not like just another notch in your internet sales ledger. Consequently, due to there also being many internet horror stories about scams and ripoffs, site users are skeptical right from the start about every website out there, which makes it extremely important to give them some confidence in your business from your site – often their first look at you and your business.
We constantly get the consumer mentality of, “Well can’t you just build my website and let me know when it’s done?” No. Just like you can’t slap up a business, sit behind the desk and expect customers to come to you. You have to go and get them. In which case, you have two choices: you either pay someone to develop your website for you, or you find the time to do it yourself. Either way, there are a few things you should expect and not expect that will make the creation of your business website go easier for you and the designer.
1.) Have some idea of what you want your website to look like and function like beforehand.
Your designer is not a mind-reader and you either have to get it in your mind that you are willing to accept whatever the designer creates, trust that they know what they are doing, and be willing to go with it, or, you have to tell them exactly what you want. In the latter case, you first have to know what you want or you will be wasting their time and yours. So put some thought into what it is you want out of your site.
Your website should be thought of as your storefront; or the front door to your business. You wouldn’t just slap up a cheap, flimsy cardboard facade of a door and maybe a couple windows that looks like something you slapped together from a rummage sale and call that your business, would you? So why do you think you can just slap together any old website and consumers won’t judge you on the appearance of it. Wrong. They will. Your website is very often a customers first impression of you and your business, and before they even take a poke around your site, they have formed an opinion as to whether or not you are worth their time and trouble.
2.) Be Prepared to Get What You Pay For.
What you get out of a website is exactly what you put into it, just like your business. Cutting corners will leave you with a site that half-functions or isn’t doing the job as well as it could be. So be honest with yourself as to whether or not you have the time to work on your site AND run your business at the same time. If not, pay a professional to do it for you. So many startup businesses try to go cheap with their website because they are pinching every penny, but what they don’t realize is spending any money at all on a website that doesn’t bring in traffic is just like taking that money and throwing it out the window. Money spent on good website design and development will pay for itself in very short order, over and over again. Your website is not the place to skimp on business supplies and services. Buy cheaper paper, or a cheaper cell phone, but do not buy a cheaper website. It will show, glaringly, to your customers that you do not put much value in appearances and your business. Consumers are skeptical of websites anyway due to the fact that so many of them are junk and scams, so you have that to go up against right off the bat. Paying to have a website done right and look professional will never be a waste of money. Not doing so will be. Just like buying the cheapest business equipment may get you by for a while, eventually you will be replacing it. So it is with poorly created and thought-out websites. So why waste the money on a site you will just have to update or replace? Do it right the first time and it will reward you many times over AND save you money in the long run.
3.) Have some patience.
4.) What to expect and prepare for when you call a designer.
Firstly, lots of questions. Your designer wants to do a good job for you and give you what your business needs and you want, so they will ask you a lot of preliminary questions before they even start to design, this is why you need to know in advance exactly what you want. However, many startups and business owners have no idea what they want, that is the problem and frustration for their designer, so we suggest you do a little research, look at many different websites within your industry so you know what is out there. You don’t have to know designer or internet lingo, but you do need to know what your likes and dislikes are in a website design and you do need to provide some content or background information to your designer. You cannot expect them to write an awe-inspiring business bio for your About page or Home page without supplying them with some background as to what your business does, how it’s different than your competition, and what your business goals are. Just like you would be sent home empty handed if you showed up at the bank asking for a business loan and did not have a business plan, you need to share your business plan with your designer.
There are certain facets of a website that search engines look for. One of them is content – which is totally the name of the game currently with getting any kind of ranking on Google. The more content you have on your site, the more valuable Google considers it, and thus, the more it will come up when people search for your kind of business. Therefore, be prepared to share a great deal of information about your business, how you got started in it, your mission, your products and services, with your designer. While a good designer is also part marketing and advertising specialist and they know what to look for and where to find good content for your site, most of it has to come from you. They need background information of all of your products if you are going to have a shopping website, and they need information about you and your business if you are a service company. They cannot create this out of thin air, and this is where a little work on your part will be required at first. So don’t expect to just dump your website idea in a designer’s lap and walk away saying, “Call me when it’s done.” It doesn’t work that way.
There will be a great deal of emailing and correspondence with your designer until they have a good handle on what it is you are expecting and wanting from them. It is imperative that they get to know your business well, and they have to get that from you since not every designer is fluent in every single business and service out there. You have to give them something to go on.
5.) Expect revisions.
The designer will change things as he/she goes along; this is a given. As they get a better feel from you as to what will work best for your business site, they may tweak things, replace things, throw out an idea and replace it with something else. This is what you are paying them for: to be able to foresee what your website and viewer needs will be. This never happens in the first shot. Your website will evolve through time; should evolve through time. If it isn’t, you are not giving it the importance it needs to be successful by any means. A static website is a dead website. One thing search engines also use to rank your site is how often it is updated and revised. So don’t expect to have a site designed and then that’s it, you will never touch it or change it again. Just like a business must grow and change to accommodate market and consumer changes, so must your site reflect these changes. How often should your site be updated? That depends on the kind of site it is and the kind of consumer you want to attract. A services company can get away with only updating their site say every couple of years, although anyone would tell them more often would get them better rankings. A consumer shopping site will have to be updated sometimes daily to update new product as it becomes available.
6.) What is a practical web design fee?
As Launchable Magazine so aptly wrote: “We’re all familiar with the myriad of web design packages available for individuals and startups. They are easy to use, hassle-free, and cost less than $100 for a year. Becoming your own boss never seemed so attainable. Unfortunately, many would-be entrepreneurs soon discover what you really get when you spend less than $100 on web design — nothing. So how much should a startup business budget for website design? Startup websites generally cost between $3,000 and $12,000. If your designer is asking for a radically different amount, make sure they give you reasonable justification.”
We at Redstone think this amount is a bit on the high side for small businesses and startups, but like Launchable also says, the cost of a website depends a great deal on how involved and complicated it is, and what you will be using it for. Because we specialize in working with startups and small business budgets, our bottom line fee range is from $200-$500 to set up a basic, 5 page, starter website. Most of our customers cannot afford to spend $3,000 or more for a site when they are just getting started. Our prices are different for every business because we first talk with you and assess your site needs and what it will take to accomplish them, they we give you a fair figure based on that. We keep our overhead extremely low so that we are able to customize each website package to each individual business.
7.) Understand that just like any other business service, there are good designers and there are bad designers. So what should you be looking for?
Once you start talking with a designer about what you are looking for and want in your site, you should get a feel for how ethical they are. Take a good amount of time in your initial contact with a potential designer to feel them out. Like any business these days, you have to watch out for the scams in the same way as any other industry or service being offered. You should watch out for designers who start out telling you right out of the gate how they are going to control your website, and if it sounds like you will have little input in the creation of your site, walk away. They are going to do things their way and often it is whatever way is easiest for them, takes the least amount of time because many designers are lazy or extremely busy, or pays the most for them, and they do not have the best interests of your site in mind. A good designer is conscientious of making you part of the process so you are ultimately happy with the end result. You are the website owner, not them. Keep that in mind. This does not mean you should run all over them either. Just know your rights as a website owner so you are not taken advantage of. A little preliminary work here will allow you to feel more confident and trust in your designer.
DO NOT LET THEM CONTROL YOUR ACCOUNTS. So many website designers will set up the hosting accounts and domain registration for their clients and keep all that account information and login information to themselves. This is their way of making you go to them for all eternity every time you want to make changes to your site. This is how they rope you into only using them so they can secure your future business. Some business owners do not want to know the technical side of website ownership. This is fine, but you still should have access to all of your accounts and account information in the event that something happens to that designer and they are no longer around, go out of business, stop doing website hosting etc. At Redstone, we will do everything for you in setting up your web hosting and domain registration, but the difference between us and many design firms is that we give you all the passwords, account information and control over your accounts. After all, you are the website owner, not us, and you are entitled to complete control and disclosure regarding your website accounts even if you don’t use it. Keep it in a safe place in the event that you and your designer part ways for any reason at all.
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